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?
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.