I know for me, my reading comfort zone has always been fantasy. The dragons, the swords, the battles, the heroes (or even better: anti-heroes!), and devilish villains…I love all that stuff, and there’s a sense of coming home when I dig into a fantasy novel.
And I think we all have that reading comfort zone, a genre or type of book that we return to over and over because it’s familiar. It’s reliably enjoyable, so why would we stray from it?
Well, because there are in fact benefits to occasionally reading outside your comfort zone. I know, because I’ve really expanded my reading horizons these past couple of years, and have discovered some genres that I might not have done, had I stuck in my comfort zone (thrillers, contemporaries and graphic novels/manga are just a few of the ‘outside my comfort zone’ genres that I’ve now embraced!).
So here’s a few benefits of reading outside your comfort zone:
You might discover an incredible story that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Just because you prefer historical romance books doesn’t mean that the perfect contemporary romance isn’t out there for you… There’s probably books in every single genre that each of us would like, but by always staying in our lane and never going outside of it, we might never discover some wonderful stories we would have otherwise loved.
You might find a new favourite genre.
Sometimes we have preconceptions of genres, and decide for no reason, that it just isn’t for us. For example, I always assumed I didn’t like thrillers because I’m squeamish and assumed all crime books were gruesome police procedurals. It’s only when I actually started reading them that I realised that most thrillers aren’t very gory, and are actually incredibly enjoyable. Thus, a new favourite genre was found!
And if I’d never given it a try, and pushed out of my comfort zone, I never would have known!
It can help prevent or break through reading slumps.
Reading slumps can often be caused by getting into a rut: if you’ve read a lot of very similar books one after the other, then it doesn’t matter how much you enjoy that type of book. You’ll grow bored.
So trying something new, even if it’s only occasionally can help stave of slumps, or break you out of one if you’re struggling to find something you feel inspired to read.
It can help expand your mind.
Different genres and types of books tend to touch on different issues: so for example, science fiction often asks a lot of questions about our potential future (for example, is the advancement of AI a good thing or a bad thing? Are we over reliant on technology? Will we ever discover life outside of Earth?). So reading widely and trying new-to-you genres can help you expand your mind, and start thinking about other things.
For example, for me, it was starting to read more contemporary that helped expand my mind. I generally spend so much time in fantasy worlds, that I hadn’t really been paying much attention to real world issues, so it has been quite eye-opening to get some insight through reading things based in our own, modern world.
It’s something new.
And finally, I just think that in general in life, doing new things is a good idea. Maybe you try it, you don’t like it, but you’ve still had a different experience, and probably learnt something about yourself on the way. Even if that something is just that you were right, and don’t like that particular genre!
So what is your reading comfort zone? Have you ever stepped outside of it, and what was the experience like? Have you discovered any new favourite genres that way?