Write a lot and read a lot are two of the most important things a writer can do to help improve their craft. In a perfect world, having perfect discipline, that would mean writing a certain amount each and every day, as well as devoting time to reading every day. Or you could do like I do and write a lot for a while, then read a lot for a while. Right now I'm in the "read a lot" phase.
Urban fantasy is my favorite genre, and I also love books that have a strong blend of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I have found, though, that it is entirely possible to overdose on your favorite genre. I've been reading more and more in other genres lately, and I think it's a good idea for a writer to read outside their chosen genre. It's a good way to remind yourself of your love of reading and good stories, and to learn new tricks. You might even find yourself inspired to branch out a little in your own writing.
So what have I been reading, other than the usual UF and PNR? In recent weeks it's been various sub-genres of romance. Contemporary romance, which I had quit reading for years but recently came back to. Historical romance, another one I had quit reading for years. I've even found a couple of Regency romances I liked after years of avoiding them. What I've enjoyed the most is two sub-genres that are new to me, sci-fi romance and steampunk romance. Steampunk is a fun, fascinating genre that is rapidly gaining in popularity, so get used to seeing it on both virtual and brick-and-mortar shelves. As for sci-fi romance, I don't know the origins of this as a sub-genre of romance but I'm betting its popularity is helped by fans of Firefly. I know my love for Joss Whedon's short-lived space western has guided a reading choice or two for me.
Reading in different genres has inspired some stories ideas for me but so far nothing I've been able to get much farther past the "idea" stage. I'll probably keep trying, especially when I'm at a lull with my usual UF projects. One of my goals is to write something out of my comfort zone. Hopefully continuing to read outside my chosen genre will one day help me do just that. It might be romance, it might be some cyberpunk flavored sci-fi, who knows. Maybe I will succeed and write a good story but even if I don't and it winds up in the Trunk folder, it will still be a learning experience that can only help me improve my craft as a writer.
What kind of books do you like to read that are outside your chosen genre as a writer?