Armchair BEA ~ Genre Fiction

Armchair BEA ~ Genre Fiction

The week-long event called Armchair BEA is going strong. I certainly am having a blast! Working in the middle of the fun yesterday dampened my ability to hop across the blog-o-sphere as I wish, but I plan to make up for lost time on my days off! If you are just now getting wind of the event, scroll down the page to catch up.Armchair BEA 3

My blog post telling all about it: Armchair BEA Begins!

My 5 Question Introduction

Discussion of “classic” literature


Today, as is each day this week, the topics are two-fold. Always there is a literary discussion of some kind, and since books are “my thing” I am going to start there! Bloggers participating are invited to chat about “genre fiction.” While this blog is about ME and what I like to read, I wanted to start with a definition of “genre fiction,” this from Wikipedia:

Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is plot-driven fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre. Genre fiction is generally distinguished from literary fiction by commonly seen genre conventions, such as the “specific settings, roles, events, and values that define individual genres and their subgenres.” These conventions, always fluid, are usually implicit, but sometimes are made into explicit requirements by publishers of fiction as a guide to authors seeking publication. There is no consensus as to exactly what the conventions of any genre are, or even what the genres themselves are; assigning of works to genres is to some extent arbitrary and subjective. Genre fiction is often dismissed by literary critics as being pure escapism, cliched, and of poor quality prose.

The first part of this definition makes sense to me, and seems to be agreed on by the intelligent-types who fret over pigeonholing these sorts of things! LOL! The last sentence – “Genre fiction is often dismissed by literary critics as being pure escapism, cliched, and of poor quality prose.” – may be true coming from certain literary snobs, but is utterly ridiculous! Just because a novel is specific to a certain genre – ie: fantasy, romance, sci-fi, western, crime, horror, inspirational – does NOT mean it is poorly written! In fact, I have read loads and loads of “genre fiction” novels that are vastly superior to some of the novels considered “classic” or “serious literature.” But that is my mini-soap box! I am happy to hear your thoughts on that aspect of the topic.

Moving on! As a reader from a very young age I, true story, do not remember ever learning to read since I think I was born with a book in my hand. LOL! Mom said I wasn’t, but I am still doubting her word on that. The library was my favorite place on my elementary school campus, and I seriously doubt there was a book in there I didn’t read. Twice. Or more. I made my way through The Hardy Boys, all of Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder, and so on. As a pre-teen I recall loving the sweet girlie-romances popular at the time and devoured the Gothic romances, such as Rebecca and everything by Victoria Holt. Early on I recall loving the stories of the Greek and Roman gods, and read Homer’s The Illiad and The Odyssey when about eight or nine (abridged versions originally, I admit). By the time I was twelve I started raiding my 6-year-older sister’s bookcases. There were many novels she took out of my hands due to mature themes (I read them later!), but it was when she handed me a copy of The Hobbit that my reading life would change.

Not instantly, though. At first I didn’t get past the second chapter! I had never read that type of fantasy before. Greek god mythology comes close, however, so as an alternative she handed me a novel titled The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. It was the first of MANY novels on Arthurian legends I would consume in my lifetime (and in that one summer), but best of all it rearranged my mind to visualize the world of fantasy. I attempted The Hobbit again, and by the time I was thirteen had read it more than once, as well as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Silmarillion! My passionate obsession with ALL fantasy, and to a slightly lesser degree sci-fi, was firmly established and has never waned. Reading the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien is enough to convince me down to my toes that “genre fiction” is every bit as fabulously written and important to the literary world as the works of Hawthorne, Fitzgerald, Bronte, Dickens, or, yes, even Austen.

I like to think my taste is eclectic, with a great story and wonderful characters being the deciding factor. Whether set on earth, involving real people from history, a happy story or scary one, including elves and goblins, or with space ships traveling at light speed, if the writer captures my attention, I am as happy as a pig in slop! If the author is amazing, I don’t care what genre he or she writes in, I will love it. Personally, I think Stephen King is one of, if not THE best author of my generation. So much so, in fact, that I won’t read some of his books because he is so danged good that his words scare me to death! For several decades I dissed romance after reading a number of the 1970-80 novels that bored me to tears. Then I became a writer of romantic historical fiction and picked up a few romances. My eyes were opened anew! Anyone who says romance as a genre is trashy or not well written is just plain WRONG!

One wall of bookcases in Sharon Lathan’s library

So, here are some lists of my all-time favorite “genre fiction” novels. This is not exhaustive, by any means! Just take a look at this picture of my library (not all my books, I have to add) to see what I mean! Tomorrow I will name titles that fall into the broader “literary fiction” realm.

Fantasy Favorites~~

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Belgariad series (5 books) and The Mallorean series (5 books) by David Eddings – my second favorite fantasy novels of all, after Tolkien
Belgarath the Sorcerer by David Eddings
Polgara the Sorceress by David Eddings
The Dragonriders of Pern series (numerous books) by Anne McCaffrey
Faerie Tale by Raymond Feist
Harry Potter series (7 books) by JK Rowling
The Disc World novels (several dozen) by Terry Pratchett
Magic Kingdom For Sale– SOLD! by Terry Brooks, and the  subsequent 5 books in the Magic Kingdom of Landover series
The Shannara series by Terry Brooks (most of them, didn’t care for them all)
The Riftwar/Midkemia novels (especially the original ones) by Raymond Feist
The Darwarth novels (5), Sun Wolf and Starhawk series (4) and Windrose Chronicles (4) by Barbara Hambly
The Arthurian series (4 novels) by Mary Stewart
The Books of Swords (3) and The Lost Books of Swords (8) by Fred Saberhagen
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
Chronicles of the King’s Tramp (3 books) by Tom de Haven

