This blog is 97% dedicated to fiction. That’s because my reading list = 97% fiction at the moment. Nothing strange about that, right? But in the context of my real life, it makes me wonder…
To give you an idea of my recent reading past: I spent three years in grad school (ending May 2009) reading about 80% non-fiction. The only reason the 80% wasn’t 100% was because I dosed myself with fiction in between projects…as a sanity-saving measure. Mostly that non-fiction I mentioned was social history of colonial South America. I still have all of the books from all of those classes in boxes, back at my parents’ house. I am even still vaguely interested, and I imagine I’ll eventually read them through. But for now? I think…that I’m still in backlash mode. I’ve swung very hard in the direction of me that likes comfort fiction – YA lit, science fiction, a little romance, humor and other ‘happy’ reads. Well, plus the occasional dystopian novel to keep things interesting.
I can’t help but wonder if this is a healthy side of me, or not. At other points in my life when I’ve come this way before, I’ve had formal study to eventually pull me back into more of a balance. And now (thanks to leaving grad school!) I don’t have that eventual, inevitable pendulum swing in my planned future. Definitely there should be a BIT more of a balance. 97% of anything isn’t exactly natural.
The thing that got me thinking about this is not that I’m dissatisfied with my current reading regimen. Far from it! I’m happy as a clam with my cozy weekends of teenage angst and magical happily ever after and ‘the world is ending!’ What made me take stock were the new friends I’ve gathered around me. They’re intense. They’re bold. They’re not really readers. But when they do read, they read with such purpose and drive…and they read almost exclusively non-fiction.
I mean, I’m not saying I’ve ever had someone outside of the family to really talk to about my fiction reading anyway. But this is taking it to another level. When they read, these new friends improve their minds. I’ve always been allergic to self-help books, but this is about using reading as a tool to become a better person – in a moral sense. In a change-so-the-inside-matches-the-outside kind of way. When you get past the sappiness, it sounds really admirable. I want to be that kind of person.
Maybe other people read schoolbooks to become a better person. I didn’t. I read them out of competitiveness or native interest. I am really curious about the stories in books, regardless of the educational ‘intent.’ But what I’m saying is that it never occurred to me that books for school were there to teach me to become a good person. I mean, some of that stuff rubbed off, sure. Some of that is definitely how I was raised, and the books were just reinforcement.
On the other hand, I have known my whole life that the Bible is a moral compass. It’s good for trying to understand abstract and concrete examples of ‘the good life.’ It’s got the best person EVER to emulate in there. I know it’s true. That’s why I still read it.
But I want to find some non-Bible reading material that urges me to consider new concepts, stretch my brain, and improve my character. Where to start? I need suggestions. What’s a non-fiction book that made you re-consider life? That inspired you, made you want to ‘do’ instead of sitting? I don’t need theological texts, necessarily. I just need a place to start – maybe a book or two to slip into the mountain of fiction. Help me out?