Even when I'm not reviewing YA or middle grade books on this blog, I'm reading. I don't limit myself to YA. I'm a big fan of mysteries, historical fiction, historical nonfiction, the "classics", poetry, etc.
This just happened to be a week where I read more of those other genres. I'm not likely to review those here, but I might mention them. All of these other genres and how I came to them are a part of my bigger reading story.
It's easy enough to understand why I read the "classics" or the Canon, after all I studied English as both an undergraduate and graduate student, so I was fed a constant and "healthy" diet of books that were "good" for me. Historical nonfiction came to me through a rousing debate over Germs, Guns, and Steel with the boy who makes my eyes twinkle. It started in the middle of a Borders and ended over turkey burgers and hazelnut gelato.
Here's a tiny secret, for months after that verbal showdown I would take copies of Guns, Germs, and Steel off the featured table at Borders and hide them in random sections throughout the store. Even now if I see a copy my fingers itch and I have to push down the urge to hide it next to the 5,000 copies of What to Expect When You're Expecting or the 7,000 copies of the Joy of Cooking. I'm fiendish. It's true. It may explain my enormous love of mysteries.
I've always read mysteries- really every good book has at least a little mystery. Nancy was my first foray in teen girl solves mysteries, but a fateful trip to the mall with my mother and tantrum prone little sister left me wandering the store without supervision, remember those days, and I landed on a small book shelf loaded down with Trixie Belden books. It was sorcery. I left with the first three in one hand and my sister's gross little hand in the other pulling her as I tried to match my mother's steps out of the mall and into the parking lot. I spent the ride home trying to read by the small light above the passenger seat while ignoring my sister kicking the back of my mother's seat. Those were the days. And for the record, Trixie Belden is better than Nancy Drew. Although, Trixie better watch out because Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce is hot on her heels.
It wasn't until I was a pregnant and at the end of my English grad program that I turned to recently written mysteries. I wanted easy reading while I was working on my dissertation, so to that end I wandered downstairs to the fiction section of the public library. The upper floor of the library was where I spent most of my days working on my dissertation, so I was not chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool. I spent most of my time sneaking ginger snaps into my mouth and moping about the research, the writing, and the responsibility of validating my ideas. I also spent a healthy amount of time thinking grad school was stupid and wondering if you were allowed to nap in the public library. Once I was downstairs I wandered aimlessly waiting for a sign. A sign came when I saw a short shelf crammed with colorful spines.
What is this I thought to myself. I knew they weren't romance novels because I'd already passed those and dismissed them. I had one high school run in with romance novels, Danielle Steel's Thurston House, and knew it wasn't my thing. The colorful spines turned out to be the Cozy Mystery section. I had never heard of a cozy mystery. I discovered that when a librarian walked up and asked if I was looking for a particular series. She obviously noticed my "what are you saying" look and explained the term cozy mystery. I used science and my incredibly honed research skills to pick my first cozy mystery series. I selected the Jane Jeffrey series because when I counted there were a lot of them. Don't tell me that isn't science.
I grabbed the first and second and before the end of the week I'd gone back for two more and was on the wait list for others. I branched out from there to other series in the cozy sub genre. I even joined book clubs and signed up for a newsletter dedicated to new cozy mystery releases. I did draw the line at series where cats and dogs solved the mysteries. Over time my cozy mystery tastes became more sophisticated until soon I had sophisticated myself out of typical cozy mysteries.
I was soon jokingly labeled a book snob by the members of my book club and I was not at all jokingly crucified by some angry Amazon stalker who hunted down my reviews to let me know that I was too smart, needed to learn how to read and review like a normal person, and to stop using fancy words. I let their vitriol go until I didn't. I used a lot of big words to make them feel incredibly small. They never replied. They also never commented on my reviews again, but I also never posted another review on Amazon because who needs that kind of ugly in their life. Not just their ugly, but the fact that they finally brought out my ugly. It was harmful and I'm a big believer in doing no harm.