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Carly's avatar

Do you prefer reading genre fiction or literary fiction, and why?

Asked by Carly (4550points) June 21st, 2011

Not trying to be snobby or anything, but I’ve never been able to read genre fiction/popular fiction seriously, mainly because I’m always looking for more intellectual depth in what I read rather than entertainment.

Is there something I’m missing when I attempt to read genre literature?

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21 Answers

Paul's avatar

You really have to get yourself into the book more with genre fiction I personally don’t have a preferance, I like both. You’re not being snobby by the way it’s just your preference.

YoBob's avatar

Definately genre fiction.

For me recreational reading is all about escapism.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I go back and forth. Right now I’m on a sci-fi kick. I’m coming off the non-fiction about sex workers kick.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Wait, I’m confused. What is literary fiction? Is it realistic fiction? I’m going to answer as if that is the case.

I read mostly fantasy books with the occasional sci-fi book thrown in. If you tend to avoid these kinds of books because you feel as if all of them lack intellectual depth, then, yeah, you are missing something. You’re missing a lot. A lot of the fantasy books and stories I read are about the people, rather than the setting. If you can’t take the basic plot and put it into any genre, then it’s a bad example of literature.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Carly: Hm, the problem I have with that definition is that it seems like the two are supposed to be mutually exclusive. I have just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the third time and it would seem to fall into both categories. It is a science fiction, young adult novel that is a wonderful and eerie character study as well.

I also have a problem with that definition as it is so subjective. I’m sure many would agree that Ernest Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms is “serious” fiction and is super deep and intellectual, yet it seems to defy that definition of literary fiction. A Farewell to Arms is filled with flat characters and long, boring descriptions of scenery. Oh, sure, there are some definite stylistic differences from other fiction, but every book has that.

Try reading The Hunger Games. You may be surprised that a book that is considered “low” literature is actually a greater insight into the human psyche than many works of “high” literature.

wundayatta's avatar

No serious person could leave genre fiction out of their “to read” list these days. Literary fiction is nice—in small doses. If you’re stuck in it, then you have a very narrow view of literature. If you read genre fiction, you are going to be reading classics of literature years before they become classics. It is so amusing to me that “Ender’s Game” is being taught at many levels of school these days.

Science fiction is the genre that critiques society more inventively than any other. A lot people think that science fiction is about something imaginary. Far from it. Creating imaginary images allows writers to focus on contemporary social concerns without naming names, necessarily. It’s an important literature. If you’ve crossed it off your list, you’re missing out on a lot.

Jeruba's avatar

I read both. My pattern is to choose as a next book whatever is a sharp departure from what I’m reading right now. For instance, my current bedtime story is The Black Tower, a historical mystery by Louis Bayard. Immediately before that was The Whisper of the Axe, a dark-underbelly thriller by Richard Condon, and before that, The Story of Webster’s Third: Philip Gove’s Controversial Dictionary and Its Critics, by Herbert C. Morton, a nonfiction account of how a major dictionary of American English was created and how it was received.

My mix usually includes literary novels, literary short stories, mysteries, occasional fantasy and science fiction, thrillers (very infrequent), fiction by authors I follow (various), and nonfiction on topics relating to the mind, the brain, consciousness, thinking and thought, and Zen Buddhism, with a once-in-a-while foray into memoir and autobiography.

Sometimes I just read a magazine.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Carly Do you have any examples of literary fiction? That link didn’t provide any.

Carly's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs don’t know about a list of books, but here’s a list of authors who are usually considered literary fiction writers

Nullo's avatar

An unnecessary distinction, if you ask me. There are only a handful of stories; the rest is just customization.

Most of my library would probably qualify as genre fiction. I am particularly fond of last-generation hard sci-fi in the tradition of Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov. Written in a pre-Internet world, where personal space travel was a not-too-distant dream.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Huh. Then I guess I wouldn’t agree with the distinction – for example Handmaid’s Tale is both literary and dystopian. But I guess genre, if I had to pick – I’m not much of a sappy one for the universal truths. I mean, I want my genre fiction to have a good, sturdy plot and fleshed-out characters and character development, I just have no desire to read a book that’s only real point is how lucky you are to have your dad around. So I guess a genre fiction that’s also very literary.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I am a genre fiction snob. Occasionally a classic.

I think authors in genre fiction are writing more freely, and with passion.

Bellatrix's avatar

My definition of genre fiction would be crime, romance or horror novels for instance and there is some genre fiction that is of a high standard in terms of the writing, and some that is drivel. So, James Patterson or Agatha Christie are writers in the crime or detective genre, but very different authors in terms of style and in my opinion, quality. I call some genre fiction “pop corn” fiction. Great for reading on a plane or a quick read but often not terribly inspiring in terms of the quality. However, there are of course classics and examples of fine writing in genre fiction too.

In contrast, literary fiction I expect the quality of the writing to be of a higher standard, I expect more developed and sophisticated plots, narrative, characters etc. It may take me longer to read and to get into the book. They may or may not be page turners.

I read both genre and literary fiction but because my time is so precious in terms of fiction reading, I do try to avoid “pop corn” fiction. I want to read books where the writing is of a good standard. It is rare now I will pick up a mainstream novel where the author churns out one after the other following the same old formula.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Bellatrix See, I actually find what’s often considered “literary” to be endlessly trite due to the whole “moral of the story” thing. With genre, I might still be surprised – but I know in literary that the good guy will win (at least a bit), will learn the “true meaning of life and love”, etc, and I’m never surprised. This is actually why I stopped reading fiction for several years.

Bellatrix's avatar

You see I don’t see all literary books have a moral or are preachy. Some do for sure but that can also be true of genre fiction. There is often a moral to the story. I consider books like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to be literary fiction and while it made me really ponder and was very disturbing, I didn’t feel preached to. I think literature that considers contemporary themes can really make me think though. The Slap for instance by Christos Tsiolkas. You either love it or hate it but it makes you take notice. Or Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

I just like books with a bit of depth to them.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Bellatrix If I want depth, I just read non-fiction.

Bellatrix's avatar

I read non-fiction all day. I want escapism when I read fiction but I don’t want junk fiction, from any realm of the literature sphere.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Ah, see, I want my escapism to be covered in whipped cream and chocolate-coated cherries. Plus, with genre fiction, I get that I have to suspend my disbelief, and thus can do it easily. But with literary fiction, I can’t because then I miss the whole point, and then I just end up disappointed that a book was so falsely hyped to me. Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale? Ranted for hours in my head about how unbelievable it was to me.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

MyNewtBoobs has explained my snobbery with a degree of elegance I could never hope to match.

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