So, What Do We Like to Read?

CB068378 I am horrible at keeping records of books that I have read. I know that many of you keep a journal of read books and their grades, but I have never been that motivated to do so. A couple of years ago I joined I haven’t done badly since I do have 667 books rated. However, I do go months without entering books so it is not very accurate. Also I haven’t figured out how to separate the books by publication date so my list doesn’t help in reference to the AAR Annual Poll. This year I am very hopeful, because I do have a permanent record of most of the books I read in 2011 thanks to my written reviews.

I started looking over my reviews in preparation of the poll and it brought home to me just how much I enjoy a certain subgenre. Forty percent of the books I reviewed this year were contemporary romance books and next is series books at 18%. Most of the series that I read were contemporary, and when you add in women’s fiction, and Chick Lit at least 67% of the books this year took place in a current time frame. So I wondered if other reviewers had a definite preference. Here’s how their reviews broke down:

Blythe 31% Historical, 25% Series
Dabney 64% Historical, 13% Romantic suspense/Suspense
Heather S 23% Paranormal, 19% Historical
Jacqueline 55% Paranormal, 45% historical
Jane 50% Historical, 23% Romantic suspense/suspense
Jean 38% Historical, 12% Fantasy
Leigh 40% Contemporary, 18% Series
LinnieGayl 43% Contemporary, 19% Series
Louise 20% Paranormal, Viking, Urban Fantasy, Historical & Medieval
Lynn 16 % Historical, 16% Paranormal
Maggie 28% Romantic Suspense/Suspense, 15% Paranormal, 15%Y.A.
Pat 31% Contemporary, 23% American Historical/Western
Rike 36% Historical, 18 % Series
Sandy 20% Historical, Series, Fantasy, Paranormal
Scarlett 33% Contemporary, 16% Chick Lit, Historical, Fantasy, Parnormal
Wendy 37% Paranormal, 31% Historical

In case you are wondering why the results don’t equal 100%, I only took the top two categories for folks unless there was a tie. From the numbers, you might think that many of us have a preference for certain subgenres of books, but you could also say that our selections are based on the books available for review during the year. After all, we can’t read what we don’t have. I wondered which of these notions was true so I did a quick survey of the reviewers. And here are some of their answers:

Blythe: I would say that the 31% historical is very accurate, but the series is much less accurate in reflecting my reading preferences. I virtually never read them for fun – only for review. When I’m choosing books, my top criterion is whether I’ve reviewed the author before or recently. So my reviews skew heavily toward new authors. Actually, seeing the stat has made me think that I’ll switch to more Harlequin Historicals and fewer series romances. Series romances are attractive to me as review books because I read them quickly. But then they virtually all get Cs. 

Dabney: I would say I like historical romances first, then contemporaries, then romantic suspense.

Jean: I think much of my fantasy statistic comes from reviewing older books.  Realistically, if I restricted the stats to new releases, number two on my list would probably be paranormals. But the 38% historical is definitely right.  Possibly even a little low.

LinnieGayl: You’re right in that for me, the percents reflect in part, what’s available each month to review. My series romance percent would probably be higher if more were available each month. But the contemporary % probably captures my general romance reading. Most months I’ll pick one or two urban fantasies, paranormals, or romantic suspense just because they’re what’s available.

Louise: I don’t know that my stats are real accurate right now. 20% for each is probably about one of each. Still too early.

Lynn: Hmmm….I knew I was an eclectic reader, but I’m not sure I read so little of any one thing.  The review books have been heavy on lighter Regency-set historicals and on authors I’ve already reviewed, so I’ve tended to read fewer historicals for review and some of those probably got counted under inspirational rather than historical.  However, on my own time, I’d say my personal reading list is heavier on historicals, romantic suspense and series romance, though I do read plenty of paranormals, too.

Maggie: I’m not a numbers person either but when I do the math on mine it looks like that reflects 58% of my reading. I would say that is accurate as it stands. I read a lot of contemporary romance and inspirational though and that didn’t seem to be reflected in my stats. I tend to read pretty much anything though so I guess I might be hard to pin down.

Pat: The statistics looked about right to me.  Since I get to pick what I review for AAR, the stats are definitely slanted to what I most enjoy.

Rike: My results are influenced quite a bit by what I buy myself. When I ask Blythe for books to review, I spread out over several subgenres and nearly always include contemporary, romantic suspense, paranormal and more recently steampunk. But I also review many books I’ve bought myself, and as my romance reading before I joined AAR consisted mostly of historicals, I own loads of them. More recently, however, I have become easily bored with the subgenre and I have gladly turned to such romances that seem more grounded to me, like some Harlequin Superromances and, with their grittiness,steampunk romances.

Sandy: I would say that I am primarily a historical, contemporary, and paranormal reader.  I don’t know how fantasy got on my list (probably the Charlaine Harris), but I generally loathe it and would never seek it out.

