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The Importance of Reading Outside Your Genre Comfort Zone

For some, reading and writing may be a habit, a hobby, or a passion. As for me (and maybe you
relate), I consistently fall into the spectrum of all three. I don’t remember a point in my life where I
wasn’t consumed in a book or desperately trying to scrawl down a new idea. Before entering college
four years ago, I found myself reading from a pretty narrow scope of genres – sticking to comfort
zones I knew I would enjoy or defaulting into familiar tropes. In college, everything changed. I
found myself plunged into a myriad of unknown environments, which ultimately spurred me to
explore and discover literature I previously wouldn’t have touched. Soon, I watched this exposure
bleed into my writing. I saw my vocabulary expanding, knowledge deepening, and skills
strengthening. I came to the conclusion that reading different genres holds more significance than I
previously thought. Here’s a few reasons why…

But first, let’s do some genre unpacking.

So, what exactly are literary genres? Basically, genre is a way of categorizing the audience’s tastes.
Groupings often share similar components such as subject matter, topic, purpose, style, or form.

Most commonly, literature is divided into 4 essential genres. These genres include:

● Fiction (Core Question: Is this, on some level, imagined?)
● Nonfiction (Core Question: Is this true?)
● Poetry (Core Question: Is this, in some form, verse?)
● Drama (Core Question: Is this performed?)

Subsequently, these 4 main genres can be split into thousands of subgenres. Here’s a few examples to scratch the surface:

● Fiction (fantasy, historical, mystery, science, literary, suspense, romance, horror, graphic
novel, action) 
● Nonfiction (memoir, biography & autobiography, art, family/relationship, education,
● Poetry (free verse, prose, elegy, lyrical, romance, satire, tragedy, allegory, ballad)
● Drama (pretty much any of the subgenres previously mentioned can be applied here, except
associated ordinarily with theater, film, television, audio – think musicals, plays,
movies, shows, etc.)

Of course, it is important to note that there are so many works that ascend or fill in the gaps of
multiple genres. The boundaries of these categories can quickly blur (but that’s a part of the
enjoyment, right?)

Benefits of Reading a Variety of Genres

1. Enhance Your Vocabulary and Comprehension
Do not be surprised to come across unfamiliar words, phrases, or structures. Storing up
this information can expand your personal dictionary and increase your understanding of abstract
concepts. Slowly, you may recognize yourself using new tools in your everyday vocab and
writing, which may aid you in your verbal and written communication.

2. Boost Your Creativity
Investigating unexplored topics can equip us with knowledge to spark inspiration we
wouldn’t otherwise have. Literature has the power to stimulate imagination. It can give us
opportunities to absorb unencountered subjects and employ them in new ways. It allows us to dive
into new creative pursuits with less hindrance and more confidence.

3. Learn More About Your Preferred Genres

Sometimes, when consistently immersed in your preferred genres, it can become hard to
recognize their uniqueness (speaking from personal experience). Stepping outside the box can
allow you to gain newfound appreciation and insight to the literature you’re traditionally fond of.
Additionally, this can help you grow and enrich the love you have for your own writing.

4. Develop New Perspectives
In a way, reading allows us to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Experiencing books
permits us to learn about varying beliefs, backgrounds, places, times, cultures, and viewpoints.
This engagement can easily transfer to real life and extend into the relationships around us. Stories
give us insight into worlds we may not have been able to access.

Wanting to explore but don’t know where to start?
Here are some of my favorite books across a few sub-genres:

Autobiographical: Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
Graphic novel / Comic: Maus by Art Spiegelman, The Sandman Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman
High Fantasy: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Historical Fiction: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Manga: Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Magical Realism: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Nonfiction: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Poetry: Kingdom Anamalia by Aracelis Girmay, Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Prose-poetry: A Cast-Iron Aeroplane That Can Actually Fly by Peter Johnson (Editor)
Psychological Thriller: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Science Fiction: All Tomorrows by C.M. Kösemen
Script/screenplay: 12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose, Good Will Hunting by Matt Damon and Ben

The options are limitless, go have fun! 🙂

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