We are all comfortable reading the books we love. They’re like old friends, always there, always reliable. It matters not what you read, they are something you can hold onto and know that they will always be the same. They rarely leave the confines of their genre. That makes them something to look forward to.
As a writer, it is good to read in your genre to have a good feel for what you’re writing about. It would be difficult to write a fantasy novel if you didn’t know the difference between a Troll and a Paladin. But what is there to do if your writing begins to get stale, like everything else you’ve read before? That is the danger you face if you only read what you are interested in.
A good writer absorbs words and ideas that they encounter and read. That being said, if you only read one type of fiction, the kind you are writing, then you may only be versed well in that genre. It only makes sense. But there is another way to enhance your writing.
So much reading to do!
Your writing, and your reading scope, will increase if you take it upon yourself to read in other genres. Take some chances and pick something you’d never thought you’d read. There are a lot of great books in every genre, and a lot of them are free to read or listen to online.
A word about audiobooks: there have been many tests that show that anything heard is taken in and filed away in the mind. The same studies prove that if you listen to an audio story at fifty to one hundred percent faster than normal speed, you will recall it better. I myself listen to at least one audiobook a week as I write my new stories. I can tell you the stories in fine detail many months later.
Using the speed audio method, I have been able to sample some excellent books that I might never have taken the time to read. Here are a few genres I have read, some for the first time.
I am a big Western movie fan. The Old West ended about 125 years ago, yet it still lives in films and books. Everyone knows of the Old West, and yet it isn’t as popular as it had been 40 years ago and more. It’s a shame because the genre is rich with imagery and characters who will stay with you for a long time.
The Seventh Man by Max Brand
At random, I chose The Seventh Man by Max Brand. The story concerned Dan Barry, a man of great strength and pride. He takes on the seven men who have killed his prize horse, determined to kill each and every one of them on a crusade of vengeance. The authentic language of the cowboy, the outlaw, the gambler, and the lawman are here in fine form. Brand is one of the great Masters of the Western yarn, in the same company as Zane Grey.
I found the story to be well written and intriguing. It immersed me in the dusty trails and dense forests. The characters are people who could not be in any other fiction genre, so much a part of the world that they would not be able to survive anywhere else.
Hard Boiled Detective
Along with the Western, the Detective genre is another great American invention. Sure, others have created their own detectives, but the originals were created here in the U. S. A. it was Edgar Allan Poe who started things off. After that, there has been an explosion of detectives across every genre. I chose a few interesting novels by authors I know were among the best in their field.
Cop Hater by Ed McBain
The first story I dove into is Cop Hater by Ed McBain. What a powerful voice. The writing is crisp, clean and the dialogue real. Published in 1954, the language is raw, and often vulgar. The criminals are slimy and the cops have real lives. They all have fears, prejudices, and pride. A very good book. I’ll be reading more of the 87th Precinct in the future.
I then read The Moving Target by Ross MacDonald. It’s the book that introduces us to Lew Archer, down and out detective in the grimy and corrupt hell that is Los Angeles in the 1940’s. Little has changed about L.A. In the past 75 years, but that doesn’t matter. This is a classic detective novel, made unique by its laconic and indifferent narrator. Archer doesn’t care who is guilty or why anyone has done what they’ve done. He seeks the truth and will not stop until he’s dug up the roaches responsible. A good start to a character with two dozen novels to his resume.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. This book has been recommended by so many people over the years that I decided to read it. I actually read it and listened to it at the same time. I’m glad I did, because seeing and hearing Frankl’s words made them hit me much more.
Man’ Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl
The main part of the text concerns Frankl’s experiences in Dachau, the notorious Nazi Prison Camp. How anyone could survive under such circumstances is a testament to the tenacity of the Human species. Frankl studied the various types of prisoners in the camp, noting how different people reacted to their situation in very different ways. Some could not live under the harsh conditions. Many died trying to live to their next meal. A very few let the entire experience pass through them. They kept on, knowing that they would live to get out and return to their lives after the war. Frankl is one of these people. He committed himself to living and not giving up. Only those who knew they would survive actually did survive.
This is one of the most devastating books I’ve ever read. The horrors Frankl lived through are not anything anyone should ever do again. I would highly recommend this to get an uplifting view of the Human Condition and what people will do to their fellow Man.
In closing, I would recommend reading books in different genres for several reasons. First, it helps expand your reading horizons. Second, it will help your writing to see how other types of stories portray incidents you may run into with your characters. Third, the writer’s voice is always different in other genres. A cowboy talks far differently than a serial killer in Chicago. But that same cowboy would probably look and sound a lot like an asteroid miner in the year 2077. Both are on the frontier of their era. But you wouldn’t have known that if you hadn’t read either the Western or the SF novel. Reading one will certainly help you create the other in a more believable way.
Note: This post contains various affiliate links to the books referenced and as such, the author makes a small percentage of sales. This content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships.