Fancy That! Genres Through the Ages

This is my first, official Fancy That! post.

Anyway, I was thinking about the types of books that I used to read when I was younger. When I was in junior high/high school, I read a lot of thrillers. Stephen King was, well…KING. I stayed up all night reading his books. When I ran out of King books, I turned to Dean Koontz. Someone asked me to read Watchers and I loved it. I think I went out and got all of his books after reading that one.

Sometime after that, I turned to historical romance. Yes! Me! Real bodice rippers too. I loved Johanna Lindsey. A friend of mine was a bit older than me and one summer she found herself hooked on them. She’d give me her copies but I also got quite a few of them from the library. I didn’t need sex education in school because these books told me all I needed to know and tossed in some historical stuff as well. Can teens check these types of books out from the library now? They have ratings for movies but not for books. Just wondering. I mean, would a librarian stop a young girl from checking out a book that might be too mature for her?

In college, I was exposed to a lot of different genres. Much of it was required reading but I didn’t care. I loved all of it. At that time, I fell in love with the classics but the genre that I really favored, was dystopian fiction and to this day, this is the genre that I really covet yet I have the hardest time admitting. Why do I have a hard time admitting it? Well, because for many, dystopian = fail. Meaning, that society has crumbled or fallen in upon itself and lots of people see that as depressing. I don’t see it that way at all though.

For me, I love to pick it apart. To see where society failed or better yet, to try to predict when it will fail. Orwell’s 1984 still resonates with readers today because the concept of Big Brother is more relevant now than it was when the book was first written (1949). BUT, when I read it back in college I could see all of that happening. It didn’t seem so far off to me and that’s how it is when I read dystopian fiction today. Volcanoes erupting, pandemics making themselves known, earthquakes…so many earthquakes. I’ve read all this in books, but have you taken a look around lately?

So my question to you is this, do you still love the genres of your youth? I can’t say that I love thrillers anymore even though I do read them every now and then and historical romance hasn’t had my attention since I put it down in the mid-eighties. I guess you could say that I outgrew those genres. What about you? Is there a genre that you used to love that you cannot read now?

45 thoughts on “Fancy That! Genres Through the Ages”

  1. What a great post! I’m trying to remember what types of books I was obsessed with when I was younger. Hmmm. I liked Christopher Pike, RL Stine, Mary Higgins Clark and Stephen King – this was middle school/high school type of reading. Oh and of course Sweet Valley High and Babysitter’s Club. As for college, well, it was basically whatever was on the syllabus and whatever caught my fancy in the bookstore – usually contemporary fiction – think Harry Potter and all of the Kurt Vonnegut books ( I became obsessed with Vonnegut). oh and I got into John Irving. In grad school it was all about my theses – so basically anything and everything about chicana literature and chicana feminism – Cisneros, Anzaldua, Moraga, Chavez, Serros, Lopez, etc. I also got truly immersed in chick lit and started reading more Conrad, Jean Rhys, Murakami and whatever graced the shelves at Waterstones (lived in England for grad school). As far as dipping into books from my past (those types of genres) – I hardly ever do. ALthough I did recently read the new Stephen King book and of course I read the last Harry Potter book. And I got into Twilight – so I suppose to some extent I do dabble a bit. Hmmm. Except now I am better equipped to analyze the texts (if I really want to) and truthfully I think I appreciate literature more now that I am older. Blimey, I carried on for quite a bit. Anyhow, great post, Ti!

    1. I read Sweet Valley High too and a lot of Agatha Christie and Victoria Holt. I’d forgotten all about them. I’ve never gotten into Chick Lit though and I’ve tried a few times. Oh…and Harry Potter. I only read up to book four. I somehow lost my mojo and never went back to the series. I feel as if I must though.

