Branching Into New Genres and My Favorite Recent Read

I enjoy reading, but, like most college students, am extremely picky when it comes to what I spend my free time on; without the perfect book, reading doesn’t always make it into my schedule. When I do find the time to read, I’m even pickier about what I read, and I tend to stick to the same genre: crime and mystery books. I’ve heard of them all—from Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Books to more classic mysteries like those pioneered by Edgar Allan Poe to other 21st century authors like Jeffery Deaver. The suspense of mystery novels is exactly what I need to fully engage my mind and distract myself from reality. I love the guessing game, the heroic detectives—the protagonist in Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series is even named Amelia—and the adrenaline that accompanies reading the books.

But, as I continued to enjoy suspenseful crime shows like Chicago PD and Law and Order, read long series detailing murder, and began studying real-life crime in a Law, Societies, and Justice course at the University of Washington (LSJ 200, which I would definitely recommend), I realized I was becoming paranoid about crime and it began negatively impacting my ability to enjoy reading and law class. I became more suspicious of regular people I came across in daily life and felt increasingly like crime was everywhere and that everyone had a dark side—just as characters often do in crime novels. I realized this wasn’t healthy because it was clouding my ability to relax and enjoy fictitious police chases and forensic challenges. It was then I decided that I needed to branch out and try a new genre. 

The problem was, after experiencing the calculated suspense and plotlines of mystery novels, other fiction novels and genres simply did not provide the engagement I was used to. I went through a long period where I didn’t read at all, and then I found A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne. 

If you’ve heard of author John Boyne, it is most likely because of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. While I didn’t realize it was the same author when I began A Ladder to the Sky, when I did make this connection it only reinforced my impression that a talented and likely well-known author was behind this read. 

A Ladder to the Sky creatively follows an aspiring author, providing suspenseful insight into his passion, struggle, and writing process. However, A Ladder to the Sky isn’t really about his writing or career as an author, but rather the psychological and manipulative side of human nature and its revelation through calculating and ingenious behavior. A Ladder to the Sky is not only well written, but its unique focus on an author’s daily interactions combined with travel experience culminate in an engaging book no matter what genre you typically read. The psychological thriller components of the book satisfied my need for suspense, the descriptions of foreign countries appealed to my inner trip-planner, and various other details offered interesting information and characterizations throughout the book. English majors will love the satirical account of a writer’s struggles, romance-readers will enjoy the relationships that form integral parts of the plot, and future detectives will be hooked by the subtle suspense that has a far-from-subtle effect.  A Ladder to the Sky has something to offer everyone, and this is coming from an extremely particular person. Despite trying dozens of fiction books to help me branch out of detective and crime novels, A Ladder to the Sky was the first—and, so far, only—book to accomplish this.