Branch out from your usual genres this year (and 15 titles that will help you do just that)

Branch out from your usual genres this year (and 15 titles that will help you do just that)

The seventh category for the 2017 Reading Challenge—for those of you who want to put the “oomph” back in your reading life—is “a book in a genre you usually avoid.”

Some readers read more widely than others, but most of us fall into grooves—often without even realizing it. This category asks you to first notice which genres you typically read, and then choose something out of the ordinary.

If you’ve been meaning to try something new but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet, here’s your chance.

Since we all have different reading habits, I can’t provide a list of books you should read for this category. Instead, I’m sharing a list of favorites culled from various popular genres, from my own reading list, and from the titles you have shared.

PRODUCTIVITY

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Author:
Tharp's life revolves around an arsenal of routines because, as she says, "a dancer's life is all about repetition." This conversational book is all about setting the bones—the day-to-day structure—of a creative life. (I only just found out she wrote a follow-up: The Collaborative Habit is on my to-read stack right now.) More info →
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Author:
Habits can be built, and they can be changed. Duhigg explores the science that explains how in this readable book, and explains how to put these methods into practice in your own life. His methods and insights give you the know-how to put this information to use. More info →
168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think

Author:
Vanderkam's no-nonsense, no-excuses approach to time management just might convince you that you actually have time to accomplish anything you really want to do, when you focus on your core competencies and stop frittering away your time. To get the most out of this book you must do the time diary exercise. More info →

NARRATIVE NONFICTION

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Author:
Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew were stranded on the Antarctic ice for 20 months beginning in January 1915. Alexander's story (which is named for Shackleton's ship) is compiled largely from the journals of Shackleton's 27-man crew and contains jawdropping photos by the expedition's photographer. Spellbinding. More info →
Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day

Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day

K2 is slightly shorter than Mt. Everest, but it's far more deadly: for every four climbers who have summited, one has died trying. In August 2008, a series of disasters—avalanches, ice falls, broken safety ropes—contributed to the deaths of a record 11. Miraculously, two Sherpas survived. This book chronicles the disaster from the Sherpas' perspective, and brings their fascinating history to life. A must-read for anyone who loved Into Thin Air. Riveting. More info →
Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Seabiscuit: An American Legend

I didn't think I was interested in the story of a racehorse, but after devouring Unbroken, I trusted Hillenbrand to take me on a remarkable ride, no matter the topic. She masterfully weaves together the stories of a knock-kneed racehorse and the three men who made him a champion: a bookish half-blind jockey, an eccentric trainer, and a limelight-loving owner. An incredible tale. More info →

MEMOIR

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

In this real-life medical drama, New York Post reporter Cahalan is hospitalized when she literally loses her mind. $1 million dollars worth of tests later, her doctors have no idea what's wrong with her—until her personal Dr. House joins the team and makes the diagnosis. Cahalan recovers, remembering nothing: she uncovered the material for this memoir by interviewing friends, family, and her medical team, reviewing her medical records, and watching hospital security videotapes of herself. More info →
Bossypants

Bossypants

Author:
This easy reading memoir is part comedy, part auto-biography. Fey covers a lot of ground here: from her Pennsylvania childhood to her awkward college years, her crappy job at the YMCA to the big leagues of SNL. Filled with funny and fascinating anecdotes, like what a photo shoot is really like, and how she finally nailed Sarah Palin’s precise lip color shade. Fast and fun. More info →
The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

Author:
Walls, a former New York gossip columnist, reveals the hardscrabble past she carefully hid for years in this family memoir, which centers on her charasmatic but highly dysfunctional parents: a father with "a little bit of a drinking situation" and a mother who was an "excitement addict," who moved their family all over the country, seeking the next big adventure. Walls spins a good story out of her bad memories. More info →

