When I hear a person say he doesn't like to read, I think how sad it is that he gave up before meeting his favorite book. Maybe it's idealistic or naive of me, but I truly believe that there's a book out there for everyone.
How can there not be? With all the genres and subgenres in both fiction and nonfiction, it's hard to believe that there's no book in existence that would satisfy someone's need to read.
But what happens when readers don't like to try new kinds of books? As I learned--they're missing out.
Here are four misconceptions about genre fiction and why believing these really just means you're missing out on some great books.
1) "I can't relate to characters who are doing weird things, like living on the moon, chasing vampires, and hunting down murderers."
Sometimes it is hard to relate to experiences you haven't had yourself, but you actually do this every day.
If your friend runs marathons and you don't, but you're talking to her about running marathons, you're probably relating to her on some level. Maybe you're imagining how you feel just walking around on a high humidity day and you're imagining how she must feel trying to run 26 miles in that kind of heat. You do this because you're genuinely interested in hearing about her experiences. Congratulations! That's the same process that happens when you read...
The author creates a character and spins a world. Since the most, if not all, of the story is going to be through the perspective of the primary character, so you learn to empathize with that primary character. So when that character is doing things that you've never done, you still care because you're interested in reading about that character's experiences.
There's no one in the world who has had the exact same experiences you have had in the exact same way that you have had them, yet you relate to people every day. So it's not necessary to have chased vampires, lived on the moon, or hunted vampires to love genre fiction or to relate to the characters in genre fiction. You just have to take a chance and actually try reading it.
2) "People will judge me for reading [insert genre here]."
Here's the thing. People are ALWAYS judging you for something, so if it's not reading genre fiction, it's something else. There's always going to be some prick who doesn't like your hair or your face or your clothes or the food you're eating or the car you're driving or the way you talk or the college you went to or the college you didn't go to or the computer you're using or you name it.
And, really. If someone is going to judge you for what you're choosing to read, do you really want to be friends with that person? They're clearly missing out by not getting to know you.
However, if you're reading a steamy erotica on your lunch break and don't want your boss to see, I get that. In that case, get yourself an e-reader. The beauty of having an e-reader is that no one knows what you're reading! I heard through the bookternet that sales in romance and erotica have skyrocketed since e-readers became widely accessible. To think... all these people who were once too shy to bring their books out in the light of day now aren't relegated to only reading at home! It's a beautiful thing.
So if you're curious to try something new, do so under the protective disguise of an e-reader if that makes you more comfortable.
3) "Only [insert judgmental descriptor here] kind of person would read THAT."
"I bet only under-sexed housewives read romance."
"Only nerds who live in their parents' basement and play World of Warcraft and Dungeons & Dragons all day read science fiction."
"Surely only bored retirees read mysteries."
"Betcha only sluts read erotica."
Judging is a double-edged sword. Everyone judges, but no one wants to be judged. So here's the deal: when you make a commitment not to judge others for their choices, reading or otherwise, you'll find that you feel judged less often. I think everyone feels judged to some degree, but not actively passing judgment yourself lessens your awareness of its presence in the world.
4) "Genre fiction is weird. I just want normal characters."
Since "weird" is a subjective descriptor, it's hard to argue that point. However, I'd venture to say that "normal" characters are every bit as weird as the characters in genre fiction.
Meet a character who drinks herself into oblivion and can't remember who the man in bed with her is? It happens in genre fiction too.
Meet an orphan on a quest to learn about his parentage and learns family secrets along the way? That happens in literary fiction too.
The self-proclaimed plain girl nabs the steamy, muscular guy? Perhaps the ONLY genre where that hasn't happened is LGBTQ.
"Weird" things happen everywhere--in real life and in books of all manner and type. It's just a matter of being able to suspend your disbelief for when things that aren't bound by the laws of space, time, and science happen.
Plus, the truth can be just as strange and unbelievable as fiction. A special unit in the U.S. Army during World War II goes around Europe rescuing priceless art and uncovering hoards of masterpieces stolen by the Nazis? Sounds incredulous, but that's exactly what the nonfiction book, The Monuments Men is based on. And all those kooky folks partying it up in Savannah in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil? That's nonfiction too.
Essentially, the human experience isn't all that vast or different. We tend to have more things in common than not. Love might manifest itself differently, childhood experiences may vary, our outlook on the world may change... But at our essence, we all experience love, we all experience childhood, and we all have an outlook on the world that is subject to change. Some characters just grow up driving little space ships instead of Barbie Jeeps.
Genre is a way of taking common experiences and highlighting the unique parts while still making the essence of those experiences relevant to the human condition.