Why I Don’t Read Outside of My Comfort Zone

It’s called a comfort zone for a reason. It’s my happy place, the place I go to in order to retreat from the world and the chaos of my household. With children constantly flinging questions at me literally from the time they wake up at 6 something in the morning until bedtime at 8 at night, I’m answering or dodging questions, depending on the question.

Reading isn’t just my hobby. It’s my retreat. It’s the place where I get to be me. When the world gets to be too much, I know I can revive myself with favorite stories and new adventures that are familiar and different at the same time.

I read a lot of book blogs, and a lot of them have talked about reading outside of their comfort zones, about reading books they wouldn’t normally pick up. All because of the book community. Sometimes, I have to admit it’s tempting. I see so many interesting titles, but they’re not necessarily in my reading comfort zone. It’s fantastic that the book community has opened readers to new experiences, but, for now, at least, I’d like to stick to my comfort zone.

What is My Comfort Zone?

I love genre fiction, particularly fantasy. I also enjoy women’s fiction, thrillers, cozy mysteries and soft science fiction on occasion. I adore stories with strong plots, characters, and world building. I love books that spark something in my head that tells me I need to read it.

But I’m incredibly picky within each genre. I prefer high and epic fantasy with a little urban fantasy and magical realism thrown in. I like soft science fiction so I don’t get overwhelmed by the technical science parts, especially science fiction that explores something about human nature. I like twisty, turny thrillers, especially psychological ones. If a cozy mystery has food or cats or a quaint setting, I have a hard time passing it up. When romance isn’t twisted into women’s fiction, it’s my favorite thing in the world (though if food or books are involved in a romance, it’s harder to pass up). I can’t tell you how many women’s fiction novels I turn away from simply because it’s also listed as romance, and I know it’s usually heavy on the romance and…almost nonexistent on the women’s fiction.

I don’t do vampires and werewolves. I dislike steampunk and have a low tolerance for romantic fantasy. Coming of age stories annoy me because I have a hard time getting past those initial whiny chapters. Aliens are out. I don’t know why; I have a fascination with aliens, but just can’t stand books with them. I also hate military anything because it usually means the story is bloody and brutal, and I just don’t have the stomach for that. Horror is an absolute, hard no. I scare easily. Even creepy and eerie can be a little too much for me. Over twenty years later, I’m still scared silly of the mummy that might be coming for me courtesy of a Goosebumps book my Fourth Grade teacher read to us once. YA is also a no, though I do look very, very, very carefully at them because, once in a while, I find one I actually like, though love would be a big stretch.

What can I say? I know what I love and I know what I hate.

Thanks, but I’ll stick to my comfort zone. Why?

It’s Comforting

First and foremost, it’s comforting! That doesn’t necessarily mean I prefer the same stories over and over. I just really enjoy the elements that make them the genres they are. They keep me grounded in my reading roots while still offering plenty of branches. Besides, there are usually a ton of interesting bits and more and more diversity that I feel like I’m getting everything I need and want out of books by just keeping to my comfort zone. I love the familiarity as it means my brain doesn’t have to work quite as hard to figure things out; I already have a general road map of how it might go so I can just slip into the story. It’s like when I was a psychology major but took a history class and felt so out of my comfort zone I’m not quite sure how I passed it. So uncomfortable!

I Know I’ll Enjoy It

I’m a busy mom. I don’t have much time to read. I really don’t know how I manage to squeeze in 8-10 books a month, but I know it could be more. Because I’m a busy mom, I want what I read to be enjoyable. You know, an escape. I don’t want to feel like I’m slogging through books. So I’d rather read a book I know I’ll enjoy than step out of my comfort zone and make myself feel uncomfortable. I want to read things that make me feel happy, that make me feel excited when I have that moment to spare to read a quick sentence.

Life is Too Short

Time and I have a funny relationship. I’m in my mid-thirties, but can still fool people into thinking I’m in high school (even after 2 kids). Because I see my high school face reflected back to me every single day, I feel like a huge trick is being played on me when my body isn’t feeling like it used to during those teen years. But it makes me aware life is short. Too many young people have died over the past two years alone. Who knows how much time I have left in this world? Whether it’s a little or a lot, I intellectually know I’m getting older even if I don’t look it, so I’d rather spend that time reading what I love.

I Hate Wasting Time

I hate wasting time. Time is short. Time is precious. I have very little of it for books. Most of all, though, reading outside of my comfort zone might mean I’m not just wasting my time, but the author’s time. After they spent all that time writing and publishing, I don’t feel right putting up a bad review simply because it wasn’t my cup of tea. Many of the authors I work with have taken the time to look at my blog and/or write a personal message, so saying yes to their book when I know I won’t enjoy it just means their time was wasted and they could have used that time to find someone who would really love their book. Besides, why waste the precious little time I have to read something I might not actually enjoy when I could have been reading something I’ll love?

