When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?—The Daily Post
(It’s tempting to end the post right there.)
I read both fiction and non-fiction, but not equally. There is only so much time in any given day to read, time spent reading non-fiction is time not spent reading fiction, and I’m reading more non-fiction nowadays, so the amount of fiction I read has to drop to compensate. My favorite genre is fantasy, but the older I get, the harder it is to find satisfying fantasy novels. This isn’t that whole debate about whether adults should be reading YA books—I’m talking about fantasy novels intended for adults. Much of the time I feel like I’m reading the same story over and over again. Probably a lot of this is life experience: what was new to me when I was in my teens isn’t new thirty years later. Of course it’s possible to make a great work out of the most well-worn plot, but a lot of fantasy isn’t that ambitious. Apparently I want to read fantasy, complete with most of its genre conventions, written to the standards of literary fiction. There isn’t that much of it around.
Meanwhile, the amount of non-fiction I read for pleasure continues to grow. It’s probably just a sign of growing up that I’ve figured out that a book can be interesting even if it’s not fiction. Like not being interested in certain fiction genres, lots of non-fiction doesn’t grab me either. I seem to gravitate towards textbooks (that calls to mind college textbooks, but I don’t have a better catch-all term for books that teach you how to do something) and essays, while memoirs almost never entice me. As long as I keep developing new interests, I won’t feel like I’m reading the same non-fiction repeatedly, which will be a great motivator in its own right for me to be open to new things.
I have this model of the ideal reading balance in my head. First, I’d read a non-fiction book. When finished, my next book would be fiction, so that anything I’d learned from the non-fiction book would have time to soak in. Then I’d read another non-fiction book because it takes time for me to mentally leave a fictional world I’ve been living in while reading a novel, and it’s often jarring to leap straight into another fiction book without a break. In reality, though, I end up reading library books that are coming due or the first book on the shelf that catches my eye as I’m getting ready to go to work or whatever. Oh well, it’s a goal.