The question of why people read literature continues to perplex. The usual assumption is that people read for pleasure and, of course, reading is pleasurable. But does this mean it’s like eating chocolate? (mmmm, chocolate) That doesn’t seem quite the right idea, and doesn’t explain why we read the genre we do.
Is a love for a particular type of writing something we learn at an early age, or is it like a fine wine, it matures and grows as we get older? And why are there some genres we just can’t love, no matter how many times we read them (romance in my case)
I suppose to find the answer to these questions; we first have to understand why people read. Is it for learning, aesthetic pleasure or to confront experiences? Defining why we read, may then lead to an understanding of how this links in with the genre we choose to read.
Literature, in all its forms, can offer us many things; from exciting narratives that can be read uncritically, simply because they allow us to escape the problems and responsibilities of our everyday lives and to participate, however briefly, in a world of experience that differs radically from our own; to works that serve as a social document, giving us insight into the laws, customs, institutions, attitudes, and values of the age in which it was written or in which it is set.
One of the most compelling characteristics of literature, in my opinion, is its relationship to human experience. When we read we have to actively engage and participate. Simultaneously, it is also an act of clarification and discovery. Literature allows us, as no other medium can, the chance to overcome our own bias and the limitations that are imposed by sex, age, socio-economic conditions, and the times in which we live. Characters in our chosen genre, offer us immediate access to a wide range of human experiences we otherwise might never know. As readers we observe these characters’ private as well as public lives, and become privy to their innermost thoughts, feelings, and motivations. We almost become the voyeur in another’s life, and this is amplified in books such as ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Many of the classics as well as ‘paperback pulps’ have survived precisely because of the freedom and escape they can offer our imagination
Character make up in a particular genre, may also be instrumental in our reading it. To know why we identify with one character and not another may tell us about the kind of person we are or aspire to be. If we are sensitive and perceptive readers, we may have much to learn from these encounters, which may possibly enrich the quality and affect the direction of our lives, though the precise effects of these encounters are impossible to predict and will vary from one reader to another. One mark of a ‘great’ written word is its ability to have an effect on the reader. In the same way, it is this effective power of fiction, drama, and poetry that also helps to explain the survival of these works.
So, it seems from this brief journey we can surmise that the genres of book you prefer is driven by many things and, not implanted into your mind from an early age. It is a good thing that we all don’t like the same genres, as if we did, they would be in short supply and a lot of good Authors out there would never have their dream of becoming published realized.