My Split Book Personality

Sarah M. Chen

by Sarah M. Chen

A couple posts back, I discussed the personality type that I most identified with: the extroverted introvert. Now I’m going to discuss another conflicting aspect of my personality—my book personality.

If anyone asked what type of books I liked to read, I’d automatically say crime fiction and the darker the better. It’s also what I love to write. Many years ago, I was still finding my groove and it wasn’t until I got a few published short stories under my belt did I feel comfortable enough to write what was lurking inside me: tales of regular folks who didn’t make the best decisions for whatever reason. Folks you’d meet at a bar or waiting in line at the DMV. It’s stuff I enjoy writing because I can relate to it.

However, I also love another genre just as obsessively. My collection is split equally between crime fiction and this other genre. My reviews and recommendations are split down the middle as well.

There are many people out there who read multiple genres. They read the gamut, from nonfiction to literary to supernatural. I do the same thing to a certain extent. I’m both a book lover and bookseller so I’ll occasionally pick up a memoir or re-read a classic. Books that aren’t crime fiction, I include among my all-time favorites, like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and BLACK BEAUTY. But my go-to genre is dark crime fiction.


Yet this changed when I started reading YA several years ago. I was surprised that I loved it just as much as crime fiction. I adored it to the point where I wanted to write YA (and yes, I’m still struggling to finish my YA novel). I strongly identified with the angst, the loneliness, and the confusion of the teen protagonists. The overwhelming emotion and the life or death storylines (either figuratively or literally) are excruciatingly painful and lovely. Some YA fiction is even darker than many crime fiction novels I’ve read. They tackle heavy topics like incest, abuse, neglect, suicide, drugs, and gender/sexual/cultural identity with brutal honesty. Yet YA novels can also have a lightness and startling beauty to them. The teen voice is both world-weary and innocent, hopeful yet candid.

some of my favorite YAs
Some of my favorite YAs

I also love Middle Grade fiction for entirely different reasons. I love the whimsy and eagerness of an MG book. I have a soft spot for middle grade mysteries and wish there were more of them out there.

MG booksI think many booksellers feel the way I do. They may gravitate towards a certain genre and that becomes their wheelhouse but it’s nice to occasionally balance it with something completely different.

As a writer/fangirl/bookseller, I’m learning both communities—the crime fiction world and the YA/MG world—are the most supportive enthusiastic bunch I could ever hope to know. There is also a lot of overlap and crossover (usually when the crime fiction authors begin having kids of their own). Now that I think about it, it’s not so hard for me to believe that I love both genres equally. They’re all stories told from the heart that touch us in some way, and isn’t that ultimately, what we’re looking for as readers?

And since many of us are doing our favorite books of 2015, I guess I might as well end this post with my own list. So here are my top 3 from both crime fiction and YA, in no particular order:

  1. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins (crime fiction)
  2. STONE COLD DEAD by James W. Ziskin (crime fiction)
  3. CONCRETE ANGEL by Patricia Abbott (crime fiction)
  4. WE ALL LOOKED UP by Tommy Wallach (YA)
  5. CONVICTION by Kelly Loy Gilbert (YA)
  6. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir (YA)

I’ve provided links to my GoodReads or Mysterious Galaxy reviews for each title. It was hard to choose my favorites of 2015 but I’m pretty satisfied with this list. With that being said, I know I’m forgetting some outstanding novels. Here’s to a year filled with emotional, gut-wrenching, twisted, shocking, and uplifting fiction! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2016, but I already know there are some hugely-anticipated gems on the horizon.


Sarah M. Chen has worked a variety of odd jobs, ranging from script reader to private investigator assistant. Her crime fiction short stories have appeared online and in various anthologies, including All Due Respect, Akashic, Plan B, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Betty Fedora, Vol. 2, and Spelk. Her noir novella, Cleaning Up Finn, is coming out May 2016 with All Due Respect Books, proving she can write something over 6,000 words.

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28 thoughts on “My Split Book Personality

  1. Nice post and dilemma, Sarah. Since I became a published author with Crooked Cat Publishing (6 of my books) I’ve been reading across all genres – whereas before I tended to read historical, romance/chick-lit and classics. I’m really delighted to find that I’ve enjoyed novels that are dark crime; political thrillers; dystopian; fantasy/ magic…etc What really matters to me is that the work is well written and well-edited. I self-published The Taexali Game- my MG/ YA time travel historical adventure, professionally edited for me by a Crooked Cat editor. The writing of it was very different from my adult historical fiction, and I’ve, in many ways, agonised over it. I’ve had encouragingly good verbal feedback about it from local sources but these people only read paperbacks and don’t ever write reviews. Getting reviews is a nightmare- though I almost always post a review of a book read. If you know anyone interested in a review copy – please share! (ps I’ve never quite got the hang of Goodreads apart from using it to post reviews of books I’ve read on my ‘Bookshelf’.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it took me a while to get the hang of Goodreads. I’m still not totally comfortable with it yet, but other authors and publicists swear by it. I think the important part of Goodreads is that if you’re listed on it as an author with your books, then readers can select your book as “currently reading” or “want to read.” I think that helps boost visibility, etc. You can also follow other authors on Goodreads. Yes, getting reviews is challenging as well as getting those reviews noticed! I know there are some websites that specialize in reviewing kids books like or kids Thanks for sharing, Nancy!


