Reading Outside of Your Comfort Zone

“I read everything. The No. 1 thing I tell my students is read diversely. And I’m not talking about demographics, though that’s part of it. Aesthetic diversity, genre diversity. It matters because it just makes us better informed, and it protects us from our worst instincts.” Author Roxanne Gay, in a 2018 interview with The Guardian.

Most of us read in a rut. We’ve discovered several books we love in a genre or format (or even by a certain author) and henceforth think of ourselves as “mystery readers” or “history fans” and seldom stray. My own preferred ruts are Science Fiction and Graphic Novel. So how do we break the habit and read outside our comfort zone?

February presents an easy solution. At your local MCLS branch right now, you’ll see a display for Blind Date with a Book. Librarians have carefully disguised beloved books, hoping you’ll take a chance to judge a book without its cover. It’s a great way to try something new!

Another idea is to join a book group. Having someone else select for you is a great way to try something new. Yes, there is some pressure to read on a deadline and you may have to read a book that turns out to be a bad fit, but you get a chance to read outside of your comfort zone and talk with fellow readers about likes and dislikes, which makes it all worthwhile. I’ve been moderating a book group with the library for a few years now and the other readers do not go for Science Fiction or Graphic Novels; I’m forced outside my reading ruts every month! Many branches have book discussion groups you can join, or there may be one in your neighborhood or house of worship.

You may also consider signing up for a NextReads newsletter for a suggestion list. The library has newsletters in your favorite genres but some that may stretch that definition too: Staff Picks, Popular Culture, and New York Times Bestsellers, to name just a few. You’ll get curated suggestions delivered right to your inbox.

I hope 2020 is the year you read irresponsibly! Try something new. It might even be good for your brain.

- Sharon GR, Hickory Corner Branch