You feel the urge for something new. The winds are changing and the scent of a different genre calls. You’ve read so much high fantasy that you could write a PhD thesis on elves, or you’re so well-read in police procedurals that you can quote actual law. You want something different from your normal kind of book, something fresh and exciting. But where do you start?
Well, that’s where I’m here to help you! Use this three-step guide to take a running jump into a whole new genre.
Step 1: Who are you and what do you want?
Big questions, right? But we can narrow down the scope slightly by making this about what ‘feel’ of book are you after. Usually, the desire to read something different comes from the fact that our usual genres just aren’t doing it for us anymore. The themes just won’t resonate, and the plot lines are becoming predictable. So, take a moment to consider what emotional need is unfulfilled in your life right now.
For example, let’s say that you’ve just made a big change, maybe you’ve moved house, or you’ve left college, and this has changed your life perspective a bit. You need engagement and new role models to help you understand this new world you’re in. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should hunt down a book about your life, it can simply be finding a book with a character closer to your age, or leaning towards a novel set in this world like contemporary fiction.
Alternatively, if you are stuck in a life rut and feeling bored, perhaps you need a thriller to get your blood pumping again, or something grittier and darker. If you’ve been stuck in the same place for too long, maybe it’s a travel adventure which is needed. On the flip side again, if your life has been stressful and maybe even scary, perhaps it’s the safety of a romance and security in love you’re after.
Really think about it, what feeling do you want? Here’s the big 6:
General fiction – Closest to the real world whilst still being fiction. Will reflect life and a cathartic outlet for real-world problems and stresses.
Science Fiction and Fantasy – Geared towards magical escapism and epic adventure. Great for when you have itchy feet and just want to get away from reality.
Crime, Horror, Thriller, and Mystery – Often reflects the darker, grittier, side of real-life where things can go terribly wrong. High stakes puzzle-solving and a strong sense of justice are common. Great if you’re feeling bored by a ‘safe’ life.
Young Adult – Coming of age through challenge and adventure. Good for when you’re feeling like there’s a lot of challenges in your life to overcome.
Romance – Explores relationships and emotional needs. Whilst there is drama and conflict, romance tends to be quite a happy and safe genre.
Non-fiction – Stories from every niche of real life. Usually inspiring and great for broadening your horizons if you’re feeling stagnated wherever you are.
Step 2: Sub-genre
You figured out the top-level ‘feel’ you want from a book but now you face a hundred odd subgenres. Whereas the top-level genre gives you the overall emotion of a book, sub-genres are about the promise of the premise, and this is where you find the subject that interests you.
The premise is the fun and games of the story, so ‘normal boy from a non-magical family goes to magical boarding school’ would be the premise of Harry Potter (urban fantasy) whilst ‘amateur sleuth solving a murder in a village’ would be a cosy mystery.
This is where you get to pick something that sounds fun and interesting to you as the story’s plot will be propelled by these hi-jinks. Therefore, whatever you pick it has to light the fire of curiosity in you. If you think that ‘posh woman in regency England’ sounds the most boring thing on this planet, then don’t explore the historic romance sub-genre, whereas if you think ‘the new temp vs the high flying boss’ sounds fun, then maybe you want an office romance.
Step 3: Picking a book
OK, you have a genre and a sub genre which is looking promising, now you just need to pick a book.
My fiancé and I have what we call ‘the baked bean theory’ and it essentially goes like this. If you have never eaten baked beans before, and you buy the cheapest supermarket brand tin to try for the first time, then you will learn that you hate baked beans. This is not because baked beans are the worst foodstuffs on the planet, it’s because cheap baked beans are the worst foodstuffs on the planet. Therefore, whenever we try a new food, we always start with the most expensive and well-reviewed and then work our way down until we find something that tastes good but is at a more reasonable price. This also means that if we try the expensive stuff and don’t like it, it’s because we actually don’t like it.
The same thing applies with books. When you’re diving into a new genre, look for established authors with excellent reviews. Some bad reviews are fine, even the best authors have bad reviews. But in general, you’re looking for a 4-5 star book from an author who has an established backlist. Try before you buy with the sample, or possibly the first couple of pages if you’re in a real bookshop. At this point, you are making sure that you like the author’s voice and that you’re suitably hooked.
And that’s it, my three-step method to hunting for a new genre. If you didn’t find the book enjoyable, then ask yourself why so you can better refine your search next time. After all, entire PhDs have been written on the answer ‘no that didn’t work but this is what might do next time’. You may also find that even though you DNF’d a book, it calls back to you later in your life.
I hope you find and enjoy a whole new area of fiction! Happy book hunting!
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