Why Write a Bad Review If I Don’t Have To?

I hate, hate, hate writing bad reviews. This year I’m super picky and have super high expectations of every book I read, so why would I read a book I know isn’t for me just to write a bad review? I’d rather not. I’m looking for my dream book, the book that completely floors me. That means there will be books I don’t care for, but if a book isn’t even close to being in my comfort zone, I’m not going to read it just so I can write a review listing everything I didn’t like. I mean, why read it when I know there’s about a 95% chance I’ll tear it apart? I don’t like writing bad reviews. I don’t want to write bad reviews. Why would I do that to myself and the author? Sure, I’ve written bad reviews before, but I try to avoid it. Which is why I don’t read outside of my comfort zone. It would be a waste of my and the author’s time, and I have such a hard time being fair when writing bad reviews.

The Guilt at Giving a Low Rating

I hate giving low ratings because it usually means it wasn’t for me. I always feel guilty about giving them because I know authors work hard on it. And there’s no good reason for me to read a book outside of my comfort zone if I’m going to end up abandoning, not finishing, or writing a poor review. Because I’ll remember that low rating and I’ll feel guilty about intentionally picking a book outside of my comfort zone just to give it a low rating. All because it wasn’t in my comfort zone. There’s also no point to lowering an overall rating just because a book wasn’t my cup of tea.

 

I’ve certainly read books outside of my comfort zone. I haven’t done it a lot, but enough to know it isn’t for me. At least, not right now and not for the foreseeable future. Most of the books I’ve read that are outside of my comfort zone haven’t gone well for me. I either haven’t liked them or just felt meh about them. The meh reviews are always the hardest to write.

Sure, I might actually end up enjoying the book, but experience has taught me to be extremely picky about anything outside of my comfort zone. My one exception would be if a book is from a favorite author or one I’ve read before so know exactly what I’m in for. Like Snow Dust and Boneshine by Grendolyn Peach Soleil. I detest Westerns, but I know her writing. I love her writing. My writing wants to grow up to be just like hers. And Jennifer M. Zeiger’s books. Hers are geared towards YA and younger readers. But I’ve loved her writing for years and her stories so easily capture my imagination.

I’ll stick to my comfort zone, thanks. I certainly love reading about readers picking up books outside of their comfort zones, but I’m just not interested.

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36 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Read Outside of My Comfort Zone

  1. I love the subject of the post. I don’t think that I’ve read another write-up about reading comfort zones.
    I had not heard of steam-punk books until the last month.
    I read most genres of books. My favorites are biographies and memoirs, historical fiction, epic poetry, history (including war), classic literature, poems, and Christian nonfiction (especially books on prayer).
    I rarely buy a book that I end up not liking at least with a 3 star review. It happens but rare.

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    1. Most of what I read from other bloggers is how they’ve picked books outside of their comfort zones and how it surprised them in a good way. It made me feel like a minority, so I decided to write this post and see if anyone was like me.

      That’s great that you enjoy most of the books you buy! There are so many good ones out there, and your favorite genres sound like they have so much to offer a reader.

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  2. I’m with you. I read for fun, and I tend to stick to my favourites, SF (hard and soft), fantasy, and horror stories. I do read philosophy when recommended, and sometimes I do “batch reading”, like I take this author (let’s say Kurt Vonnegut) and try to read three of his books in a raw, to try to detect some pattern, or learn something from him. But I don’t mind stopping the reading of a book after page 50 (my “magical” number) except if it has been recommended by someone I respect 😉.

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    1. Batch reading sounds like fun! I never thought to read multiple books by one author in a row to see if I could learn something, though it sounds like it would be fun to do. I’m glad to know someone else sticks to their comfort zone. Since it’s done for fun, why put yourself through potential grief if you know a book isn’t for you?

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    1. Haha! Don’t worry; you’re one of the authors whose writing I’ve enjoyed for awhile, so I’ll read it no matter what. Besides, I like your storytelling and how you mix elements into something new and interesting. The military fiction with aliens I’ve come across usually have lots of battles, guns, and alien guts, and my stomach has a hard time coping with that.

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      1. Ten years ago, I thought that I’d be writing medieval fantasy. It’s funny how things change sometimes.

        I think I’ve spent too much time researching military pay grades to have any actual fighting in the story, ha ha. I can’t risk anyone dying on me after I worked out how much they still owe on their mortgage.

