The Trouble With Genres (via @JohnRosePutnam)

John Rose Putnam considers genres:

I am a simple man. With books I recognize two types, good and bad, and two genres, fiction and non-fiction. What else does one need to know? Frankly all these different genres in vogue today seem like so many books neatly stacked into a multitude of boxes and crammed in a giant warehouse somewhere deep in the middle of nowhere.

Woodfin say this enormity of genres helps readers find the books they want. But I wonder if it doesn’t limit their choice instead, especially if readers only look in box, one narrow genre, for reading material. That is a lot like touring the town you live in and calling it a vacation.

I'm no bookseller, but last I heard genres were primarily a marketing tool. I agree with John's frustration as a writer, though: I don't want to try to categorise my writing, I write cross-genre, or, stuff, or, ah just read it. But the reality of having a surfeit of reading material is that readers do need some way of pre-selecting what they want to read, regardless of whether this limits their exposure to new material.

eg. "Ah, I have always read SF, so give me more of that kthxbai."

John's primary solution, browsing indiscriminately, is offered by good bookstores: having an excellent (and inevitably independent) bookstore is an exercise in exploration and discovery. I rarely go into a bookstore looking for a specific book - that's what online retail is for; rather, I go into a bookstore to discover the new.

But...but they still use genres in the bookstore. What to do!?

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