FANTASY

The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Author:
My 6th grade son is currently reading this book in his English literature class. He wasn't excited about reading "that boring book." His 9-year-old sister said, "I'm glad I don't have to read it." One week later, they're fighting over it. That's all I have to say about that—except you don't have to be a grade schooler to enjoy this one. It's a classic for a reason. More info →
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Author:
What you need to know: The New York Times called this modern classic "Hogwarts for grown-ups" and it's a hefty 1024 pages. Reading it is an investment, but you won't be sorry. (Or so I hear: it's on my TBR list.) More info →
Watership Down

Watership Down

Author:
A larger-than-life story about a brave band of rabbits in the English countryside and their quest for survival. A story of courage, loyalty, and bravery. More info →

SHORT STORIES

Family Furnishings

Family Furnishings

Author:
Munro is the best—or perhaps the best-known—short story writer of our time. This collection, released last December, gathers two dozen of Munro's stories written between 1995 and 2014. Munro is unquestionably good at her craft: her realistic stories are poignant and piercing, which is why I find them difficult to read. More info →
The Thing Around Your Neck

The Thing Around Your Neck

This short story collection by the author of Americanah was first published in 2009. In these 12 stories, the Nigerian author writes about America, exploring, as she says, "the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States." More info →
The Great Short Works

The Great Short Works

Author:
If you want to get started with Tolstoy without reading War and Peace (1296 pages) or even Anna Karenina (864 pages), look no further. This compilation includes 8 of Tolstoy's finest short works (some longer than short stories), including The Death of Ivan Ilych, which many consider to be his best work. More info →

What genres do YOU typically read, and what are you reading (or thinking about reading) for this category of the reading challenge?

books in a genre you avoid

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someonePrint this page

41 comments

  1. Susan says:

    The Creative Habit is top of the line for this type of genre. Inspiring. I read the Hobbit out loud to my 10th grade sons a few years ago, which is the best way to enjoy the journey. Endurance was amazing! I need to give Watership Down another go.

  2. Emily DeArdo says:

    I really liked Watership Down when I read it a few years ago. I thought it would not be my thing but when I saw it for a buck at the local Half Price Books I thought, well, can’t hurt. I really liked it! And a TV series is coming to Netflix!

  3. Sandy B says:

    Since joining my first book club at the start of this year, I have expanded the range of books I read. In looking for this list, it came to me that I avoid short stories so that will be added to my TBR list. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Allyson says:

    This month I’m reading The Shell Collector, short stories by Anthony Doerr, the author of All the Light We Cannot See. It’s not a genre I usually read, but I think I’ll enjoy this one.

  5. Nancy Smith says:

    I know I get in a rut. Reading romance, mysteries,and suspense/thrillers for the most part, yet I have just recently branched out into urban fantasy by reading Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series which features Gin Blanco, AKA the Spider. Really fun series and I have just about completed it (one novel to complete (currently half read), one e-novella, and the final (to this point) novel to read…plus a few short stories on her website).
    My biggest issue from this reading challenge list (or the one I am following) is finding a novel published in the year I was born. How do you find something like that? While I spend an inordinate amount of time on Goodreads, I haven’t figured out how to order books based on publication date. Yeah, on any particular book, I can look up the publication date, but not a whole list of them. Anyone know how to do it? Suggestions appreciated.
    I loved Watership Down…read it in college (1977) and even now use rabbit language when I see a rabbit. At the time I thought it was an interesting tale, but it really has a much larger message about political systems and societies.

    • Oh!!Urban fantasy is a new genre I have tried this summer. Charlaine Harris’ “Midnight, Texas books are funny and scary! Usually I read mysteries, children’s, and literary fiction. Short stories are a great genre to add, as you try out authors.
      Beth

    • Carolyn says:

      For books published in the year you were born, if you google ‘books published in …. ‘ you should get some Goodreads lists and Wikipedia entries that might help you find something. I’ve not tried it with every year but there were definitely lots for my year of 1963.
      Urban fantasy is one of my ‘go to’ genres, I’ve been trying some literary fiction to try and break free from my rut.

