Change. New. Unknown.

What kind of emotions do those words stir in you? Do you feel a bubble of excitement rising? Or maybe your stomach just sank and the blood drained from your face? Maybe your response was somewhere between those extremes, or maybe you’re wondering what the context is. After all, the context could make all the difference, couldn’t it?

How about in your reading life? Are you the kind of person who sticks to one genre? Maybe you gravitate towards historical romance like I used to. In fact, the first time I picked up a contemporary romance novel, a character reached for their blackberry to send a message to someone and I felt like I’d slipped into some kind of twilight zone. True story!

You may have noticed that in the Hope By The Book Reading Challenge this year, one of the items in the Avid Readers list is “a genre you don’t usually read”. Some readers may not be phased by that, but maybe others of you are thinking, “Why would they do this to me?” (We’re not trying to pick on you. Promise!)

Irish writer and politician Richard Steele said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”, and the best way to give our minds a well-rounded workout is to vary what we’re reading. Sure, we all have our favourite genres, and it’s great to have a go-to option when we just want to kick back and relax, but sticking to the same genre all the time is a little like exercising the same muscle over and over again.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
— Richard Steele

Now, before you eclectic readers get too carried away patting yourselves on the back, I’m guessing most of you still have at least one genre you don’t read very often. Am I right? Maybe you’re not a fantasy reader, or you don’t understand the fascination with Amish fiction. Perhaps suspense isn’t your thing, or you’ve never read a fairy-tale retelling. Whatever it is, there’s still a benefit to occasionally (or more frequently!) picking up a book that’s different to your usual reading fare.

  1. It may surprise you. Many are the times I’ve seen a review that begins, “This isn’t my usual genre, but wow! I loved this book.” Or something along those lines.

  2. It’s refreshing. I’m sure you all know that feeling that comes from taking a break from something and coming back to it with a whole new outlook. It’s why we have weekends and holidays. It’s why you can puzzle over something until you’re ready to bang your head against the wall, get up and take a break, and then come back and suddenly have the answer staring you in the face. It’s like a mental “restart” button—“turning it off and on again” if you will!

  3. It can give you new perspective. When it comes down to it, humans haven’t changed much since the Fall, but different settings can present these age-old struggles in a completely new light. Or you may just learn something new!

  4. It broadens the mind. Every time you read about something new, you’re expanding your understanding of our world and the people who live in it. There are few things more powerful for cultivating empathy and compassion!

So, are you ready to find something new to read? If you need some ideas, subscribe to our print edition and keep a look out for the Spring issue, which will have more suggestions to help you branch out from your tried and true genres.