My Changing Reading Tastes and What It Means for My Writing

Over the past year, I’ve noticed a distinct change in my reading preferences. While Young Adult and speculative fiction (even better, both!) used to be my genres of choice, now I find myself more compelled to read memoir and other non-fiction genres. And while I used to regularly read literary fiction, now I sometimes bypass the general fiction category at used booksales altogether. It’s not that I’m not interested in realistic human stories anymore … it’s just that, if there’s a book about something that could actually happen … I’d rather read a book by someone that it actually happened to.

While memoir has always been on the margins of my reading tastes, I’ve hypothesized several reasons that I have a renewed interest in it now.

  1. There’s a definite correlation between beginning my relationship with my husband almost three years ago and my interest in non-fiction. Although I’d been in love before, this was my first “serious” relationship, and I was hungry to see how other real people navigated this terrain. Not even six months into my marriage, I’m drawn to memoirs about lifelong partnerships and both successful and failed love. There are a lot of people who know this road better than I do.
  2. I’ve also had a pretty strong shift in my internal world in the past several years. Or perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that I’ve made a shift out of my internal world in the past several years. While I used to prefer to hide in my own imagination and would often choose its sanctuary over my real life, I’ve since become much more integrated into the real world. My reading taste seems to reflect this, although it was about two or three years behind my shift in consciousness.
  3. For a lot of my life, I’ve needed or thought I needed to escape for one reason or another. Although everyone needs an escape once in a while, myself included, I’m much less prone to it these days. I think it’s because I like my life, and so I seek to read books that help me understand it more deeply, rather than that help me get away from it.
  4. It may be that my genes are finally catching up with me. Although both my parents enjoy a good novel (especially a good sci-fi novel), they’re also strongly drawn to non-fiction. My dad devours biographies, while my mom, a nurse, seems to crack open books about health far more often than any of the hundreds of other books on her shelves (although she listens mostly to fiction audiobooks).
  5. I may simply have OD’d on fiction. Although I’ve been picking up non-fiction about subjects that interest me (mostly religion and feminism) for years at used book sales, I haven’t actually read all that much of it. I often asked myself if I ever would get around to reading all that non-fiction when novels were so enticing to me. Well, perhaps I was more prescient than I thought, and I now find myself quite well-stocked for my increased non-fiction appetite!

While I still try to read across genres, and actually set something of a reading “schedule/system” to guarantee variety, I do wonder how or whether this new attraction to non-fiction will play out in my writing. Of course it makes sense to write within the genre that you read the most in — but right now, I have very little interest in writing non-fiction aside from journaling, blogging, and responding to requests to write articles. Still, the first book with my byline is not a novel but a collection of true stories from young adult Catholics — in essence, a collection of short memoirs. And my own short memoir-esque piece about being bisexual and Catholic is currently set for publication in two separate collections.

So although I have no immediate plans to write heavily within the non-fiction genre, I find myself wondering what might emerge after all this has settled in several years. I’ve always loved reading retellings, for example, but didn’t write my first retelling until about seven years after I began reading them, and it was a very loose retelling at that. Now, I’m working on a retelling of “Rumplestiltskin” with plans to retell “Rapunzel” during NaNoWriMo and, eventually I hope, “The Little Mermaid.” Does this mean a non-fiction book will be beating at the edges of my brain about ten years from now? I guess I’ll just wait and see, and enjoy all the writing and reading in the meantime.