Sci-Fi Favorites~~

Star Wars fan-fiction novels (lots!) by assorted authors
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – in my Top Ten Best list and I am dying to see the movie!
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Dune and Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Horror (as close as I go!)~

The Stand by Stephen King – in my Top Five Best list
The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Lightening and Watchers by Dean Koontz
Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice


Love at First Flight by Marie Force – everything Marie writes is wonderful, but this one made me cry and re-energized my love for romance
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Dark Hunter novels, and others, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
The Highlander novels (8, I think) by Karen Marie Moning
SEALed with a Kiss by Mary Margret Daughteridge
The Wild Sight and The Treasures of Venice by Loucinda McGary
Practice Makes Perfect and Something About You by Julie James
Nocturne by Syrie James
Lord of Pleasure (and everything else) by Delilah Marvelle
Dark Highland Fire by Kendra Leigh Castle
Unleashed and Untouched by Sara Humphreys
Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare
Everything by Abigail Reynolds! Yes, she is my BFF, but it started with love of her novels!

That listing got longer than I imagined! And I forced myself to stop. 40+ years of reading material is hard to wade through and narrow down. Now, share with me your favorites within “genre fiction” and why/if a particular genre is your favorite to read.



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[…] Discussion of “genre fiction” with my list of favs […]

Michelle Fidler

I’m a big library user too and am here using the Internet. I read lots of mysteries and always have. I also read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. When I was a teen I started reading Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes and other British mysteries. I like Harry Potter too but not other fantasy.

I have books all over and lots of bookcases.

Carole in Canada mentioned Tasha Alexander’s books. They are actually set in the Victorian era and not the Regency. I read one recently and I think it was set in 1893.

Carole in Canada

That’s right, my mistake…Tasha Alexanders’ books take place during Queen Victoria’s reign.


I never really pick books based by genres, I just like a wide variety of stories and settings. I will read anything that sounds intriguing to me. I fall in love with engaging stories and characters and don’t worry about what genre it is in. I love seeing people that feel the same way! I’m going to bookmark this post for recs!

my Armchair BEA day 2 post

Carole in Canada

I totally agree with that quote! I devoured books all through school (Tolkien, Tolstoy, Bronte sisters, Arthur Conan Doyle, Homer) and had to laugh when you mentioned Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart as I read them too! I continue to devour books and have many favourite authors, especially Austen Authors! Outside of my Austen Authors, I love Julie Garwood, especially her historical romances, Judith McNaught, Mary Balogh,Mary Jo Putney, Karen Marie Moning, Stephanie Laurens, and Diana Gabaldon as I find these authors develop their characters and their stories beautifully. Susanna Kearsley is another favourite and a new author (to me) I found in the past couple of years, Tasha Alexander who writes Regency mysteries. All is all, I love historical romance and change it up with contemporary novels. The best part is when there is a series, so I don’t have to leave the characters behind!


I read a huge variety of genres too. I do love the bookshelves, though. Beautiful!

Bookish Temptations

Love the picture of your library. I was a big library junkie when I was young, and then after I had kids it was a favorite place to take them. Awesome post!

Sharon Lathan

Thank you very much! I should say that I got those shelves from Staples. Very simple things, and they are “media cases” measured for DVDs and CDs, which is the perfect size for the average paperback! I have a few wider shelves for other bigger books.

Sophia Rose

After reading that definition of genre fiction, I now understand why I can’t tell the difference when asked. It seems vague to other people too. LOL!

I love that you speak out for how much quality there is in the genre books if you’re willing to look for it.

Sharon Lathan

Some people can’t survive without placing everything into neat compartments. I don’t get that. I am a super organized person, but sometimes things just don’t fit like they should and I have to let it go. I don’t understand the need to label and categorize every book. Weird.


I love your quote at the end of your post.
It’s neat to witness your reading journey, thanks for sharing.
I love Tolkien as well

Sharon Lathan

Isn’t that a great quote? I saw it online – not an original Lathan, I confess – but it leapt off the page at me. So very true! Guess that is why I write a continuing series that is a sequel: I don’t want to leave the world. 😀

Mary Jo Burke

I learned to read with a book of poems. My favorites were Poe, Frost, and Dickinson. Any non-fiction favorites? Robert Caro’s LBJ books are excellent. Shelby Foote’s Civil War books are wonderful too. Impressive book collection. I’m sure it’s in the first wing of your library.

Sharon Lathan

Non-fiction is covered later this week, Mary Jo. I won’t have too much to add since non-fiction has never been a big favorite for me, but I do have a few. 😉


Sharon, I agree with every word you wrote. There are so many bokks that don´t fit in just one genre. The story and the characters are important and it is important if the author can capture me.
I love the picture of your bookcase. Books are everywhere around me. And I have dozens of unread books. I can´t stop buying them. But as I am reading most of the time, besides work and some homework, I read one after the other and buy even more…..


Sharon Lathan

Thanks Susanne! I couldn’t wait to rearrange my daughter’s old bedroom to be my library! Of course it has also ended up a general catch-all junk room, but at least I got my awesome shelves!


I know many adults who have read the Harry Potter books and love them – personally I think that they are okay for children but I just didn’t like them . Love LOTR and the Pern novels though.

Sharon Lathan

The beauty about novels, Vesper, is that there are so many to choose from and readers can find those that “speak” to them. That reality is one of the main reason why, as an author, I cringe and want to scream over the so-called “rules” of how all novels, especially those in a particular genre, have to be plotted or written. Thank God for brave authors who buck the rules and give readers what they want!

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