  2. oh my goodness–what a fun question! In high school I read lots of romance–I think I read some Johanna Lindsey and some Judith Krantz!! Yikes! I think I even read some Sidney Sheldon!! I also read some mild thrillers–never King–but I did read VC Andrew’s Flowers in the Attic series and was deliciously creeped out!
    I eventually turned to milder stuff–Victoria Holt! I ate her books up in my senior year of high school–such basic plot lines but I got sucked in every time. I managed to read a few classics but they were few and far between. When I got married, (at the young age of 20) I remember reading M.M. Kaye’s Far Pavilions epic on my honeymoon.
    Then I discovered Danielle Steel-and gobbled up her stuff until I got burned out. Now I read lots of stuff–mostly fiction but I do read some non-fiction-primarily in the memoir form.
    Have a great week!

    1. V.C. Andrews! Flowers in the Attic! Totally forgot about that. I read Victoria Holt too but never got into Sidney Sheldon or Judith Krantz (even though I watched the made-for-tv-specials).

  3. I read everything, but I don’t think I could get through Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land these days. I’ve been rereading reissues of Georgette Heyer and Victoria Holt; the Hyers hold up, the Holts not so much.
    But I still love YA books, then and now. Entertaining my inner preteen!

  4. My goodness, we liked alot of the same authors! King, Koontz, and Lindsey books were in abundance at my home too. I just read The Face by Koontz not too long ago and it was fun. I went through a true crime period also and read tons of books in that genre. But for the most part I have moved on. My saddest farewell is to cozy mysteries. I used to love those! Especially the ones where the heroine is into cooking or crafts. Now, I cannot bear them, they seem dumb or naive or something. I want to still like them because they usually have great settings, but just can’t get into them.

    1. Mystery is another genre that I don’t pick up too often now. My book club read a P.D. James book and I really didn’t care for it. It was a formula mystery at best and left no surprises. Of course, there wasn’t anything to really discuss either. However, I do like the Larsson books quite a bit. They don’t really fall into the mystery category but they have some of the same elements and they are sophisticated and snappy. I really like them.

  5. I think I was reading those historical romances until my early twenties, but can’t imagine picking them up now! I tried some Stephen King but just couldn’t get through his novels so then I moved on to Koontz. I think by the time I was thirty his books just got to creepy for me. Although I do still listen to audiobooks of his now and then. After my Koontz phase I’ve found enjoyment with literary fiction and that’s pretty much what I’ve stuck with since. Ohhh…and let’s not forget V.C. Andrews. I used to love her books also!

  6. I was a Nancy Drew and a Judy Blume girl when I was in grade school, then graduated to King, Koontz, V.C. Andrews and DANIELLE STEELE! I don’t know what I was thinking. As I got older I turned to trash, like Jackie Collins, then to crime thrillers and true crime. I can still read King and Koontz, and still love the true crime. I think I might pass on Steele and Collins!

    1. I know Danielle Steele is wildy popular (and successful) but I’ve tried to read her stuff before and it was too soft for me.

  7. oh, boy. i’m guilty of so many of the literary transgressions listed in your comments! sweet valley high, vc andrews, JACKIE COLLINS! argh. the list goes on and on. there’s nothing wrong with these books–actually, i still love SVH even though the premises are insane!–i’m just interested in other genres now.

    1. What you say is very true. There is nothing wrong with these other genres but we’ve just moved on. At some point I wonder if I’ll end up going back to them. I know a lot of older women that adore Steele and Krantz. Sort of makes you wonder if you come full circle as a reader.

  8. I’m with you on dystopian fiction! It’s a genre I would never have imagined liking in present day, but I can’t get enough. Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It will probably haunt me for the rest of my life!

    Growing up, I read a lot of young adult — especially Meg Cabot! I still love her and devour her books, but I’ve expanded into contemporary and historical fiction, too. There are too many genres or types of books I read as a teen that I shy away from now!

    1. I am reading the 3rd Pfeffer book right now and find myself so absorbed with it. Have you read In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke? That one was really good. It started off a tad slow but was wonderful in the end.

  9. I read the Nancy Drew mysteries and then as a teenager started in on Agatha Christie’s books. I’m re-reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd now and I don’t think I appreciated then how witty it is.

