Module 31: Development of a Reader Network

Faculty Contact: John O'Donovan and John Mohr

Research Areas:


Why do we read what we read? Why does one person devour mystery novel after mystery novel while another prefers classics?

We think of fiction in terms of genre; this book is a thriller, this author writes fantasy. But does the average Harry Potter fan stay within the fantasy genre, or do they branch out, seeking stories with the same sense of wonder, exploration, and adventure? Do genres actually represent the groups of books people read?

In a preliminary study of 2,000 Goodreads users we extracted groups of books that the same people often read.  We found most groups mix specific genres (“Contemporary Paranormal Romance”) or represent broad styles (“Realism and Magic Realism”). Fame also shaped certain groups -- literary prize winners formed a group while books recommended by a certain journalist formed another.

Suddenly the established, traditional idea of genre does not describe readers so well.  Yet story structure and tone do not define readers either. These book groups -- just like their readers -- are messy, living things that do not fit in a single framework.

This module extends the researchers' analysis to the full data set and involves the transcription and submission of a conference paper. 

Active Quarters:

  • Spring 2017: Taom Sakal and Rachel Redberg