Wendy: Sounds about right to me.

It was fun to see what everyone had been reading for review and to see how that matches with what we all read in our free time. One thing the results do show is that we all read different genres.

Am I unhappy with my results? No, not unhappy because I already knew that I preferred contemporary books. And when you get right down to it, 60% of my choices fell into different categories. However, I do think that this next year I will make more of an effort to read books in different genres, like Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal and Science Fiction. In the 1990’s, I read a lot of historical romances and really burnt myself out on them. I sure don’t want to do that with contemporary romance.

Of course you don’t have to be a record keeper to know that you have a preference for a certain subgenre. Off the top of your head, which one do you read the most? If you have records, are you surprised at the results? Do you plan to change anything over this next year?

– Leigh Davis

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18 Responses to So, What Do We Like to Read?

  1. wenmc says:

    I read mostly paranormal in 2011, except for some favorite historical authors new books. I think this trend will continue, but I’ve been really enjoying more mystery with a little romance. Contemporaries would fall into the least read catagory.

  2. Tee says:

    This was an interesting article, Leigh. My favorite would be romantic suspense/suspense, women’s fiction and contemporary. In the historical vein, I usually choose books by authors I enjoy, which is probably just a bit more than a handful these days.

    Even though suspense is my top choice, it doesn’t represent the majority of my reading. Probably women’s fiction would rate first for that due to availability and my discernment of suspense authors.

    Also, I don’t keep records of books I’ve read through the year, with the exception of those that have rated the highest with me; and that’s because of the AAR annual poll. For this year, I only have 19 recorded.

  3. Judy says:

    I keep a list of favorite authors but not the books I’ve read. Maybe a new years resolution is starting to form, hmmm.
    I read mostly contemporary, historicals, paranormals, ER, but haven’t tried chick lit, urban fantasy or steampunk.
    I don’t think steampunk was among those listed.
    Good article Leigh.

  4. farmwifetwo says:

    Lately it’s been PNR. I haven’t finished many Contemp nor historical’s of late. Although I have read a lot of RS series (those are what you mean by harlequins??? I never remember) books. I do enjoy a good mystery/police procedural.

  5. farmwifetwo says:

    Forgot… I love goodreads. Didn’t when I first started but now I can’t live without it. I can’t keep track of what I’ve read otherwise.

    I should also add, b/c of those I’m “friends”/”following” I’ve also discovered erotica. There’s some good stuff out there… Lauren Dane… and there’s definately some poorly written stuff.

    I find it’s the same for all genres.

  6. Karen says:

    My list would be primarily historicals, but that has more to do with availability than preferences. If I could, I would read about 50/50 historical and contemporary, but I find it very difficult to find contemporaries. I really enjoy a good contemporary romance, but they’re hard to find – my standards are much lower for contemporaries (I’ll buy almost anything as long as it’s not erotica or romantic suspense) but still, the selection is very limited. I end up buying more historicals by default, even though I’m much pickier about historicals.

  7. lauren says:

    Historical’s and I have been venturing to the paranormal realm. I try to steer away from anything 1900ish…I like to stop around 1850. I dislike vampires (however I have read a couple books that have vamps in them). Contemporaries for me are to close to life in general and I want escape…I use to read loads of chick lit and I do have my favorites but the lure of days past and other worlds are far more interesting and enjoyable.

  8. Heather W says:

    I only read Historicals! That’s what I love and since i’m relatively new to reading romance, I started in 2008, I’m still not bored with the category. I keep a record of the books I read, by author. I sometimes grade them, but I’m not consistent with it. I find it’s the only way to keep track of what I’ve read. Otherwise I might be several chapters into a book before realizing I’ve already read it. That just happened with When You Love Someone by Susan Johnson. I didn’t check my list before I started reading it. Now i’m just skimming to the end because I’m enjoying it again!

  9. Michele says:

    farmwifetwo and I are having a mind meld! I’m also addicted to Goodreads. how else would I keep track of what I read? I’ve also discovered really good erotica this year. Lauren Dane, Lorelei James, Lora Leigh, Sara McCarty. I read more of that this year than before.

  10. bungluna says:

    I skew heavily towards contemporaries, but I stick all chick-lit/women fic./and suspence light there also. The next category for me is Urban Fantasy. I’m going to have to re-think my category reporting to get a better handle on what I read next year.

    I haven’t kept track of which books were actualy published during 2011 either, so survey time is going to be tough.

  11. Nathalie T says:

    I used to read a lot of Historical Romance, but i got bored after a while and today I read more Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy.

  12. Susan/DC says:

    I’m the opposite of Karen — I’ve got lower standards for historicals than for contemporaries, mostly because I know so much more about current life than I do about life in the Regency (or whenever) and it’s therefore harder for me to suspend my disbelief. For example, read a book recently which centered on whether a woman was the true heir for a wealthy family. If it had been an historical, I’d have bought into the premise entirely. But since it was a contemporary, I kept wondering why they didn’t simply do a DNA test, and the fact that it wasn’t even raised had a definite negative impact on my feelings about the book (other than that it was actually good).