    I also read the Sweet Dreams/SweetValley High type series and then but as a “grown-up” I have not been able to read trashy romance novels

    On a totally opposite tangent, ever since I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was about eight or nine I have been interested in reading all I can about the Holocaust. When I was a kid I think I was the only one who checked those books out of my small local library.

    1. I’ve never read The Diary of Anne Frank. Seems like if I really think about it, there are quite a few books that I haven’t read, that I feel that I should.I am trying to fix that this year with reading deliberately but the progress has been slow for me.

  10. I did used to read a lot differently than I do now. Like you, I read a lot of King but I can’t say I ever got into the bodice rippers! I did read a lot of the bestsellers and I really steer away from most of them now because they’re generally so predictable. On the other hand, I always loved biographies and memoirs and I love them to this day.

  11. Ti, this is a fun topic. I have been having such a good time going back through my memories and pulling out old favorites to share on my Bookish Nostalgia.

    I have always read mysteries and still do. However, I have left horror behind, even though I do like Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I also used to read Harlequin romances and then left those behind, along with Danielle Steele and the historicals. I have very fond memories though. I have never been a classics lover or sci fi or fantasy. There are exceptions to everything though.

    My tastes run now still towards mysteries, probably not so much thrillers though, and women’s fiction. Guess as I’ve aged, my tolerance for some things has decreased. I know at one point I found myself craving books with more depth. Think that was about in my late 30’s.

    I like books about certain topics though. I am fascinated by books set on board a ship or cruise, books about Antactica and Iceland/Scandinavia and books where the protagonist is a midwife or delivers babies. Who knows why??

    1. I had forgotten about Harlequins. I read at least a dozen or so of them in my youth. Your mention of setting is interesting. I am a sucker for anything set by a lake or cabin. Not sure why. Perhaps it’s just very different than what I know.

  12. What a great topic Ti. In my 20’s it was Danielle Steel; 30’s Stephen King; 40’s Patterson, Higgins-Clark and other thrillers, but no more horror, and now 50’s more contemporary/literary fiction with a twist of historical, a dash of thrillers and mysteries and a good amount of non fiction as well.

  13. Does Grishom count as a thriller? His books scare the crap out of me! I read a few after listening to my husband rave about them (in the 90’s).

    I wasn’t aware there was a historical romance genre until recently, I haven’t read one. I did read A LOT of Danielle Steele and Robin Cooke in my late teens/twenties.

    Recently I found out that I enjoy gothic fiction (ie: Her Fearful Symmetry). Who knew?

    I love your ‘Fancy That’ and am a bit jealous that you thought this up first :). Can’t wait to read your next post.

  14. This is a fun post! I too started out with King and then moved on to Koontz….. love Koontz – read everything by him!

    Hmmm… from there I read some Nora Roberts (oh its true…) then Danielle Steele, John Grisham, and the three original VC Andrews.

    Now I am all over the board….

    1. What was it about King that lured us all in? Perhaps he prepared us for the real world. I say that in jest but perhaps there’s a tiny bit of truth to it. He dealt with some dark topics and at a young age, when you feel invincible, it’s sort of good to know that you aren’t. LOL.

  15. Terrific post Ti and my answer to your question is a simple ‘No’. I have veered far from the types of books I read in my youth, with the exception of the classics that were required reading. In my teens, it was all about romance, then in the late 80’s my friend got me into V.C. Andrews – wow, those were just plain creepy! At the same time I was reading a lot of Danielle Steele. then I moved on to legal thrillers, thanks to The Firm which got me started in that genre. I also like Sidney Sheldon but that wore off quickly. As I get older I find myself still going into unknown territory with gothic fantasy and vampires and I’m loving it. Another genre I love these days is Historical Fiction, which I never thought I’d be very into, but I surprised even myself with that one! Can’t wait for your next ‘Fancy That’ post!

    1. It seems like many of us read the same types of books when we were younger. For me I seem to switch gears every five years or so. Not sure if it comes down to life experience or just a change in tastes but I have jumped around quite a bit.

