I'm going to keep this short and sweet because this post marks a failure, and who likes those?
Last year, I proposed a resolution to read an entire year of genre books. I did some research to find what the internet seemed to think was the single best book in each of twelve decided upon genres, and then vowed (meaning I pretty much MARRIED this resolution) to read the books over the course of the year.
Early in the year, things went well for me and my list of books. I read Gaiman's American Gods and enjoyed it! And then I read—or, mostly read—Diana Gabaldon's The Outlander, about a woman who is transported back in time and starts to fall in love with a Scottish warrior/virgin and then...okay, and then I Wikipedia-ed what happened after that instead of reading the book because DAMN it was 800 pages and, aside from being kind of sexy sometimes, it was just not hitting home (this links to a really interesting NYT blog on whether or not life is too short to finish books that you don't enjoy).
After the Scotland fling, I went to space with The Forever War by Joe Haldeman—which was the best book I've read this year, and then to New York with Teri Woods for True to the Game. I skipped Lonesome Dove because I was behind and lazy and read the adapted graphic novel of Story of O, which I hated. And, that's where it stops.
I read four and a half books out of the twelve I scheduled for myself this year. What happened? It's not like I only read four and a half books this year. Why did I stop with the genre?
Honestly? It's boring knowing exactly what you're going to read month to month. While I may not have known in advance the subtleties of each book or, for that matter, the plot of each, looking at a reading list and trying not to stray too far from that list got really frustrating. While friends were picking up new books like NW by Zadie Smith or surprising themselves with treasures from the bookstore, I was stuck with my reading list.
I felt trapped in my marriage to this list.
So, I divorced it and hungrily devoured a whole stack of new books and comics that I enjoyed mightily. And while some of them weren't even half as good as say, American Gods I enjoyed them more because of the reward of choice.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, "C-Dawg, didn't you choose the list of books you were meant to read?" And to that I say, "Yes, but, you know, that was before."
Anyway, the real question you should be asking is about my original desire to determine whether or not genre books are literature?
My conclusion is this: who gives a shit? Good books is good books, and nothing else matters.
Take The Forever War, for example. That was the best book I've read all year (and possibly in years), and it was not only genre, but a book about war—something I don't particularly enjoy reading about (Tim O'Brien aside). But it was brilliant, engrossing, and magnificent, and I never would have read it without this project, so I guess my Year of Genre wasn't entirely a wash.
From now on, when it comes to books and reading, I think that I'll probably offer the same advice I'd give teenagers who think their relationship is "forever"—date around, who you fall in love with may surprise you.