The Not-So Outlier of Romance Novels

I have always felt like an outlier when it comes to voicing my reading preferences. I first started to feel like this when I began my undergraduate degree. On the first day of classes, we would go around the room and answer the question, “What is your favorite book genre?” or “What are you currently reading?” I would answer with whatever I was currently obsessed with; this ranged from YA fiction to fantasy, and most recently, to romance. This was very different from the answers my classmates gave, which were more along the lines of biographies, classics, and nonfiction.

Talking to a new group of classmates in my graduate program, I brought up how I feel that no one seems to read romance novels because no one ever talks about it. The number of individuals who gave an affirmative to reading romance showed that my statement wasn’t true. One individual even commented that more people read romance than you realize. So, this raises the question: with so many people claiming to be fans of romance novels, why aren’t more people talking about them? Why is reading this genre kept so close to the vest while others, like classic literature, are actively discussed?

In all the research that I’ve done, it seems that one of the main reasons this genre is not openly discussed revolves heavily around what many consider to be a taboo subject: sex. Many romance novels allude to, if not out-right include, these types of scenes. However, in everyday life society deems this an inappropriate topic, causing people to pause when sharing what they are reading, what they like to read, or even share suggestions.

We should also take into account that romance tends to lean more towards what I like to call “fun reading” versus more critical reading. You may have noticed that the reading lists in higher education do not contain romance novels, partly because they are not made to be analyzed or teach a lesson—but that’s not to say that one could not learn from a novel in this genre though! Individuals who read romance typically do so to enjoy the story and be immersed in a tale that takes them to a new place.

Another consideration is the fact that a good amount of individuals read romance novels digitally, in part because it is easier to read without broadcasting what you are reading to the world. The downside is that this stops any form of conversation from happening because people are unable to see the front cover and start that initial conversation. Many people judge books by their covers, but we can’t judge or start a conversation with something we can’t see.

Even with these explanations, and despite what people think of the romance genre, romance is actually flourishing. According to an article by Rachel King in Fortune, “Unit sales for romance books topped forty-seven million in the twelve months ending March 2021…representing an increase of 24 percent from the previous year.” It just goes to show that many people out there are also reading romance novels, and more people continue to do so today.

All of this leads to a bigger lesson: don’t ever be ashamed or afraid of what you read. Books give us the magical ability to live many adventures in the one life we are given, and we should stop trying to hide that. Embrace what you are reading, no matter the genre, and encourage others to do the same, and maybe we will all see that we were never outliers.

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