  16. I went through a King phase in middle school! I only read a few of his books before moving on to fantasy though. 🙂

    I still love some of the same classic authors that I loved in my youth (including classic mysteries!), but I don’t read high epic fantasy anymore, and I can’t handle the more bloodthirsty books…I prefer gothic horror instead.

  17. Love your post!

    In HS I was all about Dean Koontz and chick lit, neither of which I can stomach now. College was all about the classics because I was an English major. Now I read mostly literary fiction with some YA tossed in here and there.

  18. Like you, I was a big King fan but I kind of left him by the wayside when I “got older.”

    And I was guilty of reading really bad romance books (like Danielle Steel) but I left them behind too.

  19. LOL! I was obsessed with Stephen King, too, in high school! Also Sidney Sheldon (beginning fiftth grade). BUt I never did get to like historical romances.. that genre was both my sisters’ (they loved Judith McNaught especially). After Stephen King I moved on to Erich Segal and then found John Irving and that’s when I began to shift towards more literary authors and titles (Yasunari Kawabata, Kazuo Ishiguro, Garcia Marquez, etc). Although during the whole of my youth I had been a reader of classics (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Little Women, Wuthering Heights, etc). So anyway, I don’t know if I can still read Stephen King now. I still love his The Eyes of the Dragon and The Gunslinger most of all (I reread both just a few years ago). I also finished The Dark Tower series just around 3 years ago. But I’m not so inclined to read his newer works though. I would love to reread Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption though; that story is awesome.

    1. I enjoyed John Irving too but I didn’t chain-read him like some of the other authors I mentioned. I think that was a deciding factor for me when I was younger. There had to be a lot of books to read all in a row. King and Koontz had so many books out at the time. I’d finish one book and it took me all of 5 minutes to pick up the next.

  20. Funny you should ask this question. I was just having this conversation with a friend. We were talking about the books we used to read in high school and how mature all the tween and teen books have become. For example, I would never have been allowed to read Twilght (especially Breaking Dawn) when I was 12. Sweet Valley was harmless and therefore permitted. But, I enjoyed those books. I’m also wondering about the whole Gossip Girl phenomenon… what happened to The Baby Sitter’s Club? I was so curious by this gradual change of maturity in tween/teen genres that I asked an old English Lit Prof of mine to do an interview in the future about this exact issue…. I’ll be curious to hear her answers.

    Great topic!
    Lydia @ The Literary Lollipop

    1. I would love to read that interview. Tween stuff has changed quite a bit. I do think overall that the 11-13 set is more mature now than the 11-13 set of 20 years ago. The Hub and I were talking about it and we think cell phones have a lot to do with it. The ability to communicate with the opposite sex at a much younger age. Even though it’s random stuff, boys are talking to girls and they are not running away, afraid to catch cooties! Perhaps the genre had to change to keep up with the accelerated maturity??

  21. As long as we’re confessing, I read Louis L’Amour in my teenage years. I also enjoyed — and still enjoy — Agatha Christie. I’ll be honest I haven’t returned to my former penchant for westerns, though. King, though, I have returned to him several times. The Stand is still one of my favorites.

    1. The Stand is by far, King’s best work to date. I plan to re-read it over Christmas break. Last Christmas break I read Under The Dome and liked it plenty but it will be interesting to see if The Stand still holds true for me today as it’s been a good 20 years since I’ve read it.

  22. What a great question! I never could handle scary books like Stephen King but man did I go through a historical romance phase in middle school and into high school. Every once in a while I pick one up – not as trashy as they were then- but still just as good!

    Can’t wait to meet you this weekend at the LA book festival btw!

    1. I never considered King books scary. Well, the clown in IT was pretty creepy but for me, I just liked the epic tales, the character lists that were a mile long. His books were truly an adventure for me. On a happier note.. the Festival of Books is almost here. Looking forward to meeting you. I just checked out your blog…love the header graphic.

  23. I enjoyed Judy Blume as a teen. But my most favorite book from my teenage years was Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo. It is a historical fiction and that genre is my favoite so I guess I still like what I liked in my youth.

    Great question.

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