Dispensers of writing advice will frequently say, “Know your audience.” I think that means we should pick a genre and follow the conventions of that genre (yawn). They can’t be suggesting we know who is going to like our material, can they? Can you really judge a reader by his cover?
Here are some random examples that say “no,” culled from real people in my life:
1. A thirty-something fashion plate who’s poised and modest. She’s definitely not into greasy kids’ stuff and disapproves of undignified behavior. Wouldn’t be caught dead watching a movie about superheroes or fighting robots.
Yet she’s totally obsessed with the Harry Potter universe. She knows every book inside and out.
2. A man in his mid-twenties, sports fan, and devoted scholar of world history and foreign cinema.
You know those Twilight books? He’s read ‘em all, cover to cover, more than once.
3. A man in his early fifties, gun collector, with the appearance of a former biker dude.
In his spare time, he pores over books about horticulture and grows exotic trees.
One of the most fascinating things about life with humans is being continually surprised by what they are into, not the least of which is their reading choices. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I write speculative fiction, AKA science fiction, horror, and supernatural. You probably know I’m really into music, both as a musician and a listener. I’m married, got a kid, work in an office building. But when it comes to books, can you guess what’s on my shelf?
- Piles of cozy mysteries by Agatha Christie and others. Give me British aristocracy, an old mansion, and a murder, and I’m yours for 250 pages.
- Rows of film studies and analyses. Who made what movie and when? Why? What does it say about: society, philosophy, the human condition, the inherent destructive nature of man, pretentious film writers? Less-serious titles about low-budget trash cinema abound as well.
- Heaps of books on art history and criticism, especially French, Dutch, and Italian. Some ancient Greek and Roman thrown in, plus some really dry stuff about medieval architecture and metalwork. Never mind that I can’t paint a fence.
- Titles on popular science, evolution, and critical thinking (the latter of which don’t seem to be working).
- Assorted stragglers, like whatever Elmore Leonard novels I haven’t gotten to yet, plus a few literary works and classics.
- And writing books, though that is a given for someone who blogs about writing all the time.
So there’s my book collection in a nutshell. Very few horror or science fiction novels. No fantasy or supernatural. Not much about music. Maybe not what people would expect based on my “cover.”
How about you? What’s on your bookshelf, and which titles would surprise us?