Fear in Writing: Genre-switching

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Irish author Tana French
I really only read mysteries.  I've tried a few other genres.  Some have included wonderful books (Diana Gabaldon's Outlander), but I couldn't get into more than one or two.  Some have knocked me out from the get-go (Candace Bushnell's Lipstick Jungle--this was just plain old bad writing).  So mostly, I stick to mysteries.  Straight-up mystery/thrillers like Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, Val McDermid's fantstastic writing, and Greg Iles diverse collection of fiction.

Author Daniel Silva
Within mysteries, I read many sub-genres.  Cozies (my favorites include Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache series and Riley Adams' Delicious and Suspicious), spy thrillers (fav is Daniel Silva), international noir (Timothy Hallinan), international mysteries (Stieg Larsson, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Tana French).  Historical mysteries (Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily mysteries, Caleb Carr's Alienist books, Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens--but not his Poe Shadow, really didn't like that one).

My favorite sub-genre is literary mysteries, those that tackle the genre from an intellectual plane.  My favorites here are easy for me to name: Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book and Michale Gruber's The Book of Air and Shadows.

Of course, there are many that don't fit into a sub-genre, that defy boundaries.  Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian for one.  Michael Gruber's Det. Jimmy Paz series is another.  Val McDermid's A Place of Execution is written like a sad song, a tragic ballad.

And these days I find myself reading something very off the mark.  Very outside my usual genre and comfort zone.  They are books about raising kids.  I know, I know: boring.  The only non-fiction that usually crosses my shelf is of the historical crime/detective persuasion.  But suddenly I find myself with the need to know.  Why does my son constantly move and run into people?  Why is my daughter louder than her friends?  Why are they both so goshdarn spirited?  So I am reading Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

Author Michael Gruber
 This is odd for me, but very helpful.  Do I sit down and read a chapter every night and fall asleep to the intoxicating prose?  No.  But it's helpful and I'm learning a lot about my children and myself.  There are more on my TBR list, for the first time every!

I'll tell you what I don't read: chick lit, straight romance, or YA.  Not my thing.  It used to be I didn't even read books written by women!  I wanted it hardcore and straight up, no punches pulled.  But then I opened my mind and found some of my favorite authors to be, get this, women.  Who'd'a thunk it?

So...if you have a base genre, do you ever read outside of it?  What about sub-genres?  Do you like them all within your fave Genre?


  1. I read all kinds of genres, often I don't even know what genre the books belong to. I like Russian classics (is that a genre?) and 20th century classics. Also, I enjoy the books by Dan Brown and the medieval thrillers of Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose, Foucault's Pendulum) >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  2. Base genre is science fiction and fantasy, but I read horror and thrillers as well, plus a few non-fiction titles. Depends on my mood!

  3. Michele - I do read other genres once in a while, but like you, I focus mostly on crime fiction. Within that genre, though, I read all sorts of sub-genres: thrillers, psychological mysteries, police procedurals, cosy mysteries, the whole thing. Admittedly, there are sub-genres I like more than others. I don't, for instance, like paranormal crime fiction very much. And within all the sub-genres, there are authors I like better than others. But within crime fiction, I'm pretty eclectic.

  4. I generally read speculative fiction, urban fantasy to be precise. The problem is I'm also in love with crime fiction, mysteries, and noir. My favorite series ever, The Dresden Files, pulls in both my UF and Crime/Noir loves. It's like, my own personal drug.

    That being said, I'll read anything. From romance, YA, historical, thriller... I don't care so long as it's well written. It's about the story for me, the characters and the ride they're taking me on.

  5. I suppose, as embarrassed as I am to admit it, that my base genre is suspense/thriller followed closely by science fiction. But, I often stray from the base and read mystery, fantasy, horror, romance and erotic romance as long as the story and plot are worthy in my mind.

    The strangest thing is that I've written in many genre's as well. I've written in erotic romance, horror, mystery, and fantasy/science fiction with speculative elements. When writing though, I always incorporate a sense of suspense into the story line.

  6. Cold- I love all that you mentioned here. I found it wasn't possible to list all the genres I read or love in this one post...It was getting title heavy as it is! I think Russian Classics is a subgenre of Classic Lit.

    Alex- I'd be curious to know what nonfiction you read...Guy stuff? :P

    Margot- So many ways to divide and define!

    Mesmerix- Flexibility is a great asset...especially when hunting through a bookshelf.

    J.L.- Embarassed to admit your base genre? Why? And suspense makes any plot better, in my opinion.

  7. I've been on a thriller kick lately, especially those novels that involve financial or political schemes.

    I generally read everything except romance (I went through that stage when I was in my 20s), but I don't read about vampires, werewolves, or zombies. I've been reading YA novels, too. And all kinds of mysteries, and lots of non-fiction, and books about writing. Is it any wonder I have piles of unread books all over the place?

  8. My base is mystery and historical British literature but I will venture out on occasion. NOt often, but on occasion. THose books look great.


  9. I generally read mysteries, speculative or historical/classics, but I read a bit of YA as well. I've been reading as much non-fiction as fiction this year which has been highly enjoyable as well as useful.

    I haven't read Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens but it looks great. I'll have to get hold it.

  10. I've always been a pretty eclectic reader. I love a lot of YA and MG (being a teacher and all!). I love fantasty, science ficiton, romantic suspense, mystery too. I'm usually willing to try anything, but I like books to move pretty well. :)

  11. I'm game for most genre's...but mystery/suspense/thrillers are also my default. My latest interest revolve around the Lincoln/Child Pendergast series. :)