Before anyone starts jumping down my throat, and accusing me of intellectual snobbery, let me clarify what I mean by being “well read”. To me, a person is well read if they have sampled as many literary genres as possible – action, sci-fi, fantasy, romance (and possibly its own sub-genres), erotica, the classics, western, mystery, horror, and so on. Bonus points would be awarded to those who go beyond dead trees to try other forms of “book”, including e-books, hypertext books, and even interactive fiction.
“But,” you might ask, “Why read unfamiliar genres? I’m happy with my favourite authors.” A valid point, but here’s something to think about: What happens if you always eat the same foods, every day? Well, lots of things can happen. For example, your body might become intolerant towards one or more of your staple foods. Or if your regular diet is incomplete, you could be depriving yourself of essential nutrients to maintain optimum health, which could compromise your immune system over time. You might also, by not trying new foods, never experience new taste combinations that you might have loved.
The same thing applies to reading, in my view. If you read the same sort of thing, day in, day out, your horizons will remain static. You will probably never experience the world through a different narrative voice. You might never be exposed to new storylines. Plus, you might even become bored with it, given enough time.
However, if you try a new genre – even just once – your literary world will immediately broaden. Explore that story like an undiscovered country, and try to be as open as possible. You don’t have to like it, but at least you will be able to say you tried it.
So do yourself a favour. The next time you’re in the library or a bookstore, go to another fiction section and pick up the first title that catches your eye, and read it. You might discover a new favourite author…