Do we all have reading comfort zones, I wonder - that is genres or specific types of authors or periods or subjects within which we like to stay, knowing that our reading experience in that chosen sphere will most probably be a pleasurable one? Or do we read much more freely, never saying "I don't touch science fiction/chick lit./poetry/etc." but choosing our books as we happen to find them, unrestricted by preconceptions?
Fiction in English written in the last 100 years tends to be the area to which I gravitate. I seem to often like thoughtful and emotional fiction written by women - Woolf, Murdoch, Fitzgerald, Sarton, Byatt, Atwood, Olivia Manning, Munro, and now Sarah Salway, Claire Messud, and Hiliary Mantel. I especially love fiction with the romance of books or bookshops or libraries built into them - The Thirteenth Tale, The Book Shop, Parnasus on Wheels, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Inkheart, The Little Country.... I tend to like stories set more recently than, say, in the Middle Ages or Tudor times. But every rule I could claim I could just as easily break. For every cozy novel I like, I could claim a thriller. For every book written by a woman I could name a book by Herman Hesse, Ethan Canin, Charles Dickens, Potok, or Tim Winton. For every English book I could cite the pleasures I had reading Rohinton Mistry or Anatoli Rybakov. For every smarty book I could admit to some fun with a good mystery, young adult fantasy , or an all-nighter with The Secret History, and for every novel I love I can think of a play by Caryl Churchill, a poem by Tomas Transtroemer, a biography - Merle Miller's bio of Truman is the first that comes to mind - or other non-fiction read that I have not only anticipated with pleasure but that has delivered - Imperium by Kapuscinki really fits that category.
The short answer is, sure I have my comfort zone, but I don't read only for comfort. I read for escape, because I'm an information hoarder, I read to be shaken up, I read to travel, I read for romance, I read because I love the sensation of a narrative winding its way through my head. And that has to be the end of this one - I'm late!