    • Denise Waldrop says:

      I just googled it (I was curious) and a list from Goodreads popped up first! I did narrow it down to fiction cause I love it and the list defaulted to books added on Gooddreads. A Wrinkle in Time was the top of the list for my birth year! Huh.

    • Sara Fairchild says:

      Hi Nancy! Just go on Google and search “Best selling books from (your birth year)”. You will get a listing of 10-20 and you can put them in goodreads to see what they are about. My birth year is 1966 and the most popular book was “Valley of the Dolls”!

      • Nancy Smith says:

        Actually,just decided Google it…duh! And then I read my emails and you said the same thing. Thanks though for helping me out with your suggestion. Great minds think alike…even THOUGH mine was slow to work! 🙂

  6. Jennifer N. says:

    I think I’m going with a Western for the Challenge. I’ve thought about Lonesome Dove per a recommendation you’ve made before, but True Grit looks good, as well. I’m almost 9 books ahead on my Goodreads challenge (thank you, audiobooks!) so I can probably pick a nice long read such as Lonesome Dove.

  7. If you’re looking for a grown up Harry Potter-esque fantasy book, I have to recommend The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss over Jonathan Strange. There’s a lot more plot / action in The Name of the Wind and it held my attention the entire time. Jonathan Strange started slow and I didn’t connect to any of the characters. Plus, the Name of the Wind is the first book in a series!

    • Rochelle Getzler says:

      I agree! Jonathan Strange was too slow and too long, I struggled to finish it and could not. And I almost NEVER leave a book unfinished. The Name of the Wind, on the other hand was one of the best books I have ever read!

  8. Stephany says:

    For narrative non-fiction, I highly recommend The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. It’s the story of the University of Washington’s eight man rowing crew winning Olympic gold in Berlin in 1936. Although the final outcome is already known, the author does a tremendous job of building and maintaining suspense throughout the book. And, he presents the boys and their coaches in such a way that you care deeply about them and their experiences. I personally appreciated the insights into the historical and political events of the 1930s taking place in the US and in Germany, too. It’s a fantastic, uplifting read.

    • Rachel E. says:

      That’s the book I was thinking of when I saw this category! And it’s hilarious because you know what’s going to happen but there’s this feeling of, “Wait, maybe they won’t make it!” every single race. The author is that good.

    • Janet Wanamaker says:

      Yes! There’s a great story behind the story, too. The author went to his condo assoc. meeting and a woman there said, “My dad would like to meet you. He has a story he thinks you might want to share…” Dan Brown went, met Joe, and the book is the result.

  9. Libby Miner says:

    Just finished The Glass Castle in anticipation of the movie coming out. My book club read it before I had joined and now they want to see the movie. Its a very well-written memoir!

  10. Zoe says:

    I wonder if it is a coincidence that I read this post right after finishing a book. I really enjoy the memoir genre and was already planning to read another memoir. I was planing to go from Wild (Cheryl Strayed) to I am Malala. I still think I am going to read I am Malala, because I think when I am going through difficult emotions and feeling pessimistic I need to read something inspiring. I bought both books because I find it helpful to read about how other young women have overcome obstacles and I need to find some inner strength. Still, I know there are so many other great books to enjoy. Thanks for posting the reminder to branch out.

    • Jocelyn says:

      If fictional characters do inspire you when you are feeling rough then I recommend ‘Book of a Thousand Days’ by Shannon Hale. It is is YA and Fantasy so those might be some breakout genres for you. I just read this book and loved it and felt so hopeful and at peace and joyful. If you read it I hope it does the same for you.

