Lately, I’ve been on a big realistic fiction kick, with a definite skew towards the romantic. If it tells you anything, I’ve read three Sarah Dessen books in the last couple months, among many other things. This is notable because as a general rule, I prefer speculative fiction to realistic fiction, and I tend to avoid books with overtly romantic themes. The preferring speculative fiction is not surprising – my love of speculative fiction has been developing my entire life, ever since I learned to read on a picture book version of The Nutcracker, all the way through my obsession with dragons and Tolkien, on to my current taste for dragons (yes, still), vampires, the supernatural, dystopias, and generally speaking anything not of this world. And you know what? That’s fine. I like what I like, and there’s absolutely no reason I should have to read anything I don’t like.
My mistake, I think, was in ruling things out – like realistic fiction and romance. I’m pretty sure I’ve always liked some romance with my books. Not that I need it in every book, but it’s definitely something I’ve enjoyed when it appears. My prejudice against anything that I knew was “romance-y” was entirely that – prejudice. My avoidance of realistic fiction was less of a prejudice, and more of a “I know I usually prefer speculative fiction” thought turning into a “why would I pick up a realistic fiction book?” response. Combine the romance prejudice with my natural tendency to grab books I have a high likelihood of enjoying and my laziness about testing my limits, and you know what? I was missing out on a lot of good books.
This isn’t to say I’m suddenly un-interested in reading fantasy or anything like that. Quite the contrary – I’m actively holding myself back from re-reading a bunch of my favorite speculative fiction series simply because I don’t have the time to commit to reading a whole series at the moment. But discovering all these new books I’d been missing out on has been delightful. Unexpected, but delightful.
So I challenge you to pick up something different next time you’re at the library. Pick up historical fiction instead of something contemporary. Pick up an action heavy book instead of a calmer, character-centered story. Try fantasy instead of realistic fiction or something realistic instead of fantastical. Challenge your prejudices and assumptions about your own taste – you could easily find yourself very pleasantly surprised!