  2. Such a great post Sarah! If helped me reflect on my book personalities as well. Every one of us are different in likes, and dislikes, but when the doors are kept open to trying something different, you never know what may be found.
    Because of this post, I am now going to be keeping a list and rate of each book I read for each year from here on out.
    Thank you for the wonderful thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s wonderful to hear that you will be rating and listing your books for 2016. If I don’t write a review or list it on Goodreads, I tend to forgot about it so your idea is a good one. Here’s to a fantastic reading journey! Thanks for reading and commenting, Darrah.


  3. With so many wonderful stories out there, it is not easy to find the time to both write and read. Although I am one who reads across the board, the idea that there are certain stories or authors I can choose when given a short time to read is comforting. Wising you the best in 2016 and great to have met you and learned of even more options for reading. Doris

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have to admit… your reveal that you like YA genre was a bit of a surprise. It reminds me of a story. Back in elementary school in Rialto, my class had a book-reading contest. Our names were up on a poster, and after we read a book, we’d get a ‘star’ placed next to our names. I read plenty of books, but never could keep up with this girl, Christine. All her books were novels about teenage girl detectives.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love that story, Mike! I’d sure give Christine a run for her money. 🙂 I read a lot of different fiction when I was young but I gobbled up The Bobbsey Twins. Oddly enough, I never read Nancy Drew which I still can’t believe. I adored Harriet the Spy though.


  5. I read YA because I’m a teacher and want to keep up a little with what my students are reading, but also because I do enjoy it a lot of the time. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a go-to genre for me, but I really do enjoy it.

    PS–I loved THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN too!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a great book, isn’t it? I read the ARC (advanced reader copy) late last year and thought, I really liked this and can’t believe it’s her first thriller. Now it’s on everyone’s “best of” list. Thanks for your comment, Joe!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I read a variety of genre, and I write tgat way too. My MG is The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk, my cozy mystery is Stamp Out Murder, then I have a devotional book The Journey Back, A Historical Western Romance, Two Anthologies I’ve edited and written for, Boys Will be Boys and All about the Girls. I am also a contributor to several books. So I’m pretty rounded, and I like it tgat way. My fans in each genre are waiting on the sequels. Glad you are like me and active in so much. Enjoyed your post. Cher’ley

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice post and I can relate. Although I haven’t published a lot except for my journal articles because I don’t put much out there, I did have two short stories published, both very different–one an historical inspirational romance and one a murder mystery, the dark side of a child murderer. My friends had a hard time finding something to say about the murder mystery. That isn’t me to them. But since I have worked in psych a lot, I understand some of the workings of the mind and what can lead people to do what they do sometimes. I am still wondering about myself too! You sound well-rounded!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m impressed you write such diverse genres – a historical inspirational romance and a murder mystery. Wow, that’s great! You sound just as well-rounded. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting, Neva.


  8. As an author I have been introduced to many different genres. When I meet another author at an event and we get along well I often feel compelled to buy their book. Well if I have a book I have to read it. So I have been introduced to poetry, westerns, memoirs, and a variety of fiction. I think each has it’s own qualities and my genre preference seems to be in flux at the moment since I recently added to my collection of books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never been able to be drawn to poetry. I did buy a copy of Pablo Neruda’s poems once…the name escapes me and I did enjoy a few. But perhaps I don’t have the patience for poetry. You sound very open-minded and supportive which I think is commendable. It’s great to support other writers, no matter what the genre. Thanks for sharing, S.J.


  9. It’s fun to read a variety of genres, and belonging to this group helps us all “discover” new works/genres. I like to find new titles and “test out the waters,” so to speak — that’s a good excuse to visit the library a lot! 🙂 Great post, Sarah!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I had a boss who was an epidemiologist and he said that he had some of his big breakthroughs by going to engineering lectures and other talks that were outside of his field. It helped to see things differently and attack his problem with new insight. I think your split personalities will only help your writing.

    I also want to go on record here to predict 2016 will be the year of Sarah Chen! Your hard work is paying off.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Good post Sarah. I definitely have a “split personality” when it comes to my taste in books. For a long time I read only true crime. From there I moved on to mysteries. But my favorite novels are and will always be the books I read in English Literature. I really enjoy many types of books and don’t put my finger on only one. I feel (for my writing) that reading many styles gives me good information and styles of writing, including verbiage, costumes, ad time and place. However, I understand your reading syle and the reasons for it. I, too, need to learn more about Goodreads. Good luck in 2016 Sarah, may only good things happen with your writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks, Linda! I wish the same for you as well! For some reason, I never ventured into reading true crime until just recently. I read a book about the Kitty Genovese murder (the one in the 60s in NYC where 20+ people heard the poor woman screaming but nobody helped her). It was shocking and totally engrossed me. I do need to pick up more true crime books, I think.


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