I love books. I know, shocking news given where you are reading this. But seriously, I have loved them my entire life. And I am a prolific reader. Even now that I read as part of my professional life, I still love it, and still read to relax.
But here’s the thing, like many of us, I have my genre preferences. Until my career in publishing, no one cared what I read. In point of fact, very few people even asked unless it came up some other way or they had nothing better to say than “read any good books lately?” So imagine my mental shift now that I am in “the business” and my choice of reading material is actually relevant to my professional life. At first I was honestly self-conscious about my answer to the question “what do you like to read?”
All of which brought to mind a conversation my mom and I had a few years back when someone gave us a bunch of books, almost all of which were literary fiction. Neither of us wanted to read them. We both agreed that books that are deep and meaningful to most people are too deep and meaningful for us (by the way, in case you are curious, she is a judge with multiple university degrees so no slouch in the brain power department). We agreed that we really didn’t find the examination of the motivation behind peoples’ actions relaxing (much for that same reason I almost never watch the news). She came up with the simplest explanation for her choices that I have ever heard – she said “I read for two reasons – to be educated or to be entertained”.
So why is it that so many of us feel the need to defend the fact that we prefer genre fiction? Why do authors of genre fiction routinely dismiss their work as “light reading”? For that matter, why does “light reading” have a frivolous connotation, almost negative? Why is something labeled “genre” fiction considered less of an art form than literary fiction?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I have decided that I have absolutely no idea. But, I am going to stop being self-conscious when I tell people my preferences – ESPECIALLY within the publishing community.
So here it is. I love a good romance – especially historical, a fast paced spy novel, futuristic sci-fi, creepy horror story or funny chick lit romp. Books where you kill off the heroine or her love interest need not apply to be my personal favorite. Bonus points if I laugh out loud, or cry for joy. Weddings, babies, magic, aliens, ghosts and dragons are all pluses. I won’t read dog books, although I love dogs, because the dogs always die. I also read copious amounts about marketing (not surprising, to be sure), in particular about internet marketing. But aside from a brief time in my life when I loved Steinbeck, literary is not my chosen thing and I am not going to be picking up the latest literary fiction novel unless there is a professional reason to do so. In short, I prefer my fiction as commercial as it comes, and my non-fiction to serve a direct purpose in my life.
So I now say with pride – I read to be educated or to be entertained. How about you?