Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Armchair BEA: Genre Fiction

Genre Fiction: most readers either love it or hate it. For today's question, I decided to look at genre fiction and presented below are my musings over it. 

My Experience at Work

Being a librarian, I work with genre fiction daily whether it is:

  • buying it
  • assigning the book's call information aka deciding if it warrants a genre label AND if it does, which one (assuming it is fiction and not nonfiction)
  • deciding if a genre needs to be housed in its own area instead of mixed together with all fiction books
  • evaluating which genres and authors within those genres do well at my library
  • helping readers of all age find books based on what they have read in the past (most of the time starting with a favorite author, title or genre)
The list could go on and on with how I work with genres in a library setting but that does not really address how I view genre fiction as a reader. I do read genre fiction on my own time and sure, it helps me with my job on a daily basis. 

My Personal Time Reading

When I am reading for me--my time, my relaxation, my comfort, my escape...whatever the reason, I do turn to genre fiction quite often. It is not the only thing I read--I do enjoy a great memoir, biography or nonfiction title but those are not the ones I typically sink down into a comfy chair with on a nightly basis after working. Nope, for that, I typically turn to genre fiction.

I am a mood reader--if I am not in a mood to read something, than I find myself having a hard time getting into a book. That does not mean that the book is not enjoyable/well-written/etc., it just means that I am in the mood for something different.  Genre fiction plays into this need because if I want something lighthearted and fun, I turn to contemporary romance. If I want to be scared or put on the edge of my seat, then a mystery suspense novels is probably what I am going to go after, since I cannot read horror anymore. Genres serve their purpose and they do them quite well (or badly if it is just a bad book but that is for a whole other day's musings).

Blurring the Lines

I read A LOT of Young Adult fiction so I cannot help but notice how much blurring of the genre lines that has been happening. I am not saying that it is only happening in young adult fiction either--I know it is also happening in adult genre categories. To say a book is one genre over another can be challenging. Just take a look at a title on GoodReads and the varying shelves users place a title onto. For instance: how would you classify the amazing Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers? Is it historical, paranormal, romance, fantasy, adventure, magic or mystery? These are all tags that have been used to classify it. Are some better than others--possibly but that is not for me to judge (unless I am deciding it for my library's collection). 

Something to Ponder

Do we put too much thought and emphasis on genres? There are so many excellent books out there, no matter if we look at genres or not! I am constantly telling people not to judge a book based on their perceptions of a genre because you are, you could be missing out! Authors are proving that they do not need to focus on one or two for a book to be a hit with readers of all ages and preferences--take a look at the success of Divergent and The Hunger Games

I am looking forward to reading your comments and thoughts on genres. :)

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  1. Great post Stephanie!

    Judging a book by it's genre...yes, I've been guilty of that before. If I see a book labeled as a genre that I don't typically read, I usually pass on it. Though I realize that I could be missing out on a great book.

    I agree with you, maybe we shouldn't put so much emphasis on genre. Especially on Goodreads, where the genre shelves that everyone organizes their books by is totally based on their own perception. Like you said, one person can consider a book fantasy and someone else may consider that same book historical fiction.

    Tamara @ Shelf Addiction

  2. I would definitely consider Grave Mercy historical fantasy, which is its own sub-genre (also, one of my favorites!).

    I think in general genres are sometimes useful because the people who consider themselves genre readers really define themselves by that label. I'm a mystery reader, or a romance reader, or even just generally a genre reader (which is how I think of myself).

    1. I would as well but I used it to show, while I definitely would define it as such, there are others who define it differently. :) Genres are incredibly helpful in working with children day in a day out at the library too.

  3. I'm a mood reader too. There's a lot of genre-blurring--I can only imagine it would be hard to call it sometimes for the library. Really interesting to see how that works in the library process!

  4. I have been thinking exactly what you wrote in your last paragraph. Does it matter? We put so many labels on so many things, especially books. Does it really matter what genre it may fall in? If you enjoy the content, suggest it, pass it on.

    1. I think that is very valid! It helps for those I think would generally do not know what they like about the books they read--characterization, plots, settings, etc so genres are sometimes the easiest to relate to right off the bat.

  5. As a fellow librarian, I know how hard it can be to talk readers out of their genre preconceptions, even when you've got a book you're sure they'll like!


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