brings you today’s post. G is for Genre.
I’ve discussed genre before a couple of times and noted that part of what makes a book great is the subversion of genre, or blending genres (example: Joss Whedon’s Firefly series). That being said, booksellers and publishers classify books by genre because then people have some idea what they are getting. People decide they like or dislike various genres, thus saving themselves the bother of perusing those shelves at the local library or bookshop. I, for example, don’t bother looking at the Romance or Horror sections of any bookshop. My friend the Restless Teacher avoids the Science Fiction section along with the Fantasy section (should they be separate items). I like the genre sections of bookshops and libraries because sometimes, I just want a straightforward crime story, and if I look in the mystery section, I’ll find one. Problem solved. Well what to read next solved, the mystery itself may take a little longer.
I also read science fiction, but this is less of a fall-back category for me as I find that this genre has a significant range in it and I don’t like all aspects of its range. Some SciFi books feel like poorly disguised romance novels with a little space travel thrown in to fit the genre. You may recall that I’m a rocket scientist — I find some SciFi books are just not interesting because of the lack of science/technology or the poor science/technology in them. SciFi books are idea books. Crummy concept = crummy book. Thus I am more cautious about the SciFi genre, though I’ve been getting back into it in the last year or two.
Mysteries are my fall-back, a comfortable genre that I can usually count on for brain candy. I like finding new authors and reading through their backlist. Over the last couple of years I’ve worked through Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott books, Stephen Booth’s Cooper & Fry set, and David Hewson’s Nic Costa series. I don’t always read everything an author has written — sometimes I stop after one or two. I’m not a fan of Martha Grimes, for example, I couldn’t get past the first few of her books that I read.
I also like speculative fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. Historical fiction is seldom separated out from the general fiction or literature section in libraries and bookshops. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it with its own spot on the shelves. I’m not sure why that is. Of course you can have mysteries with an historical setting (Ellis Peters pops to mind), and thrillers set in the past, and romances with history as a backdrop, so maybe a setting in the past isn’t enough for a separate section. Fantasy and speculative fiction often get blended in with SciFi as SFF. I’ve ranted in other places about why this should not be so. I can see speculative fiction and science fiction getting along better than SciFi and Fantasy. I’m not sure at all why fantasy get’s put in that category. If someone has an explanation, I’d be happy to hear it.
All that to say, genre sometimes determines what I’m going to read next. I look for books that are similar to others that I’ve liked. At the same time I recognize that genre blending or genre twisting can make a book great — so classifications as issued by publishers or booksellers or librarians don’t always reflect the potential a book has.
What genres do you like? Why?
[The title of this entry probably means you've all got Mother Mary running through your head. Sorry about the earworm, I'm just passing it on.]