Saturday, May 29, 2010

Reading Outside Your Niche

Scott D. Parker

When’s the last time you walked down the Bible aisle in a bookstore? It had been awhile for me until this week. I found some time over a lunch hour and headed on over to Barnes and Noble to get a voucher for a free ebook. I rarely browse the stacks of brick-and-mortar stores anymore other than the periodicals. What surprised me about the Bible aisle were all the niche Bibles.

I’m not talking translations, mind you. I know all about the different ones, the literal translations, the paraphrase, the ones in contemporary English. What struck me was the different *types* of Bibles. I saw a Graduate Bible (for all matriculating students?), the Women’s Bible, the Men’s Bible, the Teenager Bible, the One-Year Bible, the Manga Bible (yes, really), and many more. Heck, I even saw The Green Bible. Couldn’t pass that one up so I opened it. Instead of, say, red text for the words of Jesus, various environmental verses were printed in green. It seems like there’s a Bible for every little niche out there. But when you get down to it, the words and the message are the same, just the packaging and focus is different.

No, this is not some great, new insight. It does seem to me, however, just one more way to break larger groups down into smaller ones. You won’t find men reading The Woman’s Bible because it’s not the masculine niche. Conversely, us parents probably won’t be reading the teenage Bible perhaps because the font is too weird. You know what? I think we should. Men should peruse the women’s bible and see what kind of things are highlighted. Ditto for the parents of teenagers and the teenaged Bible. We might learn something we didn’t know about other groups.

The same theory holds true for the mystery field, too. There are dozens of niche mysteries involving animals, quilting bees, herbs, what have you. Crime fiction is usually the dark, violent stuff and is written for folks who enjoy that sort of story. I still can’t help but think that we ought to read outside our comfort zones once in awhile. I’m in a small SF book club and I only get to pick a book once every four times. I’m reading three books I likely would not have chosen. It never fails: when I read a book out of my comfort zone, I learn more from the one, unfamiliar book that three or four where I know what I’m getting into before I even start. It’s made me a better, more well-rounded reader, and, perhaps, a better writer, too.

How often do you read outside your comfort zone?


Nigel Bird said...

guilty as charged. of to take a leap into the unknown. chick-lit?
maybe start with a lower board.

Barbara Martin said...

Often I read out of my favourite genres of SF/F and crime mystery, by reading more general, literary and non-fiction. This has resulted in opening my mind to different methods of writing styles, thus changing the way in which I look at plotting a new piece. It has been very educational in that respect.

Joelle Charbonneau said... I have to go walk through the bible aisle. I haven't done that in a long time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My book group makes me read outside my comfort zone regularly. This month for instance we read THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG, which I expected to dislike and instead loved. I would probably never have picked this up on my own.