Earlier this week, I finished reading the short story collection Long Journey to Deep Canon by T.T. Flynn. No, you probably haven’t heard of it. Despite most of the stories having been written in the 1950s – so to be in print now is quite an achievement itself – but the reason you probably haven’t heard of it is more to do with its genre: it’s a western.
Western novels aren’t bad. In fact, I love them. But western novels, like, ooh I don’t know, historical sci-fi (I don’t actually know if this is a genre, or if any books in this genre even exist but there we go) are a genre everyone knows by name… but most people don’t actually read.
I don’t know what it is about unconventional novels – perhaps some of them simply aren’t deemed “high brow” enough, or perhaps because all of the “popular” books are young adult, adult fiction, fantasy, or a picture book – but it seems like a lot of people don’t like to read them. Maybe the common idea is that if it’s not been written about in The New York Times or isn’t sold in Waterstones, Barnes and Noble or on the Book Depository, then it’s not worth reading about anyway. (If you were curious, Long Journey can be bought B&N and the Book Depository. I bought mine for 50p at the UK store The Works.)
Personally, I’ve found that many non-limelight hugging books have actually been the best reads. Some of my favourite books (you can see ten of them here) are less conventional ones, such as Journey to the River Sea, Peter Pan, Sisters Red and The Wreck of the Zanzibar – now, how many of those have you heard of? – are actually my favourites, have proved a great inspiration and, especially noted in the recent Long Journey to Deep Canon, have produced the most life-like characters I’ve ever read.
Overall, I don’t know why some genres are more unconventional than others. To be honest, I encourage people to read outside of the box, and I do it quite a lot: I haven’t read Fangirl (although I have just ordered it), Cinder, The Mortal Instruments, Lord of the Rings, Paper Towns, Game of Thrones, To Kill a Mockingbird, Throne of Glass or Sherlock Holmes. Of course I’m not saying any of these books are bad and shouldn’t be read – in fact, quite a lot of them are on my bookshelf right now, just yet to be opened – but perhaps its time we should all be branching out, testing our comfort zones, and finding something which truly makes our hearts leap when we turn the page. Your favourite novel may only be known to say, a thousand people, and although you might want to discuss it with your best friend, or rant about that ending with someone you met online, doesn’t it make it special that you’ve found your own little gem in the world?
what do you think? do you think unconventional novels are over rated? perhaps underrated? and, of course, there can be unconventional novels in conventional genres (which is something I haven’t touched on here, but at least that leaves room for the future!)! do you read unconventional novels? would you like to, if it were deemed “conventional”? is it ever possible for unconventional novels to be read in a conventional manner? am I confusing myself and simply creating more questions than I answered in this post? yes, is the answer to that, yes I am…