Feral Friday - Reading outside of your comfort zone

It’s ACTUALLY Saturday, and I am really sorry for the late post guys! But Kristy and I had a really good discussion this week and so even though I am late I wanted to share this post still.

This week, we’re talking about reading books that take us out of our comfort zone:

Kristy’s say:

Comfort zones are funny things aren’t they? We create reading comfort zones because we think it will ensure that we read things we will enjoy - but in fact, it restricts us from reading things that we may really enjoy. But even knowing this, it doesn’t mean it is easy to leave our comfort zones. My comfort zone was always speculative fiction. I love escapism; I love the fact that you can incorporate paranormal or fantasy elements into a storyline set in this world, or in a completely different world. I love the magical elements to paranormal and fantasy, something that is not possible, but yet, somehow seems possible. I love being transported into a world that is different to the one I live in, where my imagination can soar and I can dream of a different world.

So when one of my best friends recommended Hopeless by Colleen Hoover, I was hesitant. Contemporary books were not within my comfort zone, and at the point I didn’t want to read something that wouldn’t transport me into another world. Plus, at that time it was also a self-published title, and I had no experience with self-published books. But something about it intrigued me, and I picked it up - and absolutely loved it! And when another of my best friends insisted that I read The Fault in Our Stars, it was so far out of my comfort zone that I didn’t want to read it. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my friend’s judgement, it was more to the fact that contemporary books were not within my comfort zone, and one involving cancer was so far out of my comfort zone, that it had its own postcode. And even though it took me a while, I did read it, and wow - what a fantastic book this is (as most of you know)!

By stepping outside my comfort zone, I not only found two fantastic books, but I found books that proved to me that stories that seemed “too sad” or “too real”, can be just as enjoyable as any other book. Although they do create a completely different reading experience, this doesn’t mean they don’t transport you into their world, it just means that you are transported into a world with a different view. I found these stories can be magical, without “magic”.

Since then, I will admit that contemporary has become a permanent part of my comfort zone. I continue to read contemporary, and I actually find that these are a nice escape from my escape to paranormal/fantasy worlds. I like to mix it up a bit more now - this keeps stories with similar elements “fresh” and I don’t get fatigued by the abundance of magic, angels, ghosts, dragons, witches/wizards, faeries, demons, wolves, vampires, special abilities etc.

I continue to try to expand my comfort zone. I am trying to incorporate genres/sub-genres that I have always thought that I didn’t enjoy. I think the trick is to find that “element” that you enjoy. If a book in a different genre has an element that appeals to you, then there is a chance that you can enjoy it. For example, if you like romance, that doesn’t mean you won’t like sci-fi books. If you like humour, then does not mean you won’t like dystopian books. You just need to find that “thing” that will enable you to connect to the story.

My advice? Don’t focus on genres. Genres are not only restrictive, but they are getting more and more confusing with sub-genres and such (and what others believe fits in each category). You should just focus on the elements that appeal to you. Elements cross genre - romance, strong protagonists, supernatural creatures, action etc, can be found in many genres - and if you can find an appealing element in a book, then no matter what the genre or sub-genre, you may well find a new favourite.

Melissa’s say:

Some of the best books I have read have been books that have taken me outside of my comfort zone. In particular, I remember being THAT person who used to say that I didn’t enjoy sci-fi in general. Really tried my best to stay away from any books that even remotely looked like sci-fi because I guess I had a preconceived notion of what I was going to get when I read it, and I was bored just thinking about it.

And then there was Across The Universe by Beth Revis. Sooooo many people were talking about how incredible this book was. I held off reading it for the longest time, until someone told me I had to read it. I tried the stock standard “Oh I don’t do sci-fi…” and it really wasn’t until I was challenged really hard to read this book that I finally thought “Fine I’ll just do it to get them off my back”. And chapter 1 down, I was hooked!

By telling ourselves that we’re only into certain types of genres, we limit ourselves to some amazing stories that really open our minds and challenge our thinking.

I also used to do this with fantasy books. And then I read Incarnate by Jodi Meadows and was blown away. It even had dragons in it. And I hate dragons normally. I even liked them in this book. So just because you’ve not liked things in the past, I don’t think it’s a good enough reason to continue carrying on this way.

