What are you reading to push your boundaries?

Do you read to challenge yourself? Do you prefer to read for fun only? Do you ever pick up a book on the theory of something/anything and try to wrap your brain around it? Do you read outside your favorite genre? My view is that it’s healthy and probably even essential to read well beyond your genre and comfort zone if (and this is a big if) you want to be a published writer.

Seeing as I brought it up, I’ll share my current literary workouts (and I’m leaving out the mss I read for work as that’s a separate issue).

First, the easy one. I’ve just started the 1,100 page monster bio on T. E. Lawrence titled aptly enough, Lawrence of Arabia, The Authorized Biography. I’m fascinated by Lawrence and this should give me lots to chew on. I would categorize this as being well within my comfort zone.

Now here’s the really challenging one that has me nervous. I’m going to start reading Kathryn Smith’s Let The Night Begin. It’s a romance…with vampires. In my life I don’t think I’ve read a book that could ever be classified as a romance, and nothing with vampires either. I have no idea what to expect. Love, romance, erotica, sex…where’s the cavalry charge and hand grenades? Some readers have been kind of enough to offer comments on the “romance” between Konowa and Visyna and I’ll admit, it’s a rocky one. And I’ll also admit that’s part by design, and part because I genuinely am not sure just how one makes a romance work. So, long past time I started to do a little research. It could be that a vampire romance isn’t the one to start with, but in fact I think it’s exactly the one I should start with. Now where did I put those scented candles and garlic…

    • admin

      Sure, smile at a guy’s fear 🙂 This is a big step for me. When I worked at Random House my office was right beside a romance editor’s office and even then I could never bring myself to read one of the books. All that bare chested/heaving bosom/flowing hair sent me scurrying for something on fighter planes. You know, this really does explain a lot on why I’m still single.

      • arcticghost

        I smile because I remember a suggestion or two I made in the past 🙂 Don’t worry, you’ll survive and there’s even the shocking idea that you might enjoy the book 🙂 Yeah, I know that’s reaching 🙂 I’ve never heard of Smith before myself (or maybe I have and don’t realize it) and truth be told, I haven’t read a romance in over a decade…a romantic suspense recently (no sex, not even a kiss in it, just the falling in love type stuff while dealing with bad guys and the mystery and all :)).

  1. paulliver

    Right now I’m reading “Escape from Freedom” by Erich Fromm, which is about the psychological reasons people hand over their free will to authority figures. He was writing the book while the Nazis were still in power (and before Pearl Harbor, I think). I’ve never kept track of so many places I wanted to go back and reread in a nonfiction book before. He spends a chapter on the Reformation period, too.

    Essentially, he says that people normally begin life without a sense of self. They grow up seeing themselves as a part of a religion, family, and/or social group. IF they ever truly realize their individuality, it can be a truly frightening thing to face the loneliness and risks of being one’s own self. Some people struggle through this stage and become a better person. Others freak out and run to the arms of people who are willing to tell them what to do.

    • admin

      That sounds fascinating. I think that explains religion to a large extent. At a very basic level it’s really a form of tribalism and a need to belong. By being part of something and given an identity of belonging it then becomes easier to create a finite world that you can both understand and control, or at least feel that way. At the same time you are able to define “the other” which is not of your sect/party/tribe/team and so build tighter bonds within. The really ironic thing is that something that makes so much sense from an evolutionary perspective gave rise to the concept of religion.

  2. Anonymous


    Am off to search for that sense of self then i guess my ties r my family think its more scary to think what i would be without them to provide a sense of me

    But on the Vampire romance take heart there’s always a battle and biting usually a lot of blood and gore u can always compare your fight scenes.

    Try Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan, Angela Knight, Shannon K Butcher.

    I am off to find this book you r reading as i haven’t read her b4 And to buy your books ironic really as i was looking at romance novels when i saw your book advertised on the website.

    • admin

      Re: Interesting

      Family is pretty key. My brother works in the foster care system in Canada and sees a lot of broken homes and it’s incredibly tough for those kids.

      Vampire battles sounds interesting. I did enjoy Underworld, but the vampires used machine guns and other cool weapons to fight the lycans.

  3. Anonymous

    Reading to push boundaries…

    Hmm…stumbled across your comment on this book because its all I seem to read these days. Can’t really say why, and I hate…I mean hate that you are right about reading past my comfort zone. So…I’m in search for something else, other than my usual love story/romance. Why does it feel like I’m eating broccoli? -Liz

    I didn’t wanna post this as anonymous, but dont have facebook (too much pressure)…i don’t tweet or re-tweet (again pressure)…no openID…although if I had an openID name it would probably be “LizHatesCats”.

    • admin

      Re: Reading to push boundaries…

      Hi, Liz:

      Unlike broccoli you can’t close your eyes and hold your nose while you read something different…unless you get an audio book, but then you’d just look silly. It’s not easy. I read widely, but there are still areas where I fear/loathe to tread, or maybe it’s just a general disinterest. I’m tempted to say that’s fine if you are a reader, but I really do believe that as a human being part of being on this planet is to always be pushing and searching. We have to look into corners and down alleys we otherwise would never go or our world shrinks into that which is comfortable and safe. The socks in my dresser live lives like that, but I want more.




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