Don’t judge a book by its genre

Don’t judge a book by its genre

I think of myself as an eclectic reader.

I’ll admit, it’s something I’ve cultivated to some degree.

I used to read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and certain types of non-fiction…and I still do.

However, I also read other things…lots of other things.

When I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I think one of the best things I did was encourage (not require) my employees to read at least one book from every section in the store (I did that myself).

I had them ask a regular for a recommendation.

When it came to romance, I read a Jude Deveraux and a monthly Harlequin (I don’t remember which one).

Since then, I’ve read quite a few romances, although I wouldn’t say that’s my first choice.

Certainly, since getting a Kindle, my reading has become even more varied. Part of that is because of all the free and low cost books, and now because of

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That also seems true of my readers. When I polled them back in 2010 in this post:

Are genres irrelevant?

I got these responses:

  • Since I’ve gotten my Kindle (or other EBR**) I…
    * Read the same genres I always have 12.87%
    * Read a wider variety of books than I used to read 87.13%
    * Read a narrower variety of books than I used to read 0%

I mention all this because, well, just as there are people who won’t read science fiction, I’m guessing that some of you don’t read romances. 😉

I’ve just finished reading a book which I think could change your mind.

Spinster’s Gambit (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Full disclosure first: this book was written by a friend of my now adult kid’s. I don’t believe I’ve met the author socially, and have no other connection to the book except as a reader. I purchased mine from Amazon, in the same way that you would.

That said…

I think it would stand for me with most books labeled as “literary fiction”. I’d go so far as to say that it has some of the best character writing that I’ve seen in a recently-written novel.

The plot was good. As regular readers know, my favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised, and this book did that…something you might not expect if you think of a romance as formulaic.

The characters were relatable, and I felt like it approached a particular topic in a great way.

If you want to read my review of the book, you can do so here:

I’ve posted the same review on Amazon, but we’ll see if they reject it because of my (peripheral) connection. They do that at times. Amazon, of course, is under no obligation to post any review, so they tend to err on the side of caution.

On the other hand, they don’t want to annoy customers by not posting their reviews…I think you can “appeal” if they do reject your review. I suspect that, sometimes, a third party tells them that someone is connected (for a variety of reasons), and that might not always be true…at least, not to the level of disqualification.

I bring this up here because I had one particular problem with the book (even though my experience was overwhelmingly positive).

It had a “love scene”.

Now that, in and of itself, doesn’t make me not like a book. I get accused of being prudish, and I  understand how people get that impression. I do think readers should be informed of sexual content, language, violence, and prejudicial portrayals…but then it is up to the readers to read that or not.

I don’t advocate censorship..but I think being informed is reasonable.

I also want to be clear: in this case, the scene also had good characterization…and it was organic to the plot.

It was just that…I had really enjoyed the book up to location 3179 in Chapter Thirteen. I thought it could have ended well there, and again, stood as literary fiction.

Then came the scene which felt like it was perhaps obligatory to the genre.

Now, I now people feel the same way about some science fiction and fantasy…that it would have been a great novel, if it didn’t have those pesky robots or vampires. 😉

Maybe an NSFW (Not Safe For Work) scene like this is necessary for the genre. It may fit the expectations, even be a defining factor. We used to joke about that with the Bill Bixby TV series of The Incredible Hulk…that they were contractually obligated to have at least one “Hulk out” in every episode. 😉

I guess my question is, should I judge the book by something which makes it true to its genre? The book was labeled as a “Regency romance”: it wasn’t like they were hiding its nature.

I like 19th Century literature, so I was familiar with quite a few of the other elements of the book…I didn’t have to look up what a “phaeton” was, for example, or understand why someone might get cold in the roofless carriage. I’ll admit that I didn’t recognize the term “the ton” right away, meaning the high society people who might judge your behavior. You might still know the term “tony” for something which is luxurious.

Up until the “love scene”, I could largely have believed it was 19th Century literature, so I found that somewhat jarring.

