A friend confessed the other day that she’s in the middle of reading four books. I have three on my bedside table, but at the moment I’m only reading one.
Seeing as how I write for a living – and in my spare time, too – you’d think that I’d spend a lot of time reading. I had to read a lot when I was in high school – 21 books the summer before my senior year, for example, all required. Then college – lots of textbooks, stuff I wouldn’t have picked myself.
I needed a break, so after I was fully schooled, I cut back for quite a while. Newspapers, magazines – I read a lot of those. When I went to work for a newspaper, I spent my whole shift reading things: good things, bad things, informative things, junky things. When we were waiting for local copy to come in, we’d scan the news wires. You learn a lot about journalism and perspective when you read six different versions of the same event – kind of like the blind men and the elephant.
Since I got divorced almost seven years ago, I’ve read almost exclusively non-fiction. I’ve made exceptions for the occasional Harry Potter and here and there a novel recommended by a friend, but I needed how-to manuals: medical, social, spiritual. As I tried to re-create my life as a single, 40-something woman, I needed a little guidance (OK, a lot of guidance).
There have certainly been times in the last few years when I wanted to escape from my own life, but I’ve found that my need to understand it – my needs, my desires, my motivations, my insecurities – overrode that flight instinct. I’ve felt an overwhelming need to improve, to tame my demons, let go of the things that have held me back. My fantasy life was just fine – I needed help with reality.
I read less news these days – both the subjects and the vehicles that deliver them just depress me – but I still gravitate toward books that help me grow. There will be no more Harry Potter, and I can’t quite bring myself to get immersed in the latest trilogy du jour. But I still find comfort in words – and for me, the truer the better.