How has your reading changed over the years? Have you started reading more “meaty” books (books with more substance)? Or, have you gone to more “fluffy” reads? Perhaps you’ve done neither, and you’ve just always read the same type of thing! If that’s the case, why? Are you willing to step out of your reading ‘comfort zone’ and try something new? What would you recommend to someone who needed to “branch out”?
Somewhat surprisingly, I think I’ve seen the most change in my reading over the last five years or so. For much of my life after college, I read mostly non-fiction, figuring that since I had little time to read I wanted to make that time “useful” and learn about something. If I wanted escapism, I turned to my old standby, science fiction.
Over the last several years, though, I have gradually moved to a more equal balance between fiction (other than SF) and non-fiction. There may have even been occasions in the past couple years where I read more fiction than non-fiction, particularly if SF is included. I don’t have a real explanation for it. I know my reading time has increased as my kids grew older and the number of school-related and extracurricular activities I had to attend dwindled. I speculate that the increase in available reading time led me to look for more variety.
The most significant change — one I’ve mentioned here several times — is an increasing attraction of foreign literature. I think I see that as a way to not only broaden the subjects I read but to use fiction as a way to learn about other cultures and places through the eyes of those who know it best.
In fact, that is exactly what I would recommend for those who want to branch out. Pick up some foreign literature — Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses, Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture or Literature from the “Axis of Evil”: Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Other Enemy Nations — and see what you’ve been missing.
Reading has always been life unwrapped to me, a way of understanding the world and understanding myself through both the unknown and the everyday.
Anna Quindlen, NYT, Aug, 7, 1991