Do you read books outside your usual interest? For example, do you read award-winning books out of curiosity, even if they aren’t your usual type of book? If you usually read thrillers, would you try a cozy if it was highly recommended? And vice versa?
Brenda Chapman here. A fun question this week.
I've been a reader of pretty much everything I can get my hands on since I figured out how to sound out words on paper ... and that came with its own challenges. I remember in grade one getting into trouble with my father because he realized I'd memorized a list of words without actually being able to read any of them. When he asked me to read a word out of order, I had to guess. My father thought I was being lazy and wasn't too impressed with my effort. I wisely decided my six-year-old life would be easier if I made those letters mean something, and I never looked back once the ability to read took hold.
I've belonged to a number of bookclubs since I got married. The first couple of clubs were during the child-rearing years and were more of therapy nights out with lots of food and wine and very little book discussion. In fact, pretty much nobody read the book of the month although at the end of every meeting we'd faithfully select another one. A couple of years ago, I started up a new book club and was fortunate enough to have my friend Kathryn join. She reads widely and has recommended some terrific books. This year, we've read The Push by Ashley Audrain, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, and Indians on Vacation by Thomas King. Our next read is Five Little Indians by Michelle Good -- all in all an eclectic mix of topics and writing styles. (The only book in this list that comes close to crime fiction is The Push, an unsettling best-seller about a child psychopath.)
My own books are what a fellow crime fiction writer Barbara Fradkin labels 'medium boiled'. We have similar writing styles and oddly enough live in the same neigbourhood in Ottawa. Our books aren't cozies but they're also not overly gory or focused on the physical murders, and they are definitely not hard boiled -- they fall somewhere in the middle. However, I have several cozy author friends and buy and enjoy their books: Mary Jane Maffini, Linda Wiken, Robin Harlick, and Vicki Delany included. I also enjoy a good thriller by such authors as Rick Mofina, Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay and many more too numerous to mention.
At a book event with (l to r) me, Robin Harlick, Barbara Fradkin,
Linda Wiken & Mary Jane Maffini
Another way I choose books is to go to my local independent bookstore, Perfect Books, and ask for recommendations. This is how I discovered the fabulous Adrian McKinty, and more recently, Jane Harper and Anthony Horowitz. I'm always on the lookout for new authors, and once I find one that I like, I search out their entire collection. I've also bought some bestsellers or award-winning books, usually in the 'literature' category, with mixed success. Some of the subject-matter and writing styles don't appeal to me, proving that not all award-winners are for every reader.
Signing at Perfect Books pre-Covid
As a writer, however, I can appreciate all book genres and try to learn from every bit of writing, whether my cup of tea or not. The category of crime fiction or any fiction for that matter, doesn't matter so much to me as an intriguing story well told. The real problem is finding the time to read as much as I'd like with such a wealth of offerings to choose from.
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