This post is about how the book genres I’ve enjoyed have changed as I’ve got older, including
As a child. At first I really enjoyed children’s books, as you’d expect, mainly Roald Dahl, then his young adult books. I loved The Twits, Matilda, The Witches enchanted me. I remember, even as a young child of 6 or 7 thinking how magic it was to read a book and be transported somewhere else entirely, all through just reading words on a page. I have fond memories of family holidays in a static caravan in Dorset, trying to grab every single moment to read through all 800 pages of the collected diaries of Adrian Mole, between family time and TV.
As a teenager. Then for some reason – probably my inner geek – I got massively into science fiction – Aldous Huxley, Arthur C Clarke, John Wyndham. I literally couldn’t get enough of them. The Day of The Triffids, and The Midwich Cuckoos are two books which I can still remember; their portrayal of a dystopia is brilliant. I think the science fiction was a good antidote to the classics I was forced to read during GCSE and A level English. Dickens, Chaucer, Hardy didn’t really do it for me. I couldn’t bear the pages and pages of description with not an awful lot happening. I remember skim reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles and missing the rape scene because it was so subtly written! We discussed it in class and I was very embarrassed. I didn’t mind Wuthering Heights, or Villette by the Brontes, maybe because there was a good dose of drama, angst and romance.
When I came out at 18. I read a few coming out, gay books, either given to me by helpful female friends in a ‘this is camp, so are you, you’ll love it’ way, or borrowed from various gay youth groups I went to: The Milkman’s On His Way by David Rees; 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous by Graeme Aitken; Sucking Sherbert Lemons - and its sequels by Michael Carson. And they were fabulous! If you fancy a bit of a retro camp laugh, you could do a lot worse than Aitken or Carson, I can assure you.
At university. When I’d sort of settled into being gay, I really got involved in chick lit. Just before uni, in my gap year, I was at a YHA in Australia flicking through the ‘bring a book, take a book’ section and among all the science fiction I’d already read, and black spy horror books I wouldn’t touch with someone else’s bargepole, I noticed a purple book which caught my eye: the Llama Parlour by Katty Lette. Can I buy a vowel, as the Americans say. But, Oh. My. God. I’d found my people, I’d found my humour, I’d found my fiction. It was a whole new genre I never knew existed, and in fairness it was probably pretty much in its infancy then, compared to now. I went to a book shop clutching this paperback, which I took all the way home from Australia - I still have it, I’m sentimental like that about books - and asked the assistant what other authors like that I should read. And from that moment, there was no stopping me: Marian Keyes, Jane Green, Lisa Jewell, Penny Vincenzi. One of my all time favourite books – and I’ve fought for years with being able to *come out* about this - is Rachel’s Holiday, by Marian Keyes. It’s about a woman who’s admitted into rehab because her family realise she has a really bad drugs and alcohol addiction. Can you spell funny and bittersweet?
Have you changed what you read as you've got older? Or have you stuck with pretty much the same genre through the years? What do you think of 'my' genres here? Love, hate, or meh? I'd love to hear from you.
Until next time
Liam Livings xx