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  3. Kat, I love this post. I can’t agree more. I do not tend to pick up books outside my comfort zone often. If I do, it may be as a friendly ‘writing community’ gift of action….But, as you said, if I do this, I am fully aware I am outside my comfort zone and will not give a bad review based on my personal genre preferences and expectations. I am honest, alert and fair to the author and their crafted offering. I really appreciate the struggles you identify in this article. I once was a busy mom and career woman, with such minimal time for reading, I only would read one or two authors. Bless you for your straight forwardness, as it is a true treasure in our world today. We all should strive to completely enjoy the things we love and not seek to extend the boundaries of comfort unless it is our personal desire. ❤❤

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    1. Thank you so much! I understand the desire to try something new, but I agree we should be able to enjoy what we love and not feel we ought to expand unless we want to. It’s so wonderful of you to support the writing community and provide fair reviews! It’s not always easy to find them, but, when I’m looking into a new book, I prefer to find those kinds as they really offer a good look into whether a book might be for a reader or not.

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  4. I totally get what your saying! I step out of my comfort zone so I can get to know my reading tastes more! However, you seem to know your tastes really well! I do agree that stepping out of your comfort zone will bite you in the butt more often then not, if you aren’t careful.

    I also get what your saying about bad reviews. I NEVER had a problem letting people know what I hated about a book until I started my book blog. I just don’t want to take up too much of my blog with that negative energy. I’d prefer to gush about books I love, rather than the ones I didn’t!

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    1. I did step out of my comfort zone for many years. It was interesting to see what I did and didn’t gravitate towards. It can be fun to step out and try new things and I hope you’re having a great time of it and finding out what you do and don’t enjoy.

      I absolutely agree about not wanting to take up too much blog space with bad reviews! I imagine it might look a bit weird to readers if they constantly see bad reviews up. It’s so much more fun to pour love into books!

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  5. It was never my intention to write middle grade and YA, and I still have no idea how that came about when I’m a bit fan of epic fantasy =) I’ll admit, every time you’ve said you dislike YA, I’ve wondered how my writing snuck under your radar. And now I find out you don’t like steampunk when my next adventure book is steampunk! Ugh. Guess I’m really testing you. =) It does my heart good to hear it captures your imagination!

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    1. Haha, I’ll read everything you write! Actually, Quaking Soul didn’t remind me too much of typical YA (and, my goodness, I really have to get my review up soon!). I just love your writing. It somehow makes me think it’s been touched by magic, and that’s hard to find. I feel too many authors get hung up on trying to incorporate the typical things that go into genres and don’t pay enough attention to how the story is told, but I always get the feeling it goes the opposite way in your stories.

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      1. Your feedback on Quaking Soul is much appreciated! Although it’s a coming of age story and Na’rina’s technically a “teenager” for a dryad, I’m not sure it fits what people expect of YA. I’ve thought about dropping that classification.

        And touched by magic! Wow. Thank you.

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      2. I haven’t actually read much YA, much less fantasy YA, so I could never say it with any real certainty, but I like that it’s coming of age without fitting neatly into what I think of YA. Most importantly (for me), no whiny characters! Maybe it’s because she’s a dryad, but I really liked how she has such a good head on her shoulders.

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  6. I loved this, Kat. I think you’re probably a bit like me, at the moment. Trying to get to know our life preferences and sticking close to the things that feed us the most. 🙂

    I always like to keep an open mind to new horizons, but I am SO certain that this time of my life is for finding myself (what IS my comfort zone?) The next part of my life…well. Only time will tell if the horizon will shift, once again. 🙂 xx

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    1. Oh, yes, absolutely, Brooke! There’s so much to explore in life, so many tempting things, but sticking close to home is so comforting. Like a cozy little haven as a safe base.

      I’m trying to find myself right now, too, keeping an open mind, but mostly as it relates to how life wants me to live it. It’ll be fun to see what’s in store for both of us!

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    1. Thank you! That’s so true. Reading is supposed to be a fun past time, and I just don’t see the point of reading things I won’t enjoy.

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  7. Reading for enjoyment should be just that. I figure I did enough reading outside my interests in undergrad and grad school. It’s like when someone asks if you have a guilty pleasure. Short of being immoral or illegal, is there such a thing as a guilty pleasure? Reading for me is like a warm blanket–who wants glass shards in the blanket?

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    1. Exactly! I always think the readers who read outside of their interests are brave for attempting it, but I definitely know it isn’t for me. It’s absolutely a warm blanket, so very comforting and cozy.

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    1. Especially these days, it’s nice to be able to curl up with someone you’re sure to enjoy, but it is nice to wander out and try something new now and then.

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