Friday, February 12, 2016
I've very much enjoyed reading my co-panelists' responses to this week's question: "Are there any genres you avoid reading? Why?" While several of the writers here talked about genres they don't read often, most of them still pointed to specific titles within those genres that they'd read and enjoyed. Meredith, for example, admits to not reading much fantasy or science fiction, but in the same paragraph celebrated both Madeleine L'Engle and Matt Haig (crossing genres in the latter). R.J. admits some similar preferences, but makes exceptions for Frank Herbert and J.R.R. Tolkein. Tracy focused less on genre than on specific elements of books (bleakness, serial killers, old ladies crawling across the ceiling), but even there cited her own exception to not reading stories about tortured protagonists. And Alan, as Meredith had in opening this conversation, put the emphasis on the fact that genre doesn't matter quite as much as whether a book is simply good (though he admitted to steering away generally from three genres).
For me, the key word in the question is "avoid"—a strong word—and I think it's easier to put the emphasis on the idea of what we prefer to read or, even more to the point, what we most regularly read. Because of my own work as a mystery writer and as a professor teaching classes in genre fiction, I mostly read crime fiction, and because there are simply only so many hours in a day, I don't have time read as widely in other genres as I might like to—so you're not likely to find me with science fiction or fantasy or romance or young adult or historical fiction or erotica or...well, I'm just sampling the genres that popped up in those previous posts. But do I have strong reasons to say I would go out of my way not to read one of those genres? And maybe another key word is "genre," of course—the idea of dodging not just some topic (child abuse) or element (graphic violence) of a specific book or author but steering clear of an entire swath of books. I've had people tell me that they avoid mysteries for the very same reason that R.J. cited for not reading romance—for being "formulistic and populated by cardboard characters"—and I know those folks are missing out on a lot that the wide world of mystery fiction has to offer. And if I don't like folks making those kinds of broad judgements about my genre, how can I comfortably make similar judgements about another?
While I don't read as much science fiction or fantasy as I did when I was younger (loved some J.R.R. Tolkein myself), I've enjoyed and learned something about craft from reading William Gibson's Neuromancer and China Miéville's The City & The City and John Kessel's Corrupting Dr. Nice or The Baum Plan for Financial Independence. While most of the books I read are set in the present or recent past, I've delighted in the glimpses of other eras I've gotten from books like Peter Lovesey's Wobble to Death or Sarah Shaber's Louise's War or Louis Bayard's The Pale Blue Eye or The Black Tower (all crime fiction admittedly). And while I haven't generally read much juvenile and YA literature, I had the chance to read extensively in those areas when judging the Edgars for Best Juvenile a couple of years back—and what range and diversity and excellence there! And I've quoted before Julianna Baggott talking about how some of the most interesting work today is being done in the borderlands where genres meet and blend and mash—and let me give a second shout-out on that point to Corrupting Dr. Nice, which blends time travel and screwball comedy and cyberpunk and....
I recognize I'm mostly just echoing what's already been said this week—not the first time, of course! But maybe it's a point worth repeating: Though each of us have preferences and many of us likely read more regular in one genre or some genres than others, breaking out of routine sometimes can be not only enjoyable but also potentially eye-opening and even enriching.
And on that note, I guess I should go in search of some erotica now, right? ;-)
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Are there any genres you avoid reading? Why?
Genres are like flavors of ice cream. Lots of different varieties, and every flavor his its own rabid fans. It doesn’t mean that any flavor/genre is inferior to another. It just means that people like different things. And you don’t have to like just one flavor, either. I’ll eat just about any type of ice cream with the exception of peach, malted milk, and mash-ups that include bits of cheesecake (please, no hate emails from peach ice cream lovers, ’k?). Any fellow spumoni lovers out there?
When it comes to books, I like to read many genres (and subgenres), in both fiction and non-fiction: mystery, thriller, crime fiction, science fiction, horror, YA, novels in stories (Hi Art! Hi Steve!), cookbooks, narrative non-fiction, biographies, novels in cartoons, golf improvement books, and anything else that looks interesting.
Even though most of my novel reading falls into a handful of genres (crime, horror, science fiction, YA), if I think a book will be good, or if it comes recommended by someone whose taste I align with, or if I read a compelling review, or if the cover grabs me, or if it otherwise piques my interest just right, I’ll often give it a try, regardless of genre.
So which fiction genres are my peach, malted milk, and cherry cheesecake? Romance, historical fiction, and erotica. (And truthfully, with enough hot fudge sauce and sprinkles, I’ll even read those!)
Most of all I like to read GOOD BOOKS!