  11. Reading is life for me. I am an english history nerd and, read everything, chrime, real history, biografy, fiction in the period 1000 – 2000. I also read the classics, swedish authors. But fantasy, horror or Steven King i will never read. Teological books, and all other sorts. I was not impressed with Nobel lauriate Alice Munro. Memoirs are really good as for example Michael Caines

  12. Jocelyn says:

    Funnily enough I was looking for a book called ‘Shane’ in digital version just recently. I read it when I was a pre-teen and I loved it. The whole idea of the nomadic and mostly solitary character who is looking for something in the wide and unexplored world is very appealing. And yet most books that are termed Westerns seem to me to be family sagas or crime dramas that are merely set in the Old West.

    I can’t find Shane in digital but I do have ‘The Sisters Brothers’ by Patrick DeWitt, ‘The Son’ by Philipp Meyer and ‘Epitaph’ by Mary Doria Russell. The later seems to fit my idea of the genre best.

  13. Aimee says:

    Typically I can’t stand sci-fi or steampunk type books, but a good friend is a fan so at her recommendation I’m reading Boneshaker by Cherie Priest for this category. I tend to read mostly classics/narrative non-fiction/inspirational books, so this is a stretch for me. I’m liking it OK so far.

  14. Cheryl says:

    I usually read mysteries and contemporary fiction. I avoid biographies because they are often too long and dry. But after seeing the movie “Jackie” I decided to read “The Kennedy Women” by Laurence Leamer. It was a fascinating look at the women of the Kennedy family, going back to the original Irish immigrant. I really enjoyed the book and am glad I stepped out of my reading “box.”

  15. Anne Oppermann says:

    I don’t read science fiction or fantasy books. I have read The Hobbit, but got bogged down with LOTR trilogy. Any suggestions?

    • Nicole says:

      I loved The Name of the Wind, but if you want something a little shorter, try Storm Front by Jim Butcher, especially if you like mystery.

  16. Mirel says:

    I don’t like steampunk, but after suffering through 3 books in the genre, tried the Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, and enjoyed it. So I guess sometimes it does pay to try, try, again. I also read AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller for a genre I don’t normally read. It was well written, but still not a genre that I would pick if not challenged to do so…

  17. Fantasy would be my branch-out genre for this one! I’ve never read any Tolkien, so probably should try it at some point.
    For narrative nonfiction, I also love The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (and In the Garden of Beasts) and The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.
    For short stories, I love Why They Run the Way They Do by Susan Perabo (author of The Fall of Lisa Bellow) and Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler.

  18. Mari says:

    Red Rising by Pierce Brown is the start of an epic and I mean EPIC sci-fi trilogy that is fan-freakin’-tastically un-putdownable.Its sci-fi in that it takes place in the future and in outer space and on other planets. But there is a lot of politics and history, plus characters I LOOOOOOVED. Basic plot. Slave uprising, a bit (in the first one anyway) Hunger Games -esque… leads to total war rivalry and politics. This is grown up stuff and the complexity of the characters rivals just about anything I have EVER read. I loved this book. So much I snarled at anyone who tried to pull me out of it and resented time wasted on unimportant things like eating and sleeping. I am not much of a sci-fi reader so I was so glad to have discovered it. Best of all its a COMPLETED trilogy, so there’s no waiting around for the rest of the books *cough* Name of the Wind *cough. Another good sci-fi pick, The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, older sci–fi but very much in line with War and Peace, but on a terra-formed Mars. Orson Scott Card and his Ender books would also be good picks.

  19. Nicole says:

    Also for fantasy, The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines, for a fair tale turned on it’s head. Libriomancer by him is really good too.

  20. Karissa Sjaarda says:

    I never, ever read fantasy, sci-fi, future/distopian society, talking animals, superhero, etc, books. I like stuff that is real or could be real: memoirs, humor, mystery, self-help/Christian living, etc.

    I’m reading Harry Potter.

    I’m almost finished with book two.

  21. Donna says:

    I’m doing the Reading for Growth. But for the challenge two years ago, I decided to give short stories a chance and now I love them! I started with The Other Language by Francesca Marciano. Highly recommended! Last year, I read and absolutely loved Stay Up With Me: Stories by Tom Barbash.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.