I don’t think I have a favorite book genre. In a lot of ways, romance and erotic romance are my favorite, my go-to books for feeling good, rewarding myself or wanting to escape the world for awhile. They have been a constant in my life since well before I realized the social implications of a genre dedicated to women, and many years before I decided to write them myself. I love romance and everything that falls under its umbrella. Some days, regency is my favorite subgenre, some days it’s Special Forces, but the grand, overreaching title of romance seems to mark the box pretty accurately. I love this genre and I am no longer embarrassed to admit that.
But, of course, I love other genres as well. Recently, I’ve been delving deep into nonfiction, specifically with a focus on feminism and a focus on climate change and environmental science. I studied journalism in college, and an increasing awareness of the impact humans have made on the environment has pushed me toward wanting to learn all I can about the largest threat facing our world today, perhaps even considering it as a career.
Reading books on feminism, including an in-depth look at feminism in the Middle East and rolling back the years of history to the female employees at Newsweek demanding the opportunity to prove themselves, had given me a greater need to fight, to shout and to march in the streets, continuing their eternal struggle. The deeper I delve into that genre, the more I understand how romance incorporates so many elements of feminism and progressive thinking, and why its reputation as being a lesser-than genre is yet another tool to undervalue women’s interests.
Nonfiction is wonderful but can be a little overwhelming at times, especially when the takeaway from the book is that global trade needs to be eliminated in order to fight climate change or some monumental thesis of that nature. So there are other genres that I turned to when I need to get away from the reality of the world.
I’ve grown to truly love and respect historical fiction, like the Outlander saga. (In my mind, this book is a much larger one than simply romance and I shelve it outside of that singular genre.) Historical fiction is a wonderful educator on matters of research and rewriting history. I learn from it as I do from nonfic, but without quite as much doom and gloom.
And then I’ll escape to the fantasy worlds of Juliet Marillier and Patrick Rothfuss, stories woven from the ancient folklore of Britain and Scandinavia, very nearly historical fiction, only the history is made of tall tales, told by traveling bards to rooms of ancient royals. These books teach in a different wave, weaving fine lines of magic between the pages of history, making everything seem slightly out of focus, like it could almost be real.
Every once in awhile, I’ll turn back to the classics, to Jane– the reigning romance queen or to the swashbuckling tales of the Musketeers or Shakespeare or Byron. Each of these books adds something new to the next one I write, a folded note passed across the centuries, from one ink-stained hand to the next.
So what is my favorite genre? My favorite genre is the book. It’s the book in play form or the book in audio form. It’s the book read on a Kindle or folded between two fingers while I push the little girl I nanny on the swings at the park, one eye on the trials and tribulations of the African American women who made NASA function during segregation, the other on the back of her head, braids swinging in the summer breeze. My favorite genre is binge-reading stories from the library, spending all day in bed swearing I’ll stop after one more chapter, developing massive, unhealthy crushes on fictional characters. My favorite genre is whatever I can get my hands on.
Reading, in any form, is fundamental to being a writer. Reading widely and often, new authors, new genres, indulging in the best sellers and showing up for the challenge of the classics. Each of these genres, and so many more, make me a better writer every time – whether the book itself is good or bad. I need them all to grow, to learn and to push my own writing higher. So no, I don’t think I can pick a favorite genre, because it is all books, read and unread through time, that have gotten me here and given the opportunity to pick up the mantle. And to a writer, there’s always room on the shelf for just one more book. ♦