The magical power of the written word can be found in a variety of book genres. Some of my favourites are literary fiction, fantasy, dystopian and historical fiction, but I also read other types of books. That doesn’t mean I like all the books within a specific genre, though. In fact, while some of their most common characteristics give me great joy, others are a source of great irritation. There are four book genres regarding which I can pinpoint my biggest delights and pet peeves.
Books that can be classified as literary fiction don’t usually shine because of their compelling and gripping plots. The characteristics that I find the most appealing about this genre are the importance placed on character development and the impactful prose. The writing style doesn’t have to be full of linguistic flourishes, but it has to help readers form an emotional attachment to the story, message and characters. Having said that, I love how some authors awe me with their lyrical prose as if stringing words together was a magic trick.
One characteristic that I don’t tend to like about some books in the literary fiction genre is their fragmentary nature. Books that are almost only a compilation of vignettes or snippets, when short scenes and descriptions are not well connected, usually annoy me. As almost everything in life, there are exceptions, though. I enjoyed Ema by Maria Teresa Horta and Lanny by Max Porter, for example, despite their more fragmentary prose and structure.
Fantasy stories distinguish themselves for being set in a world full of magical elements or creatures. It’s a delight to immerse myself in an intricate, well-imagined world, particularly when political machinations abound. Various fantasy authors get inspiration from humanity’s past, particularly Medieval Europe, and some even present new versions of historical events. When this is done believably, I immediately get transported to an alternative reality.
On the other hand, more often than not, I get annoyed at anthropomorphised animals. Attributing human characteristics to animals tends to annoy me. Animals being capable of speaking is at present a particular pet peeve of mine. It’s fine when certain animals have such a strong bond with a person that they can communicate via thoughts, as it happens in The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb, for example, but actually speaking… no, thank you!
Historical fiction books are set in the past from the perspective of their authors. Historically realistic settings, based on thorough research, make me travel in time, thanks to a tone reminiscent of old days and an appropriate ambiance. The successful combination of the necessary imagination to create fully fledged characters with the historical accuracy indispensable to a convincing background is at the heart of great stories within this genre.
What usually leaves me cold about certain books in the historical fiction genre is the overuse of historical figures, particularly royals. I don’t automatically dislike books whose characters were real people (I loved Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, for instance), but their stories need to be told as if them being renowned in the present is not relevant. It’s their humanity I’m interested in and not them being larger-than-life historical figures.
Crime Fiction / Thrillers
Although I don’t tend to gravitate towards thrillers and crime fiction books very often, I occasionally enjoy reading books full of suspense and that feature an intriguing mystery. A crime story is almost guaranteed to feature unlikeable characters. The exploration of their personalities and mindsets is always of great interest.
For that reason, when books in this genre are solely based on fast-paced plots and offer no character development, I’ll certainly be disappointed. The too common, but unnecessary, comments on women’s bodies are also a source of great annoyance.
What are your most common delights and pet peeves about the book genres that you read? Tell me in the comments!