The Rut of Lost Readers

Do you know your favourite book genres? Or do you just think you know?

I’m not one for telling people to expand their reading horizons. Read what you like. But this week something happened that has forced me to confront my thinking on this issue. Yes, read what you like. But to find what you like, you may first have to expand your horizons.

Let me explain.

Image of a group of young people looking at a map.
Photo by Ivan Samkov on

A trainwreck of a review

I was looking for books online when I came across a review so preposterous it stopped me in my tracks. It was a review for a dystopian novel which the reader gave 2 stars. Because ‘it was not as bad as the trainwrecks of The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games’. Yes, really.

Surely, I thought, surely this person realises that if they hated the most popular books in this genre, it’s not the right genre for them? Well, apparently not. The thing is, if you keep buying books in one genre, then that’s the type of book retailers will keep recommending to you. And then you’ll be stuck in that rut of reading books you don’t like. For a very long time. Unless you do something about it.

Read what you watch

There are two easy ways to broaden your reading horizons. First, think about what you watch. If you enjoy sci-fi series and fantasy films, then you will probably like sci-fi and fantasy books too. These sorts of TV genres are often also book categories so it’s really easy to find your sort of books this way.

Some genres are a little more difficult. You may like Shakespeare or Jane Austen TV adaptations because they are easier to understand than the original books. An actor can convey the meaning of some of those old words and phrases that might trip you up in print. 

In this case, I’d suggest looking for ‘modern retellings’ or ‘variations’ of classic stories. There are many people who don’t want to work that hard at reading. And many authors working to make it easier.

Try everything once

The other way is to read one book from each main genre. I say main because there are more sub-genres than most of us could get through in a year. When you find a genre you like, you can start to refine your choices. See what book categories are available below that top level one.

This might sound like a costly way to find a lot of books you don’t like. But it doesn’t have to be. You could sign up for a free book promotion service. These services email you lists of ebooks that are free on a particular day. You can download any book you like the look of, to an e-reader or free e-reader app. For free. So if you don’t like it, you’ve lost nothing. And if you do, you can pay it forward by leaving a review or buying another book from that author.

Or you can use a library to try out books in different genres, in either paperback or electronic format. 

Either way, when you next buy books, you will have a better idea of what types of books to look for.

And finally

The main purpose of a book review is to help other readers find books that are right for them. If you have read a book you didn’t enjoy, ask yourself whether the book was at fault, or whether your choice of book might actually be the problem. 

An easy way to determine this is to write a review as an answer to this question: Does this book meet reader expectations for this genre. You may find that even though you did not like the book, your review will be favourable. If you can’t answer this question, you can read other reviews, and look at other books in the same category, to see what they have in common.

Have you struggled to find your favourite genres? Or do you have any tips to help other readers find theirs?

Enjoyed this post?

You might also like: One of These is Next.

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