If that’s not a genre, it should be.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
By Tracy Kiely
|He's right there, dammit!|
|Seriously. What the hell was I thinking?|
|This scene right here? Still freaks me out.|
|Well, hello Gorgeous!|
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Monday, February 8, 2016
When asked about what I like to read, I usually say "everything." I read as widely as I can. Non-fiction, historic, poetry, short stories, women's fiction, literary fiction--and of course mysteries and thrillers. Good writing is good writing, no matter what the genre. And I'm really just interested in great stories and ideas--no matter what form they take.
But I have to admit, for the record, that I don't read much science fiction and fantasy. That isn't to say that I don't read any ever. As a teenager I devoured everything that Madeline L'Engle wrote starting with A Wrinkle in Time. And I've read several books that exist in some kind of dystopian future and manage to straddle science fiction and literary fiction. I'm extremely impressed when books manage to straddle two genres without breaking a sweat--like Matt Haig's brilliant The Humans (a science fiction mystery).
If there are any science fiction and fantasy fans out there, let me know what I'm missing and if there are any books I need to put on my TBR list.
Friday, February 5, 2016
by Paul D. Marks
I have to admit that my nightstand is currently unfulfilled, having no stacks of books on it. But that’s mostly because my wife wants me to keep it clear and neat. So I’ve been trying to do that. Of course that’s about the only part of the house that is clear and neat and uncluttered (well semi-uncluttered). And I have to admit that 99% of the clutter is mine. I’m the packrat.
So what’s cluttering up the house? Well, books of course. Tons of books and no more shelf space.
I also collect toys and Beatles stuff and some other rock ‘n’ roll gear. Then there’s all the old papers and old drafts of stories and all the stuff you have to keep for the IRS. It adds up, let me tell you.
I’m the guest author on the terrific Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Fan Club Page on Facebook this week – and who blogged here for a long time. Hope you’ll drop by there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sueannjaffarian/
Also, at Bouchercon a few months ago, I read my Anthony and Macavity-nominated story “Howling at the Moon” for Ellery Queen magazine. And that just went up on the net. So if you’re dying to hear me read, check it out. I don’t think Tom Hanks has to worry about his position as the top actor in Hollywood.
And if you’re not sick of me already, I was interviewed by Pam Stack at Authors on the Air last Wednesday, Feb 3rd . Hope you might want to listen to that podcast: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2016/02/04/paul-d-marks-talks-about-writing-and-more-on-authors-on-the-air-live
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Thursday, February 4, 2016
My brain is currently cut into four pie wedges: work in progress; structural edits (Dandy Gilver and A Most Misleading Habit); page proofs (Quiet Neighbors); Sisters in Crime publishing summit on diversity in the mystery community. And The Great British Bake Off. And Left Coast Crime. And Malice. And the Edgars. And life.
So it's lovely to get a point-and-press question here at Casa Criminal today.
On my bedside table, from bottom to top are:
- The Girl in The Spider's Web - the posthumous Stieg Larsson that I failed to read at Christmas.
- John Irving's Avenue of Mysteries - which Santa brought me. Santa really mucked up my Christmas reading plans, actually.
- Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins (Santa's ruins)
- Tracy Kidder's Among Schoolchildren. Now this is embarrassing. I bought this and Kidder's Hometown because I had so much enjoyed the Broadway play August: Osage County. By Tracy Letts.
- The slim blue volume is Mr Frick's Palace, a guidebook about the Frick Collection in New York that acts on me like meditation.
- Pablu Neruda's The Captain's Verses. I keep one volume of poetry by my bed to read and read until it's in my veins forever. Shakespeare's Sonnets was there for four years.
- Ann Cleeves' Harbour Street - which is what I'm actually reading right now, because I'm interviewing her at Left Coast in a few weeks. Poor me, eh? What a slog!
- Lori Roy's Let Me Die in his Footsteps - Lori is my SinC co-board-member and she's written three books. The first one won an Edgar, the second was a finalist and now the third is on the shortlist too.
- Malcolm MacKay's The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter - which I bought in celebration of the Edgar announcements a couple of weeks back. We Scots are punching well above our weight at this year's awards: there's this, Val McDermid, Denise Mina and *coughsmodestlybutbragsanyway* me.
- Triss Stein's Brooklyn Graves - which I've just finished last night, in preparation for moderating Triss (along with Terry Shames, Carla Buckley and Nancy West) at Left Coast. Favouritism? Why, no. Carla's The Good Goodbye and Nancy's Smart But Dead are waiting for me at The Avid Reader and I've already read every word Terry has ever written.
- And a disc-set of A.S.Byatt's The Children's Book for when those four wedges turn into a pie-fight at 3am.