What I’m not reading

Readers often seem to ghettoize certain genres. Some people won’t read thrillers. Others wouldn’t be caught dead with a science fiction book in their hands. I’m no different. I read a wide range of books but there are certain categories and genres I won’t touch or, if I do, it’s only rarely. Here’s a few, listed alphabetically:

Celebrity Biographies/Memoirs — I love memoirs and biographies but draw a line at those by or about celebrities. Too often, these books are about, to quote Daniel Boorstin, a “person who is known for his well-knownness.” Add to that the latest flash in the pan performer. Absent some meaningful longevity, don’t waste my time.

Crime/Mystery/Thrillers — I know these are separate and distinct but I find them similar enough to be grouped together. While I don’t have a problem with genres that are so heavily plot driven, I think I avoid these for the same reason I watch very little television. There’s far too much chaff and very little wheat.

Fantasy — There are occasional exceptions to this rule but fantasy doesn’t quite cut it for me. I think it’s the disconnection from reality that does in the characters and settings for me. I understand that’s s why it’s called fantasy, but still. So why do I read speculative fiction? From my standpoint it is much more about ideas and allows you to speculate about possibilities, not make believe.

Romance — I have better things to do with my time than read about fictional relationships devoted to searching for “true love” or “romantic love.”

Self-help — Based on sales figures, we all should be absolutely perfect and balanced by now. I don’t really need someone who doesn’t know me telling me what I’m doing wrong. Why is this genre so successful. I think because, as Oliver Burkeman observes in The Antidote, the industry may be right in thinking that the person most likely to buy a self-help book “is someone who, within the previous eighteen months, purchased a self-help book — one that evidently didn’t solve all their problems.”

Trust me, there’s a number of other categories I could have put on the list but didn’t. So I will freely admit being curmudgeonly in my approach toward books I’ll read. But given the saw “so many books, so little time,” I think discrimination is permissible.

What I eat turns into my body. What I read turns into my mind.

Mason Cooley, City Aphorisms, Fourteenth Selection

Comments are closed.