bouquet of flowers with variety

Like a bouquet of flowers that are all different and make a stunning arrangement, variety in book reading creates a pleasing and grounded balance. Some people adhere to only one genre and derive much pleasure from their all-alike bouquet of roses. But this strategy risks a loss of worldliness and understanding that a variety pack might bring.

I personally try to mix and match the genres of books listed in this blog post. I believe that this far-ranging foray into different genres enriches my life and helps me achieve my goals of understanding life, the universe, and everything. (Okay, that’s going a bit far. Books don’t turn me into an all-knowing magus. But sometimes it feels that way!)

Note that the list below is highly personal. You probably have a different mix of reading selections, and that’s cool. Mainly in this blog post I want to illustrate an example of what works for one person (me), and to highlight the benefits of variety in reading.

Always on My Bookshelf

The following genres have been my tried-and-true, go-to selections for many years. I try to have at least one of each of these book types in my to-read pile at all times.

Modern Literary Fiction

Included in this category are literary novels and short story collections published in the last 10 or so years. I especially try to keep up with books hot off the presses, books that win prestigious awards, books that are highly recommended by trusted sources, and books that randomly catch my eye for some intuitive reason.

I must say that it’s awfully refreshing to read about people with modern-day sensibilities doing modern-day things and coping with modern-day life. This is in contrast with books from the past, which have other strengths (see the Classic Literature section, below).

Modern Nonfiction

Highly acclaimed works of science, history, and memoir are included in this category, especially works published within the last 10 or so years. If everyone in the literary world is talking about a work of nonfiction with high regard, even if the topic doesn’t sound interesting at the outset, I will pick it up. The best writers and researchers can make any topic fascinating.

Also included are works that might not be highly acclaimed, but are of special interest to me. For example, I recently read a memoir by a man who had gotten a concussion and suffered truly bizarre symptoms for 8 years, until he finally found specialists who could help him begin to recover.

Classic Literature

I’m no longer in school, but I’m still working through the classics. These can include novels, short stories, poetry, drama, and occasionally nonfiction from throughout the ages. Every once in a while I’ll scan through one of those ubiquitous “Best Of” lists and, while patting myself on the back for reading the books I have read, also jot down some the books I have not and seek them out. Reading the historical masters enhances my understanding of “the human condition” and brings me into raptures of awe in ways that are seldom (though certainly not never) found in modern works.

Research Nonfiction

As a writer, I am often researching a particular topic. This helps me ground my writing in facts, and it also gets me in the mindset of whatever topic I’m writing about. And when I’m not researching a topic for a piece of writing, I tend to have pet projects—for example, at one point I read several books about computer coding in order to enhance my skills in that area.

Modern Poetry

When I started writing poetry myself, about 6 years ago, I realized that this was a genre that I had been neglecting. I had read and enjoyed lots of classic poetry, but not as much poetry written more recently. Since then, I have made it a point to include such works in my reading rotation.

Missing Genres

Conspicuously absent from my list are many well-beloved genres, including young adult, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and more. Generally, I enjoy books in such categories if they are crossovers with literary fiction. For example, Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke, a book I loved and previewed on this blog, mixed the fantasy and literary genres. This is a personal preference and obviously not right for everyone.

What book genres are in your reading mix? Do you aspire to add more variety?