I need to stretch my reading horizons every few years or I find I start gravitating back toward reading only those books by a few favorite authors and nonfiction for research purposes. This happens because over time I think I acquire a certain amount of reading reluctance, and don't give new or new-to-me authors a fair chance.
Reading reluctance is more than burnout or a rut; it's a bit like giving yourself an allergy. If I read enough books in the same genre that for whatever reason I don't enjoy, I start having a knee-jerk negative reaction every time I see a new release in that same category. It doesn't even have to be in the same genre; if I read enough badly-written dragon fantasies -- and I have -- even a glimpse of a dragon on someone's cover art can make my skin crawl.
I put together a list of some genres I'm currently not reading and thought about why I'm not reading them, and what I think it would take to bring me back:
Apocalyptic or Dystopian Fantasy: However misplaced it might be, I still have faith in humanity, so I've never been a huge fan of this genre anyway. It can be very depressing stuff.
What I would read: Anne McCaffrey-esque books where everyone escapes the apocalypse, finds another place or time, starts over and doesn't screw up that world.
Chicklit Romances: The humor often seems mean-spirited, and the fashion references are completely wasted on yours truly. Also not a fan of those highly idealized girlfriends forever books, in which two or more female characters seem to fall in love with each other while the male characters serve as your basic brainless, bulgy wallpaper cutouts or brainless, bulgy walking vibrators. Inspirational chicklit can and has made me physically ill.
What I would read: Anything that ditches the gushing BFFs, the over-the-top fashion, the insulting goofball comedy, and wretchedly-disguised bigotry, and replaces them with honest humor, real male characters, genuine feminine wit and above all, respect for the peaceful and faithful no matter what name they call their deity.
Historical Romances: After a long sabbatical I came back to this one and did a bit of reading around, but I was disappointed yet again, and my burnout reburned out itself.
What I would read: Because the usual time periods and characters have all been knocked off ad infinitum, I'd like to see some historical romances set in radically different eras, on continents other than Europe and North America, and with a variety of cultures and storylines. I'd definitely spend major bucks on any ancient world romances that hit the shelves.
Mashups: Not crazy about someone dumping zombies, sea monsters and vampire slayers in classic lit and slapping their byline on it (picky, I know, but I'm the same way about chopped peanuts on hot fudge sundaes.)
What I would read: Clever twists on classic lit in which the author does not copy and paste a single word from the original novel.
Memoirs: The last memoir I read was back in 2002, and there simply aren't words to describe that book that would keep this blog PG-rated. It had one positive effect; it made me instantly take a lifelong vow never to write a memoir.
What I would read: The diaries, journals and letters written by ordinary people who have/had interesting jobs and/or lived in interesting times.
Political Nonfiction: My grandmother made me read all the Watergate books, which she felt were important and I felt were a horrible punishment (in my defense, I was twelve. I wanted to read Laura Ingalls Wilder, not Bernstein and Woodward.) Have not touched a book on politics since.
What I would read: Nothing I can even imagine here. If I were given a choice between reading PN and having a colonoscopy without the fentanyl, I'd start undressing.
Science Fiction: As much as I've tried to like having all that endless pseudo-Platonism, rabid socialism and heartless nihilism shoved in my face, it just gives me a headache or puts me to sleep. The few SF authors I enjoyed reading when I was a kid are deceased now, and I've read everything they wrote a couple times over.
What I would read: Anything fun, adventurous, imaginative and not boring written by someone with a sense of humor. Or Edmund Cooper and A.M. Lightner, should they ever reincarnate.
Unauthorized Celebrity Bios: Celeb books don't do much for me, and most of the time they're as tasteless as they are badly-written. After all the support Oprah has provided for authors and the Publishing industry, for example, this latest bio about her getting all the hoopla seems ungracious as hell.
What I would read: I'd like to give the gossip and scandal sniffing a complete pass and read more factual accounts of the lives of people who have made a huge difference on the plus side for humanity, especially in medicine, like Avicenna, Edward Jenner, William Harvey, Joseph Lister, Charles Drew, Janet Lane-Claypon, Jonas Salk (and that list just goes on and on.)
Women's Fiction: Alas, not enough Kleenex in the bathroom or aspirin and tranquilizers in the medicine cabinet to cope with all that drama. That and if I really want to feel instantly bad I'll call the family member who always updates me on whose marriage is in trouble, who is unemployed, who has a home being foreclosed on and who might have an inoperable brain tumor.
What I would read: It's hard to be specific because this genre has the potential to be so much more than the aisle of endless sobfests. I don't mind books with downs as long as there are some ups thrown in for balance. A storyline that doesn't use tragedy as a crutch or an ending. Less soap opera, more realism.
YA: I'm winding down on a determined effort to read more in this genre, and mostly coming away with delightful memories of all the reasons I wanted to kill myself during my high school years.
What I would read: I like history, and I know I'd like to see it through the eyes of a youngster. Haven't found any decent historical YA yet, but I think the right author will eventually grab me.
What books are you reluctant to read, and why, and what would it take to get you to read them? Let us know in comments.