There’s been a lot of talk everywhere about diversity + the book/reading/book blogging communities… This post isn’t so much about diversity in the market so much as my personal reading tastes and how they’ve evolved to become more diverse than they used to be and the tricky business of stepping outside of my comfort zones.
My reading tastes used to be very narrow. First, I read Harry Potter. Then I re-read Harry Potter many, many, many times until my sister started recommending the books she was reading. Then I accepted a recommendation from my friend Alison and started reading Twilight which lead to reading those books and then re-reading those books. I read a bit of adult contemporary (almost all recommendations) and then I started picking up cozy mysteries and read mysteries almost exclusively. Then my friend Lisa recommended The Hunger Games and after falling in love with that series (and binge reading it), I finally started to seek out books on my own, which is how I found all of the amazing young adult fiction that I read today!
I feel like I’ve branched out with my reading a lot in just a few years and yet even still, I find myself falling back into my old comfort zones. I found a series and then stuck to it (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games). Then an author and stuck to them (Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella). Then genres and stuck to them (adult contemporary, mysteries, dystopians). And now I think I’m the most diverse in my reading that I’ve been so far with all of the different genres I enjoy, but I’m still mainly stuck in YA and rarely branch out to adult or middle grade now (though I’ve made progress with that as well, lately). Although… I wouldn’t really say that’s an issue…
If you’re coming from a diversity aspect, sure. I’m not the most diverse reader out there. I could really dip into a lot more issues or perspectives or backgrounds, but I’ve always been a reader who has stuck to what I love and what I know I love. I’ve slowly branched out from only reading fantasy when it was Harry Potter to thoroughly enjoying fantasy and now it’s one of my favorite genres to read… But even when I first started reading fantasy, I thought I hated it. I didn’t know where to start as far as fantasy was concerned so I was just trying things other people liked with no clue as to what I would enjoy. Sometimes it worked out amazingly (Graceling) and other times, I just couldn’t get into it (Lord of the Rings). It took a long time of picking books and trying them before I finally started to realize what kinds of things I appreciated in fantasy and what things I really didn’t have interest in, and really that’s the same with every genre.
As far as this post goes, I’m not talking about diversity meaning race or religion or sexual preference. I don’t really choose books based on any of those (unless it’s something like Christian fiction because I already know that’s something I don’t personally connect with). I’m talking about diversity in my reading meaning picking up different genres, male vs female POVs, trying to pick books based on what sounds interesting and not caring whether that means YA or Adult or MG. When I look at where I started as a reader and where I am now, I never could have predicted all of the different genres and subject matters and types of characters that I read — and yes, race and religion and sexual preference fall in with that too. I never really chose books with the express purpose of avoiding one thing or the other but I always fell back into my reading comfort zone. I do dip out of it from time to time, but I also like staying within that comfort zone because that’s when I find the books that I expect to love and in fact do fall in love with — because I know those are the books I will identify with the most. I don’t always have to identify with a book to fall in love with it, but that’s usually a really good way for me to get hooked so often times those are the books I seek out.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m making progress! I feel like I’ve come a long way already in the books that I pick out and the books I end up enjoying. Even within a genre or a topic that I expect to love, I find books that just don’t live up to my expectations. Other times I’ve picked up books I think I’d enjoy and find out that I really just don’t enjoy books set in a certain time period or a certain setting or characters who have certain personality traits. Some things vary from book to book and some things, I find out, really do end up falling under a generalization of things I do or don’t enjoy, but I’m able to make that generalization because I’ve tried so many books with those elements and truly don’t enjoy them.
While I’m trying to step out of my comfort zone, I think it’s important for me to edge out slowly… test the waters… pick something in between something I love and something that’s totally different. When I tried diving into fantasy, for example, I tried FULL OUT FANTASY with worlds and creatures and terminology and I was utterly overwhelmed, and I think that can be true with any reader. If you step too far outside of your comfort zone, it can easily be scary and overwhelming. So far, I’m enjoying expanding my reading tastes little by little and pulling those new and exciting topics or genres into my bubble of familiarity. Some people can make big leaps like that but that usually doesn’t work for me. I’m really enjoying growing as a reader at my own pace because that’s really what’s working so well. When I try to force things because other people are reading them or because they’re all the rage or because they’re a hot topic, sometimes I’m just not ready for that yet.
I think it’s important for readers to try new things and expand their reading horizons because it’s true — you don’t know what you’re missing out on if you don’t try — but also remember that you’re reading because you love to read. You’re doing what you love and it’s something that makes you feel passionate. It’s always okay to stick within your comfort zone when you want to/need to because those are the things that make you love what you love!
How do YOU define being a diverse reader? Do you think that pertains to stepping out of your comfort zone little by little as well having a variety of genres and topics to choose from?
Do you think you’ve developed your reading repertoire over the years and have expanded your reading horizons? Do you tend to just read what you love or take the plunge and dive into something totally different than what you usually read?