This is why I read comics, and sometimes post reviews of them (I’d like to post more this year). So many people say “I don’t like comics” and then I ask them what they’ve read to make them feel that way. You’d perhaps be surprised by the amount of people who turn around after saying that to tell me they’ve never read one. Then how do you know you don’t like them? Comics (or graphic novels if you wanna get technical) have story lines that are just as rich and involved as the books we love in YA (sometimes moreso). They’re just accompanied with images. Which I love. It’s something different, and if you pick up the right comic, it can have a really profound effect on you by reaching out to you in a way that sometimes novels can’t.

I still think it’s okay to have a favourite genre. Nothing wrong with that. I like dystopian and contemporary books the best. But every now and then I need something different. A different flavour if you will. I have stopped limiting myself. In actual fact, 2014 is the year that Kristy and I continue to challenge ourselves by reaching out for books we would not normally pick.

This year, I read my first ever Independent release (I always swore I would only read published books) in Backwards Compatible: A Geek Love Story by Sarah Daltry and Pete Clark. It was great!!

I also read It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, which was recommended to me, and not something I would normally reach out to read. Again, fantastic storyline and a book that I really enjoyed all the way through.

Maybe in 2014, you can challenge yourself to pick some books that you’d not normally reach out to read as well?


What book did you read that took you out of your comfort zone, and did you enjoy it? Let us know in your comments below!

What do you think?

  • Nara says:

    I definitely agree that it’s best not to restrict yourself to only reading certain genres- you miss out on SO many good books that way! I actually got asked the question “what’s the best book you’ve read that was out of your comfort zone” and found that I couldn’t really answer it because my comfort zone is HUGE. I basically read every genre except erotica (because, sorry, but I don’t really want to read those sorts of scenes lol). I guess maybe biographies and things might be out of my comfort zone, but to be honest, I don’t really class those as books hahaha (in my mind, books = fiction #prejudiced)

    • Kristy says:

      Hi Nara
      Yes, that “what’s the best book you’ve read that was out of your comfort zone” question is hard - I think that is because I am expanding my comfort zone to include so many different genres and sub-genres.
      Oh, and I agree! Books = fiction :)
      Kristy recently posted…W..W..W.. WednesdaysMy Profile

  • YAY MELISSA! I’M SOOOO HAPPY that you gave Across the Universe a chance. OMG that book is my LIFE! It’s my all time favorite trilogy out of all the trilogies out there. I would never get tired of re-reading it. My comfort zone is also contemporary books and sci-fi, but I DO branch out to classics and poems. I need to read more non fiction books though, and maybe some adult books but right now, I’m not in the mood in reading those. I’m still YA at heart haha.

    • Kristy says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head Leigh - you have to be in the mood for reading different books and genres. That definitely influences how much we enjoy a book, and if you are reading a book that isn’t completely in your comfort zone, then you really need to be in the right frame of mind. I personally rarely read non-fiction books - maybe one day I will expand my comfort zone to include those, but, I like escaping :)
      Kristy recently posted…W..W..W.. WednesdaysMy Profile

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  • Brea says:

    I always used to confine myself to my comfort zone. I was not a fan of Sci-fi’s nor Dystopia’s. Then, I picked up both these genre’s without even realising it, and loved the books.

    Now, I try to read books with different themes to challenge myself. I used to shy away from controversial things, then I tried a book about clones and liked it!
    Now I see challenging myself, and stepping out of that comfort zone, one of the best things about reading.
    Awesome discussion, guys!

    • Kristy says:

      It is amazing how many great books there are out there that you might ignore as they don’t fit into your comfort zone! I think challenging yourself is a great thing - and the rewards are even greater :)
      Kristy recently posted…W..W..W.. WednesdaysMy Profile

  • This is a great post! At one point YA was outside of my comfort zone, and now I really love a good YA as much as I love literary fiction and SciFi/Fantasy. I like to keep growing in what I read (and ultimately what I write), so I will take the leap from time to time into new avenues. I took a leap with Fangirl into contemporary, and I love it! A whole new host of books has been opened up because I was willing to give it shot. Now the problem is my ever-growing TBR list! :)

    • Kristy says:

      Thank you Anne. Oh yes, expanding your comfort zone certainly results in TBR lists to grow at a rate that seems impossible - but it is such a great reward isn’t it?
      I haven’t read Fangirl yet (it comes out in a few months here in Australia), but I have heard that it is fantastic - and it has opened up a lot of readers to contemporary. I am glad that enjoyed it! Enjoy your never-ending TBR list :)
      Kristy recently posted…W..W..W.. WednesdaysMy Profile

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