Hello, all! Today’s discussion is something that has been on my mind lately regarding book blogging and my reading habits, and I wanted to see if any of my other fellow blogger people feel the same way. Here’s the dilemma: I think book blogging has preventing me from venturing too far from my reading comfort zone.
I’ve always had fairly predictable taste in books: young adult, SFF, a smattering of literary, historical, and middle grade fiction. This is what I would classify as my comfort zone in terms of reading. Even before I started book blogging, I didn’t make a huge effort to branch out from these genres and categories. However, I’ve noticed recently that I’ve been making a subconscious effort to stay within my comfort areas.
So far in 2019, I have read exactly 101 books (smashed that Goodreads goal 🙌), the vast majority of which – according to my reading stats spreadsheet – are fantasy, science fiction, historical, and contemporary. I have read exactly one mystery, one classic, and two nonfiction books. One of my (admittedly rather vague) reading goals of this year was to branch out of my comfort zone and…I haven’t exactly been hitting that goal.
I have been picking up more adult books than I used to, which for a chronic YA reader feels like an accomplishment. Still, most of those books have been within genres that I’m already comfortable with, so it isn’t actually much of a stretch for me.
I could go into a whole different discussion about why I want to read outside of my comfort zone and why branching out is important, but I’ll leave it at this: two of those books from the aforementioned “non-comfort zone genres” have been two of the six (non-reread) 5 star ratings I’ve given this year, and certainly two of the most unexpected. It’s nice to find new favorites where I don’t expect.
All that said, I could be doing a lot better when it comes to broadening my reading.
So what’s keeping me inside of my comfort zone?
Ever since I started book blogging, reading isn’t something I do just for fun anymore. Obviously, I still have fun doing it! But blogging has added a layer of obligation and complexity to something that used to simply be a pastime.
See, now I have to have opinions about the books I read.
Okay, I’ve always had opinions. That’s not the difficult part. The difference now is that I am expected to have informed and thoughtful opinions about books.
With books inside my comfort zone, this is easy. I’ve read enough fantasy to know the tropes and story structures, know when it’s cliche or predictable vs. unique and innovative. I know what I like and don’t like within that genre, so it’s easier to find fantasy books that check my boxes.
With, say, mystery books, I don’t know all of those tropes that seasoned mystery readers recognize. Something that shocks me might be seen as predictable to someone more familiar to these types of storylines. I also don’t know what I like in mystery books, so I don’t know if a book that I don’t like is a fluke or a strike against the entire genre.
Therefore, I don’t feel like I can give thoughtful opinions for these books outside my comfort zone, which is what I strive to do for every book I read. My reactions don’t feel entirely trustworthy even to myself. Would I still feel this way about a book if I were more well-versed in this genre? Is my viewpoint tinted by the fact that this genre is unfamiliar to me?
Additionally, I’ve noticed that the more I read in a genre, the more critical I become when reading those books. It’s not that I become cynical or negative toward them (I don’t think lol), but I’m able to see more clearly when authors are being truly original and creative, which means that those who aren’t get bumped down. I can’t see that in unfamiliar genres; I don’t have enough points of comparison. Are my ratings for those books, then, anything more than arbitrary?
I don’t think it’s a conscious decision most of the time. Until fairly recently, I didn’t even realize I was doing it. It’s easy for me to stay within my reading comfort zone, since I have a TBR that’s literally hundreds of books long, mostly within that comfort zone. Nonetheless, there are books from other genres that have caught my eye, though rarely have I taken the next step to actually reading them.
There’s always this slight hesitation when I consider reading one of these books, this reminder that I have to review this. What will I say? Will I admit, as I know I have in the past, “I don’t usually read this genre so take my opinions with a grain of salt”? Will the people who read my review roll their eyes at my clear naïveté with this genre? It’s so much easier to pass those books by and pick up one that I know I can give an informed review.
Not only that, but I feel like I’ve created a reading niche for myself that’s difficult to get out of. People who read my blog know that I read YA and SFF, so they don’t come here for mysteries or horror or nonfiction. (At least, that’s the way I perceive it. I’m sure people care a lot less than I think they do.)
So what’s the solution?
I mean, the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging the problem, right? So there’s that step out of the way.
Frankly, if I want to read more books outside of my comfort zone, I need to be more intentional about it. Actively picking up books that I wouldn’t normally read and making an effort to broaden my reading is the best way I can break out of my comfort zone.
In regards to reviews, I think I basically need to just…get over myself. 🤷♀️ I put this pressure on myself as a blogger to have interesting opinions on everything I read, but honestly the person who cares most about that is probably me. I can’t be an expert in every genre, but I still want to read widely, so I need to accept my areas of inexperience.
I wouldn’t be doing this book blogging thing if I didn’t love it, but sometimes it places pressure on me and impacts my reading in ways that I don’t even realize. I didn’t notice how much I stay in my comfort zone until recently. Now that I have, though, it’s important to me to stretch myself outside of that zone and try new things.
Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading YA anytime soon. 😉
I’m curious if other book bloggers have experienced something similar! Does blogging keep you in your comfort zone? What do you do to broaden your reading?