Reading Around the Edges: Expanding Your Book Horizons – Rosie Claverton
I like to think of myself as an eclectic reader but, in truth, I return to the same things again and again.
I’m a sucker for historical mysteries – from Paul Doherty’s The Mask of Ra through Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death to Anna Dean’s A Moment of Silence, I love the combination of crime and costume drama. I also adore the contemporary cosies of the early twentieth century, the classic Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh novels that crop up whenever crime writers talk inspiration.
Outside crime, I go for a bit of historical and a bit of fantasy, including my favourite series, the sweeping epic that is Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series – best know, alas, for spawning the movie Master and Commander. I also look for genre mashups in unusual places, which is why Naomi Novik’s Temeraire hits my very specific Napoleonic Wars and Dragons button.
But I rarely wander outside these subgenres. When I enter a book shop – after inhaling the scent of all those new books huddled together in one glorious shrine to reading – I head for Crime, for SF&F. I do not often venture into Horror or Graphic Novels. I rarely graze in the shelves dedicated to the nebulous “Fiction”.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a Book Spa at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights . It is exactly as indulgent as it sounds – chatting for an hour over tea and cake about all the books I love and gaining personalised recommendations from their shelves. I smiled so much that my jaw ached with it, especially at the piles of shiny new books brought before me.
However, the thing that I valued most from the spa was being pushed. Guided by an experienced reader, I took a tour around the fringes of my usual reading pastures. I wandered off into unusual crime, harder science fiction than I’ve ever sought, and fantastical realms beyond my ken. The books that I eventually walked away with were not books I would’ve found by myself (with the exception of the beautiful The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter, which I’ve had my eye on for some time). Even the historical mysteries that piqued my curiosity contained time periods, locations and detectives that I never would’ve looked for.
Therefore, my challenge to you is this: defy Amazon’s Recommended Reads, and Goodreads’ Readers Also Enjoyed, shun your usual hunting grounds – your favoured bloggers, your Twitter rec certainties, and dive in somewhere unexpected. You will not like everything you read – who does? – but you may just find a pearl that you never even knew existed.
Do you venture far and wide with your reading, or stick to the same familiar nooks? Did you find a gem in another genre? Let us know in the comments!