Books I Didn’t Expect to Like

It’s handy how libraries have those stickers that tell you which books are sci-fi, westerns, mystery, romance, etc. I avoid the westerns and the romance novels, and I used to avoid the mysteries. But don’t ask me why I steadfastly avoided them – it’s a mystery to me now.


What’s strange is that I can’t remember anymore why I thought I wouldn’t like mysteries. Did I think they’d be scary? Boring? Silly? Poorly written?

What changed my mind wasn’t any particular book or books, as far as I can remember, but the fact that I needed a steady supply on books on tape to listen to while I rode my exercise bike. By excluding mysteries, I limited myself to a much smaller number of books. There are a lot of mysteries on tape (these days, on CD), and once I discovered how much I enjoyed them, it gave me a huge number of new books to listen to and enjoy.

Mysteries actually turned out to be the best books to listen to while riding the exercise bike, because, more than other books, they pushed me to get myself out of bed to get further in the book and get to the bottom of the mystery. Some of my favorites have been the Mrs. Pollifax books by Dorothy Gilman and the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. These are so good that I read all the books in print that I couldn’t find on tape at the library. They’re also the only mysteries I’m inclined to reread, as they’re interesting for more than just finding out what happens.

I’ve listened to several of Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries, though I lost interest in her books after a while. I enjoyed several books by Patricia Cornwell, and everything I listened to by Tony Hillerman. Other authors I have enjoyed (and would listen to more of their books if the library had them) are David Baldacci, Kathy Reichs, Phillip Margolin, and P.D. James. (One I haven’t enjoyed enough to listen to more than one title by is Sue Grafton.)

Right now I’m listening to one (purchased from the library when they removed it from their holdings) by Elizabeth Peters. I enjoy it, but I have to admit that it’s not gripping enough to get me eagerly out of bed in the morning to find out what comes next. Fortunately the next one in line (similarly purchased from the library) is by David Baldacci. As I remember, his books are real page-turners – or in this case, would that be pedal-turners?

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3 Responses to Books I Didn’t Expect to Like

  1. Karen O says:

    Since I can balance on my exercise bike, I like to read while pedaling.

  2. modestypress says:

    I have been intrigued by the Pandora web site. If I enter a piece of music, a musician, or a composer, it offers other items it thinks I will like. It’s not perfect, but it is surprisingly effective in accomplishing this for me, and my musical tastes are quite broad and eccentric.

    For some reason, it seems to be more difficult to do something similar in terms of writing. I have long thought that “genres” such as mysteries, science fiction, historical, romances, etc. (fiction), or similar breakdowns in terms of non-fiction is not a very productive approach. I tend to like or not like authors more by style, attitude, approach, and so on more than I do by a particular genre. There are authors who span a wide variety of genres with quite a bit of success for me, such as Robert Silverberg and Issac Asimov (both science fiction and science writers) or Alexander McCall, best known as a mystery writer, but quite versatile, or Tom Wolfe, successful in both fiction and non-fiction.

    So I am not quite sure why it is so difficult to classify writers in terms of what one will like, but genre mostly seems like a pretty dead end.

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