The Comfort Zone

Posted 22 February, 2016 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Reading the post from Kaitlin @ Reading is My Treasure, I found myself wondering about comfort zones and what on earth mine is. In terms of writing about books, I can be uncomfortable with talking about books that feature queer and gender related topics: I don’t control who reads this blog, and just about anyone could come along. I’m especially cagey about discussing asexuality in books, though I have reviewed a couple of books specifically on the topic (The Invisible Orientation; the essay What Do You Mean You’re Not Interested in Sex?). Mental illness and specifically anxiety is an awkward topic, too. It feels a little bit too naked — and my mother has reminded me several times to be careful about what I talk about on here, lest my goal of getting into medical school be harmed by it.

Cover of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellAnd, given that my mother reads this blog, talking about books which contain sex or other mature themes can feel a bit weird. (But not quite as weird as the inevitable times when, watching NCIS with my grandfather, there’d be a naked scene or something sexual. Gaaaah!)

But what don’t I read? Mainstream YA, I guess; John Green’s books don’t interest me much, and I know that The Fault in Our Stars wouldn’t be a good fit for me, given the subject matter. But then again, I have read Rainbow Rowell’s books, like Eleanor & Park. I have baulked sometimes about YA series like Marie Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy, and I’m still pretty sure no one is going to drag me into reading Kiera Cass’ The Selection. I’m not sure if that’s a comfort zone thing, though — it’s more of a lack of interest, and reading the first chapter of The Winner’s Curse convinced me to try it (and I enjoyed it greatly).

Hard sci-fi, maybe? But I have enjoyed it sometimes, and I’m willing enough to try classic works like Larry Niven’s, even though I know the books contain frankly Cover of The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyercringeworthy moments in the representation of women and other minorities. I’m fairly okay with classifying it as ‘of its time’, and not letting it hurt now. (Even if I do comment on it.) And I happily read actual science books, so the issue only really arises when the science is technobabble and I just can’t stay interested.

Romance? Well, that definitely used to be a thing I’d insist I wasn’t interested in. Sometimes my fantasy/sci-fi would steer into romance, and I’d make all kinds of disclaimers about that. But now I cheerfully read Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart, and abandoned the whole idea of ‘guilty pleasures‘.

I think, for me, my ‘comfort zone’ might be less about what I’m willing to try, and more about what I’m willing to let people see me try. If I wasn’t blogging, would I pick up anything different? I’d like to say no, but maybe I would.

Which seems to me an excellent reason to maybe pick up Kiera Cass’ The Selection, just to find out if maybe I would like it. (And get round to reading Anna and the French Kiss.)

Thumbnail of the cover of Kiera Cass' The Selection, with a question mark over it

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8 Responses to “The Comfort Zone”

  1. You should read The Selection, just to give it a shot. I didn’t like it, but I did read to the end – kind of like how I don’t like reality shows or dating shows on TV but once I start watching, I have to finish the episode.

  2. Haha I saw the comment above and my advice is just the opposite: do NOT read Selection! 😀 I read books 1 and 2 and they’re horrible. (I read the second one to see if MAYBE I was mistaken and missed some great point… I wasn’t and I didn’t) It’s like that reality show, The Bachelor, only in a “dystopian” society, and the story is full of inconsistencies, anti-feminist poop, and awfully forced, inane conversation. UGH.
    That said, you should totally give it try if this does interest you in a morbid kind of way (we’ll discuss it later?).

    I try to break out of my comfort zones (fantasy and romance) sometimes – and it often pays off. I’m looking forward to reading The Martian (I very rarely read sci-fi).

      • I’ve heard so many good things about The Martian and I did see the movie. The movie was fine, not mind blowing, but I wasn’t bored. 🙂 So I’m worried about reading the book which I purchased for my husband for Christmas. He finished and said I should read it, but I’m still wavering.

        I’ve surprised myself by giving a couple middle grade books a try and I’ve enjoyed them. I stay away from hard sci-fi and epic fantasy. I’ve learned that my sci-fi and fantasy has to have some roots in a familiar world to enjoy it. If I have to learn a whole new culture, language or set of rules I usually get lost and feel overwhelmed. If a novel is heavy on the military side with lots of battles count me out.

        Eleanor & Park is a book I enjoyed, but I saw myself in both characters so it was easy to fall in love with that book. I enjoyed Fangirl (except for the fan fiction bits), but I’ve struggled with Rowell’s other novels. Same thing has happened with John Green. I loved The Fault in Our Stars, but the other novels of his I’ve tried have left me feeling flat and bored.

        I guess my comfort zone is a book that straddles two genres or worlds if that makes any sense. I want the stories to be rooted in reality or an air of familiarity and then give it a firm twist and see if the author can surprise me. So I’m willing to give a different genre or type of story a try if there is a hint of something I’m familiar with.
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        • The book is both more sciency and more funny than the movie, in my opinion. And a couple of the characters are less bland (though it’s still mostly the Mark Watney show).

          Yeah, that familiarity can really help, or sometimes I’ve got into a genre by reading one book and not being sure about it, but then that helped me ‘get’ others.

  3. My comfort reads seem to be rereading Harry Potter or grabbing a zombie/disaster/prepper book! I find it relaxing to read about people defending their homes with mass weapons or zombies chomping people! Yeah I know, I’m a strange chuckles! Personally I avoid anything heavy on sex or romance especially love triangles. I HATE romance in my zombie books! I just want zombies! While I might like the odd book in different genres I’m mostly sticking to my favourites. I used to read a ton of urban fantasy but it seems to be full of romance now which puts me right off. And I’ve pretty much lost patience with YA. I’m tired of school based books with mean kids, teen angst and instaluv so I avoid YA most of the time now.

    • I don’t know, one of my comfort things is reading non-fiction, no matter what the topic! So some of my choices can be pretty weird too…

      I imagine romance in zombie books would annoy me, too. I mean, there’s some room for “the world is ending, let’s go out with a bang” (I make hilarious puns! not) but it doesn’t seem like the right atmosphere for saccharine love stories at all, and the “go out with a bang” stories would be pretty, well, one-note.

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