For much of my life, I have been a book-a-day reader. Particularly in adolescence and early adulthood, when sleep was an afterthought, and life an unending challenge. My genre of choice then was exclusively romance–all through my teens and twenties, into the single-parenting years, and certainly as I handled case after case of fractured families and heartsore children in foster care court.
I wanted my genre fiction to reassure me: Love will give us the courage and determination to conquer all, to heal all, to hold out for the joy and pleasure that are the brass rings of earthly existence. I still believe that. Love, on some level, is the answer to most questions. If we save our planet, it won’t be because that’s fun, profitable, or easy. We’ll do it because we love life, our earthly home, and one another.
I still read a ton of romance, but somewhere along the way, I stumbled across historical mysteries, and after gobbling down enough of them, I’ve started to write those stories too. A well written mystery tells us that wrongdoers, no matter how clever or powerful, can always be held accountable. Miss Marple with her knitting bag, keen mind, and determination, is the equal to every criminal mastermind she meets. The over-the-hill detective, the earl’s illegitimate and marginalized son, the outspoken Victorian widow… they can all hold corrupt power accountable, and see justice done. The mystery tells us that truth and justice matter, and are within our reach.
I like that message and see it as complementary to the theme romance puts forth: Love conquers all. Maybe Miss Marple loves her little community in St. Mary Meade, maybe she loves a just world, but her motivation is not that far from the protagonist of a romance who refuses to compromise her honor for the easy solutions. The two genres are great reading companions.
In recent years, I have also become a fan of biographies. The good ones convey not only historical context, but also sketch a character contending with that context. I suspect I’m drawn to biographies because they tell me that joyous, meaningful life will never look the same up close as it does from a distance. A big impact can result from a small decision, and our worst laid plans sometimes come right despite ourselves.
I like that message too, I like the hope in it, and the respect and curiosity inherent in the decision to chronicle any life. Mostly, I am just so glad for the sustenance and comfort books–both the reading of them and the writing of them–have provided me throughout my life.
I’ve also read a few thrillers, and I like their theme too: One person can save the world, despite all the odds, personal and otherwise, stacked against her. I like Young Adult for its insistence that truth and real community are often found at the margins and through self-acceptance, among other messages.
What do you like to read? Why do you read it? Are there genres you’ve put aside or recently picked up? Genres you won’t touch with a ten foot pole?
To three commenters, I’ll send an ARC of Miss Desirable, which I hope to have on sale in the web store by mid-May.
PS: The Duke’s Disaster is now available in the web store, with a new Lonely Lords-style cover. Welcome home, Noah and Thea!