Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

“As far as I’m concerned we should be promiscuous in our reading habits,” says Lauren Beukes, author of Broken Monsters and South Africa’s leading sci-fi/fantasy writer, “w should take any damn book we like to bed as long as that book is good in bed or in the bath or on the sofa or wherever you like to read.”

She made this remark during a segment of To The Best of Out Knowledge (TTBOOK), a radio show exploring big and fascinating ideas about life and the world. The statement is part of a case she levels against the literary establishment’s obsession with genres.

She argues that the convention of boxing fiction into compartments is too abstract to have any real bearing on how readers actually read.

Beukes exhorts readers to keep themselves open to different forms of storytelling instead of letting these tyrannical order placed on literary works define their habits of reading.

Beukes is addressing people who say things like: “I read only the Soyinkas of the world. James Hadley Chase is too low-brow for me” or  “I only read fantasy. Realism is a not out-there enough for me.” It’s okay to cultivate different kinds of tastes for reading. We like what we like, right? But what Beukes wants us to remember is that a rich and fulfilling reading experience requires that we see beyond these “artificial” order imposed on narratives.

In a sense, she is simply reminding us of a fact that is so easy to forget. Genres are not natural categories the way cats and dogs are distinct forms of life. They are made-up compartments. Genres might be helpful to scholars who study literature. They might also be helpful to bookshop owners who need customers to find book easily. But they are of little help to the reader when it comes to exploring the amazing and expansive world of stories.

Keep your reading taste open and evolving. A reader who lets genre difference define the limits of taste is living an impoverished reading life.

The takeaway from all this? Keep an open relationship with books. Be a promiscuous reader!

Listen to Beukes or read the transcript below!

Here is a transcript:

I am Lauren Beukes, the author of Broken Monsters, and my dangerous idea is that we should get rid of genre altogether.

I am so tired of the very artificial argument that there is literature and there is science fiction and that there is westerns and crime novels and that there are all somehow different and have different value systems.

As far as I’m concerned we should be promiscuous in our reading habits. We should take any damn book we like to bed as long as that book is good in bed or in the bath or on the sofa or wherever you like to read. You probably shouldn’t read with your e-reader in the bath know.

The idea is that we have stories. We have good stories and bad stories. We have stories that use different elements, but to reduce them into these little boring pigeon holes where they have to fit certain criteria is so frustrating and tedious. I think we miss out on a lot of really good books.

Of course there is bad sci-fi, but it also depends on what your idea of science fiction is. It’s a very broad church.

It’s the same with crime. You might have a really tedious murder mystery, which breaks out all the cliches about pretty dead girls and the serial killer creeping up on people. We’ve seen it all before. And then you might read a crime novel like Gone Girl, which just blows you out of the water.

These distinctions they’re fake. They don’t exist. We need more hybrid novels. We need novels which can take their inspiration from the world.

Read what you wanna read.

Make yourself happy.

Read challenging adventurous, dangerous books across different genres.

Surprise yourself.



Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."


Chimamanda Adichie Shares the Ins-and-Outs of Writing Half of A Yellow Sun for Biafra Remembrance Day

Untitled design

  It’s Biafra Remembrance Day, and while many authors have written about the Biafra War, perhaps no other book on […]

Teju Cole’s Essay on The Disposability of Black Lives is Essential Reading for Our Current Moment

george floyd minneapolis teju cole

As we mourn the death of George Floyd, whose life was brutally taken by a white police officer in Minneapolis, […]

Lolwe Needs You to Achieve its Goal of Paying Writers

lolwe (2)

Lolwe is a literary magazine founded in January 2020 by Kenyan writer and editor Troy Onyango. One of the magazine’s […]

Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, Shortlisted for The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction

bernardine evaristo orwell prize (1)

Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other has been shortlisted for The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. Sponsored by The Orwell Foundation […]

#WeTurnToBooks Returns! Catch Nnedi Okorafor, Kiru Taye, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, & Ayesha Harruna Attah Live on Instagram

WeTurnToBooks Site

Hey Brittle Paper readers and followers! We’re excited to announce the second installment of our #WeTurnToBooks series on Instagram Live, […]

Tomi Adeyemi Recommends 5 Books to Escape Into While You’re Social Distancing

Untitled design

Wondering what’s on Tomi Adeyemi’s quarantine reading list? Adeyemi recently shared five books she is reading (and re-reading) during the […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.