    I read mostly historicals in 2011, almost 2/3 of the total. About 1/4 were contemporaries, and of those, most were not romances but literary fiction. Don’t read much PNR or suspense, but did read a fair number of mysteries, although even those were usually historicals (discovered Imogen Robertson’s Georgian-set series, which I love).

  13. xina says:

    I find myself reading more historical romance, and lately historical fiction for the oomph factor..sometimes not a HEA, which is fine with me. I do enjoy comtemporary romance, but find so many of them absolutely ridiculous and not at all realistic. I know…historical romance has so many faults with the nit-pickers, but to tell the truth, I don’t notice as much as they do. On the other hand I do enjoy comtemporary fiction and women’s fiction. Just getting into a bit of mystery fiction as well.

  14. Carrie says:

    About 60% of my books in 2011 were in contemporary settings, although that includes some mildly paranormal books such as JAK’s Arcane books, and it includes romantic suspense. In fact, about 30-35% of what I read would be classified as romantic suspense, which probably makes it the single biggest category.

    About 20% were historicals, and that is a big increase over last year.

    About 15% would be grouped as fantasy, paranormal, steampunk or urban fantasy.

    I shelve my books on multiple shelves, so I can’t always get perfect percentages. (RS is also located on contemporary or historical shelves, depending ons etting, for example.) I do have a “Read-20XX” shelf for every year, but I do not keep the books by dated published. That makes it more difficult to do the poll, but… oh well. ;-) I don’t feel like adding that shelf to goodreads. I have enough shelves to keep track of.

  15. Eve Langlais says:

    I think about 60% of my reading was paranormal romance then it was pretty much tied between sci-fi romance and urban fantasy. I gave up on historicals because the damsels were all too determined to not be like their time period dictated. I’m one of the rare few I think who kind of liked it when they were demure, damsels in distress instead of bold, sexually willing, society outcasts. I would like to try some steampunk novels this year though. The idea of mixing history and science sounds fascinating :)

    • farmwifetwo says:

      Eve Langlais: I think about 60% of my reading was paranormal romance then it was pretty much tied between sci-fi romance and urban fantasy. I gave up on historicals because the damsels were all too determined to not be like their time period dictated. I’m one of the rare few I think who kind of liked it when they were demure, damsels in distress instead of bold, sexually willing, society outcasts. I would like to try some steampunk novels this year though. The idea of mixing history and science sounds fascinating

      Meljean Brooke does it well. You do need to start with the anthology in “Burning Up”. “The iron duke” is “ok”… IMO she writes very good shorts and “ok” long stories. “Heart of Steel” was much better. Steampunk is like Sci/Fi/Fantasy. KISS…. stick to the world building you’ve made up to not embellish as the books progress simply to make it fit your plot b/c you forgot the rules of your world. Which is why I’m still a fan of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series even her “not as good as they were in the beginning” books.

      One I dislike very much is the “human woman who discovers the vampires or the other paranormal creatures and then has to mate with one to save the world”.

  16. Leigh says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I loved finding out your preferences.

    Eve Langlais – I with you about the damsels.

    Carrie – that is a great idea to have one shelf or area dedicated to books read in a certain year.

    Xina – both historical and contemporary books can seem like pure fluff. Like you I enjoy reading women’s fiction for the touch of realism. Although I definitely want the HEA.

    Susan/DC – if an historical author can distract me with dialog then I enjoy the book. If not then I do get caught up in thinking what Eva mentioned – a damsel from this time period wouldn’t act like this.

    Nathalie- I haven’t read quite as much paranormal or urban fantasy because it seems like the genre is filled with vampire and shape shifters – However, I definitely still look at the selections every month.

    bungluna – glad to see another contemporary reader.

    Heather W – there are a lot of great historicals out there especially if you are new to the genre.

    lauren – it is not that I hated vampires initially. It just that the trend has gone on for so long that I am just tired of it. Plus I just don’t want to read about them drinking blood.

    Karen – I find that the contemporary selection limited too. Hopefully there will be some great books in our future this year.

    Farmwifetwo & Michele I do enjoy Goodreads. Even if I haven’t talked to a friend in a while, it is always fun to see what they are reading. And yes it does help me keep track of what I read, and upcoming releases.

    Judy- if you haven’t checked out Goodreads then do so. It is an easy way to keep track of books plus get recommendations from friends. Glad you enjoyed the article.

    Tee – a couple of years ago I would have said romantic suspense was one of my favorite genre but for some reason I don’t read much of it anymore. I do enjoy women’s fiction but I want a HEA. Glad you enjoyed the article.

    wenmc – I enjoy mystery with a little romance too. Susanna Kearsley is an favorite author

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