First, why do we even do this? Why do we judge any specific genre for something that likely isn't even true? I completely understand that not every genre out there is everyone's cup of tea, but that hardly means we should look down on it or write it off as being unimportant or unnecessary. For a personal example: I don't like romance books all that much; there's nothing wrong them, I just don't like romance as the main plot point in a novel--though of course I'd be lying if I said that there aren't always occasional exceptions. However, I've learned not to simply dismiss this genre as something silly and fluffy because there's so much more to it than that. Just because non-romance readers think it's only filled with sappy love words doesn't mean it actually is. And hell, even if it is just a lighthearted romance--what's wrong with that? What's wrong with relaxing with a lovely book after a stressful day of life? Why is it so vital that someone only reads books that are viewed as 'important' and 'challenging'? If you simply prefer to only read those types of books then that's fine, but don't look down on people who wants to read other things. The point is: try not to judge what others want to read.
On the same topic, I tend to get irrationally annoyed when it comes to 'genre fiction' (if you haven't already figured that out). When it comes to fantasy in particular, fairy tales and the like have been around and told for centuries--usually with some sort of moral lesson to be learned à la the Brothers Grimm. Even in the ancient world fantastic texts existed, just look at The Odyssey or The Aeneid. I've learned more life lessons from fantasy stories than I have from a lot of other types of books. Fantasy itself has broadened my own imagination and ability to wrap my head around complex ideas and imagine different world systems. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, for example, is a fairy tale-inspired tale that helped me with dad's death when I was eleven years old because the protagonist was experiencing the same things that I was. I learned how to deal with very difficult issues because of that, but many readers would brush off books like that because they aren't a classic or something similar. I also love historical fiction because it allows me to travel back in time and learn about the culture a specific time period or location through the lens of an interesting story that also usually captures an important issue of the time. Most readers I've met that read from different genres, myself included, can pick out at least one important thing from almost every historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, etc. book that we've read that has better shaped our worldview or taught us about different cultures and perspectives.
Something else that has become bothersome is how negatively young adult books tend to be viewed and classified, but that's an entire discussion on its own and not one that I have room to get into here. All I'll say about that for now is that I think it's horribly ridiculous how many people write off YA books just because they are classified as YA, even though YA is not actually a genre and more of a publishing term developed to target a specific audience due to the general age of characters in those books. People fawn endlessly over To Kill a Mockingbird, but if that were published today, guess what it would probably be published as? That's right, probably young adult.
The last thing that I want to talk about is simply how hard it can be to even categorize books sometimes. Sure, a traditional epic fantasy or murder mystery is easy to spot and label, but there are some books that mold multiple genres into one book and make it extremely difficult to accurately categorize them. One example might be The Changeling by Victor LaValle. That book sort of splits the line between literary fiction and fantasy or magical realism, but it's not something that you can definitively say 'yes, it's this,' or 'no, it's definitely not that.' There's always overlap which then makes it hard determine. With books that overlap in genres like literary fiction and 'genre fiction,' I always wonder, 'So how will you manage to judge this?' I even imagine a book like Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick would appeal to die-hard literary fiction fans, but that they might be put off by the fantasy setting. When I was trying to organize by reviews by genre, I had a pretty good number listed as 'miscellaneous' because it was nearly impossible to pinpoint it to only one genre. Genres are limiting, and I think that's a big problem when it comes to getting people to read certain books, largely because many books will be ignored solely because of how they are labeled.
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Ugh, I don't like when people get judgey about what other people are reading. As long as we're reading, who cares what it is? No genre is "better" than any other. We all have our own tastes!ReplyDelete
Exactly! It seems like a simple concept, but apparently it's not. :/Delete
I am a hardcore romance reader, so I am a constant target for book snobs. I let it roll off, but when it comes down to it, I read for pleasure, and will read the types of books I enjoy.ReplyDelete
That's so frustrating, but I think that's a great attitude. I'm trying to get better at just brushing it off. If we're not reading books we enjoy, then what's the point? I wish everyone could respect people's preferences.Delete
I agree, I don't think anyone should be judged for what they like to read! I mean we all have different tastes, and frankly I find many classics and literary fiction (whatever that is- ha ha) to be boring, but that doesn't mean someone else will. I love genre stuff and if I could only read"serious" stuff I probably wouldn't read nearly as much! And, like you said, genre books are just as good at tackling issues as any other kind.ReplyDelete
Love this post!
Totally agree with everything you've said! Books are meant to educate, but they are also meant to entertain, and that's the type of book I want to read. All genres have their merits.Delete
Book snobbery as a whole really bothers me. It’s a pet peeve of mine. If I hear one more person say you’re not a real reader if.... what makes us a reader. Enjoying books. Doesn’t matter if it’s general fiction. Young adult. Kindle hardcover or audio. I am a reader because I enjoy the stories. I don’t care if I learn something or if I have a real emotional connection. Which I usually do have the connection. If I enjoy it well isn’t that what stories are aimed to do. I honestly started with audio because I wanted to read books all the time and that was how I did it at work. So I get topic and hear you. Book snobs suck!ReplyDelete
I could not agree more!Delete