Reading Across Genres

by Intermittent Rain ~ January 20th, 2017. Filed under: Thoughts about Writing.


I like to read across genres.

Some years back I discovered Google’s list of best books of 2012 and I read them without paying attention to what the title might hint, reserving judgement as long as I could. The 2013 list wasn’t as good and that was the last I saw. Since then I haven’t found a reliable way of finding material across genres worth looking at.

Recently I realized that, just as I’ve used Pulitzer, Giller, and Booker prize long lists to give me literary novels to read (often by authors I’m unfamiliar with, which is the other bonus) I can use awards from other genres to help me find titles.

So I started with the Edgar nominees for mystery, then the Hugo awards, the Rita, and now the Thriller awards.

The Lady from Zagreb (A Bernie Gunther Novel) was better written and was more entertaining than I expected. At the start I was hesitant because I’ve read enough Nazi Germany fiction for my needs but this Marlow-like detective just happens to live during that period. The Goblin Emperor was also well written but I lost interest in the detailed description of ceremonies and procedures. When I read unfamiliar authors I usually research afterwards and one reviewer pointed to the focus on court intrigue rather than on events; that’s where I lost interest too. I stopped reading about a third of the way through.

I tried two Rita nominees, but the first was written at a 12 year old reading level and the other at a 15 year old level. The characters were real enough, but boring because the internal narrative focused exclusively on how hot their intended looked. Not exactly Jane Austen. I won’t mention the titles because they’re not well written and I’d rather forget about them, and hope others do the same.

There were also two YA novels that I read and I’ve forgotten where I found their titles, perhaps in the library suggestions themselves. The first was Uninvited,which fell miles short of Divergent or The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and I didn’t finish it, and the other was Revolution, which was an interesting creation of parallel life stories in modern times and during the French revolution. Because of the history lesson included within I can see why school libraries like it but I felt shorted in the modern character’s resolution and evolution.

Now I’m into Fever: A Novel which is pretty well written though heavy on interjected backstory snippets and it constantly jumps POV from the girl to her father to her brother. I’m to the point where the fever is just making its presence felt but it’s not been a smooth read to this point. The POV jumps and backstory interjections make me fell as if I’m winding up a string of Christmas lights when I’m used to rolling up a plain electrical cord or a garden hose. Snaggly. Hoping it will smooth out as we get further into the story.

So I haven’t found a good award to suggest romance or YA titles yet. I think there probably are some, as well as ones for other genres I haven’t tried yet (Western; meh, Memoir? Humour? Woman’s Lit? Horror?).  There are sub-genres too but I’m hoping the larger ones will include those, like the Hugo included “The Goblin Emperor” which is more fantasy than science fiction.

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I realize that if I’m abandoning so many novels unfinished, one might ask why I bother looking for award lists for recommendations?

It’s because in order to find something to read I need the title to be presented to me. It used to be that I’d find a book that I liked and then I’d read everything that author had written (like all 51 Hardy boy novels when I was in the sixth grade; it wasn’t until recently I learned that they were written by different people) but these days I want to go across genres and read different things all the time. I want some authority to give me the ‘best’ available to increase my chances of discovering something I like and I’m not interested in what the readers like or I’d try Goodreads or Amazon. I want some evaluation of the quality of the writing. Then, asked Phaedrus (or was it Lila?), what is quality? Apparently that’s up to me, the reader, with a little qualification from the internet.

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