Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Genre Trap

Earlier today I saw a post on facebook asking commenters to post Romantic Suspense author's names. As I read through the comments, I noted some dissent about whether this or that author qualified. And others mentioned writers from different genres that had the same feel as those listed.

I wonder if we don't limit ourselves by trying to fit both our reading and writing into all those ticky-tacky little genre boxes instead of just writing or reading the story. I think about Dickens and Twain and Hardy and Huxley and yes, even Harper Lee. If they weren't considered 'classics', where would we find them? What section of the bookstore is the one labeled 'Damn Good Books'? Where is the shelf for the 'Fabulous Adventures of Outstanding Women'? Or the aisle filled with 'Hot Alien Gals in Shades of Blue with their Vampire Sidekicks'?

When I was in my teens, there were no books for young adults. You went to the library and picked a book either from the children's section (which I left behind in 5th grade) or you chose one from the adult section. It never occurred to me to read by genre. I read everything--biographies, histories, fiction, action adventure, how-to. During my senior year of high school, I decided to keep a list of every book I read. From September 1966 through June 1967 I read 472 books while completing majors in English, Math, Science, Language, and History...

I suspect when I graduated at seventeen I was better educated than most college graduates today. Certainly, I was better read. Reading stimulates creativity and thought. Reading introduces us to other viewpoints. And reading incites us to question our beliefs about the world around us. It broadens our vocabulary and by osmosis, it improves our spelling and grammar. If you can read, you can learn anything you want to learn. Reading is everything.


Only if you refuse to be limited by artificial genres. How many folks have never read a Louis L'Amour because it's a western? Or a Mercedes Lackey because she's shelved with the fantasies? Or a Nora Robert because she writes romance. What if bookstores were stocked, not by genre, but by author's last names only like a library? Heh, I used to browse...and browse...and browse...until the librarian would limit how many books I checked out. Because, really, there was always just one more that looked interesting, right?

Don't fall in the genre trap. Don't limit your horizons. Read everything.   


  1. I LOVE this. I don't read as diversely as I'd like, but I do try new genres and authors all the time, even in genres I've disliked before. Call me crazy, but I think there's something to like or learn from every reading endeavor.

  2. Agreed. I read what I read. Don't stick with any particular genre.