Genre: A Word Only A Frenchman Could Love

One of Neil’s recent posts about keeping book groups independent and choosing more than branded “book group” books has gotten me thinking. Thinking about my own snobbish assumptions. Thinking about how I don’t read enough of what would be considered genre fiction. Thinking about how I haven’t thought to schedule my book group to read some very often. Thinking about how the collection that my group has to draw from also has very little in the way of genre.

On a daily basis I try to live my life as a readers’ advisor by the motto: Never apologize for your reading tastes. I do my best to stay open, to let patrons know that they can share their guiltiest reading desire or whim with me. But do I embrace this fully enough? I know I don’t.

In 2005, PLA convened in Seattle and I was absolutely blown away by a speech that Ursula K. Le Guin gave entitled “Genre: A Word Only A Frenchman Could Love.” She was so bold, impassioned and well-spoken. By the way, you can read this speech on the PLA program, pages 21-23.

I leave you with some of Le Guin’s words from that speech, but I will tell you that it is well worth reading in its entirety:

All judgment of literature by genre is tripe. All judgment of a category of literature as inherently superior or inferior is tripe.

A book can’t be judged by its cover, or by its label. A book can be judged only by reading it. There are many bad books. There are no bad genres.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

1 Comment on "Genre: A Word Only A Frenchman Could Love"

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  1. shavers@crc.losrios.edu' Shelley says:

    Thanks for Le Guin’s challenge to our assumptions. And does that include books that have no covers at all?

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