Join the Genre Bingo Challenge


Those of you old enough, try to hear the voice of Rod Serling as you read this paragraph: “Imagine, if you will, an ordinary 25 square Bingo card, five rows by five rows. It is titled Genre Bingo Challenge. Now imagine that this particular Bingo card is blank. There are no letters or words in its squares. Instead, you are in control of what those squares will say. You are the master of this Genre Bingo universe. Welcome to the Twilight Zone.”

The adult Genre Bingo Challenge is in some ways a typical reading challenge. We read a book, we fill in the square, and when we have a Bingo by completing one whole row – across, up and down, or diagonally – we turn our card in for a chance to win a prize.

So, what makes this challenge different? It is the fun we can have with the concept of genres. The idea is to be self-conscious of what genres we gravitate toward and extend our reach a bit. It is also an opportunity to see that which we do read in a different light as we imagine the variety of genres one book can represent and how we wish to designate it on our card. And, we can have fun using the Center Square (usually a FREE space) to create our own genre and designate which book we are going to call by that new genre.

And why not? These things are fluid to begin with. We won’t worry about the difference between genres and subgenres, but you’ll likely be playing in the landscape of the sub ones. We could tell ourselves that we are playing a challenge game that, in the framework of the whole Bingo card itself, is really a “creative non-fiction graphic short story.” See what I did there? You can say, if you like, that there is no such thing, but I assure you now that I’ve labeled it so, there is. No one’s going to teach it in college (yet). But still, these things aren’t magic. There is no “genre keeper.” And I reserve the right to use that one on the card, but you can have it, too, although not for the middle space where you make up your own. That’s now my middle space. (See the article on Cozy Mysteries already posted on this blog.)

But how can one book be one genre on someone’s card and yet that very same book might be a different genre on someone else’s card? Let’s start with the two biggies: Fiction and Non-Fiction. Normally it is clear which book goes with which of those although the fuzziness of even those has given rise to something called Creative Non-Fiction.

But it is the more specifically descriptive sub-genres that are fun. I’ve recently finished The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. On Good Reads, this book is listed as: Mystery, Fiction, Crime, Mystery-Thriller, Thriller, Humor, Contemporary, Cozy Mystery, and Murder Mystery. If I wanted to think more expansively, I might call it British Senior Living, British Senior Living for the Upper Crust, Contemporary Law Enforcement Hobbies, British Contemporary Mysteries Set in Ancient Convents (I suspect there’s enough books out there that this describes to give that one legs), and Police-Community Cross-Jurisdictional Cooperative Crime Solving. In fact, I feel free to use any one of those in the square of my choice. But the center square – that’s the one where we for sure make up our own genre because there’s going to be a prize for creativity. The creative part is how well your book matches your new genre. (And if you don’t want to do that, just don’t use a line involving the center square. You can use it or easily work around it.)

Basic rules: We don’t have an official Bingo card for this. Draw a grid on a piece of paper and use that. The timeline is anything you’ve read from Feb. 1 to May 31, 2021. Every square has to be a different genre AND different book. You only need five books. And please use the center square to create your own genre to go with a book of your choice if you wish. As time Marches on (Feb. almost having taken its leave) and we get a grip on prizes, announcements will be made to keep us all on track.

See you at the Library!

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