January 13, 2008
I’ve been puttering around this morning – picking up the clutter, playing with the cats, making chicken stock for the soup I plan to prepare later this afternoon, baking bread. Not reading – not yet. But, I’ve been thinking about what I read and why.
Earlier this week, on one of my many Yahoo book groups, someone posted that a friend of theirs thought reading fiction was a waste of time. This caught my attention…fiction is my overwhelming choice when it comes to reading material. When I chose non fiction, I tend toward that which ‘reads like fiction’ or memoirs, or crime stories which focus in on the people (characters, so to speak) and their motivations. I dislike dry histories or political exposes; I have to force myself to read professional journals.
I love historical fiction, or fiction in translation, or fiction which explores another culture. I fall into literature with rich, complex characters. Recently I read The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid (read my review). This book is being discussed at the 21st Fiction Yahoo Group. The discussion is fabulous – making me look more closely at American politics and foreign policy and our place in the world; forcing me to examine my biases and beliefs about a culture very different from my own. Certainly, this fiction is not a waste of time.
Looking back on 2007, scanning the nearly 100 books I read (85 being fiction), I find only a handful I would categorize as ‘a waste of time.’ The vast majority gave me reason to pause; to think about bigger issues; to examine my feelings about war, discrimination, interpersonal relationships, equality, religion and racism. Because a book is fictional does not mean it doesn’t contain reality or philosophy about the issues in our lives. I love connecting to fictional characters who are given permission to explore the world unencumbered by political correctness or adherence to the ‘facts’ per se. Not that fiction doesn’t contain real life events…we all know it does…but it is more about the exploration of ideas than about events. And this may be why I prefer it. I don’t want to just learn about an event and when it happened…I want to understand the individuals behind the event – their motivations, their thoughts, their moral dilemmas. Fiction feeds this need.
What do you think? Would you rather read fiction or non fiction? Have you thought about why you might prefer one over the other?
Just so you all don’t think I completely blew off my reading today, I thought I’d give you a final update. I’m currently reading an early review book from Random House: Have You Found Her, by Janice Erlbaum. This is one of those memoirs that reads like fiction – a disturbing, yet compelling book about the author’s experience (obsession) with a drug addicted, homeless teenager she meets while volunteering at a shelter. The book has a sense of doom about it…I’m half way through…and I’m nervous about how it will end. As memoirs go, this one fits the “genre” – lots of horrible childhood memories and how the author overcomes them. I don’t mean to sound overly negative. It’s a good read so far.
Until next week…Happy reading fellow Saloners!