Many of you (I’m guessing most of you) won’t have that feeling, though…and if you are afraid you will, you can stop at the break (the book uses this ~~//~~) at about 93%. 🙂

What do you think? Is even mentioning sexual content/language/ violence in a book a form of censorship? Do you like to know ahead of time? What books have you read which for you transcended genre? Are there genres you feel like you just won’t like…even before you’ve read the book in question? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

**EBR is a term (E-Book Reader) I use for a purpose built e-book reading device, as opposed to a broadly multi-purpose device, like a tablet. There is some flexibility (earlier models of Kindles could play music unrelated to books, for example), but generally, for Kindles, it’s the ones which are not Fires). Other examples which include the Kobo and the non-tablet NOOKs

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


8 Responses to “Don’t judge a book by its genre”

  1. Karen Salmons Says:

    I’ve just been waiting for someone to ask! Yes, I for one would like to know if a book contains graphic “love scene(s)”. I always knew where Rhett Butler was taking Scarlett as he climbed the stairs and it wasn’t necessary to see all the details. I feel the same way about books. Maybe there should be another genre. Romance doesn’t always involve sex. I for one don’t consider explaining content to be censorship. Back in the bookclub heyday they used to put “explicit” at the end of the brief description of the book.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      Many years ago, I programmed movies for a rec center, so I got movie catalogs.

      One of the best ones for me had a scale for content, which wasn’t really judgmental, and seemed to explain it pretty well.

      It had a scale for language, I think one for sexual content, one for violence…it’s been a long time, but that seems right.

      Each one had a number, and they described the number.

      That way, someone like me could choose pretty well.

      There are different terms for different types of romances. Regency romances, as I understand it, do tend to be less explicit, and this one wasn’t “anatomical”…but it was clear as to what was happening.

  2. Carolyn perreau Says:

    I read a variety of books even the “off label” Annie rice books but I think most people want to know if the content is “colorful” or violent otherwise book stores and amazon will be giving refunds galore.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Carolyn!

      Amazon does make it easy to do returns (within seven days of purchase). You can do them yourself by going to

      finding the book there, and simply returning it.

      However, returns still cost them something…not just in how satisfied a customer is, but in processing costs. That’s not a bad as you might think, since the publishers aren’t paid within seven days of purchase anyway (there’s not money to take back), but still, there are additional transactions.

      I’m going to write something on “content advisories” today, I think…Amazon is trying something new. 🙂

  3. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I like urban fantasy novels, but they all seem to require a graphic sex scene or two. I simply keep hitting next page until I get past it. I don’t consider myself a prude, I just don’t find reading about other people’s love making to be interesting. I don’t care for the romance genre except when there’s a good mystery involved in the style of Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. I love Heinlein’s early sci-fi novels, but I didn’t really care for the turn taken with “Stranger in a Strange Land.”

    A book I’m currently reading on loan from Kindle Unlimited is “The Winter Sea” by Susanna Kearsley. One of it’s tags is romance-time travel, but it’s also tagged as Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. I suppose you could call it the book for almost all fictional genre! The main book is about a writer who is writing a historical fiction book about the 1708 Jacobite Uprising, which becomes the book within the book. I probably wouldn’t have purchased it because of the romance tag, but since it was part of KU, I figured there was nothing to lose if I didn’t like it. I’m finding that I love it! That’s one of the biggest advantages of KU. It allows me to try out books I’m not sure about. Most times, I send them back unfinished, but once in awhile I discover a real gem amongst the colored glass baubles.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      You’ve intrigued me! I was at a good spot to start reading another book, so I’ve borrowed The Winter Sea through KU and plan to start it today. I’ve got a bit of a drive today, so I’ll get into it (using text-to-speech).

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        There’s a lot of use of dialect in the book. I wonder how text to speech will handle it.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        On my Fire, which has considerably better text to speech than the non-Fires, it’s doing reasonably well. I can follow it probably as well as I can sight reading. 🙂

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