A few months ago, I complained to my wife that I just wasn’t into reading anymore. Actually, I think it was more like I was bored with the reading I was doing. I was initially blaming my lack of reading on the three and a half years I spent reading theology in seminary. I told myself that my brain was too full and I need to get stuff out of it to get back into the swing of things. Problem with that was that I get inspired to write by reading. It’s a thing that writers are also readers, and that’s very true of me. To put it another way: I wasn’t reading, but I wasn’t writing either.
So, when I complaining to my wife about it, she asked me what books I had been reading. It was mostly what I like to call “brain candy”: light, fun, not very deep stuff and mostly scifi and fantasy. The only books that had really made me think and fed my soul up until then were Julia Child’s memoir about her time in France and Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking.” She knew what my problem was: my reading tastes had changed and I needed more meaty books to read. How about some classics? Have you read things like “Animal Farm?” or “Catcher in the Rye?”
I shook my head. I knew that a lot of the books she was suggesting I was supposed to read in high school, but I ended not doing so because I had teachers that had particular, and peculiar, tastes (my Junior AP English teacher had an unhealthy obsession with William Faulkner, who I can’t stand!). I started with “Animal Farm” and plowed through it in two days. Then I read “Catcher in the Rye,” and got through that pretty quickly too.
My wife, as always, was quite right. My tastes have changed. I’ve since been drifting more outside of my scifi/fantasy comfort zone and finding things much more interesting. I’ve also been getting into more of the memoirs and non-fiction, especially if they’re about travel and food. I’ve even read some brain candy romance (don’t judge me) when I needed some fluff. (My wife also, around this time, got me a Kindle Paperwhite, which is super awesome to read on, and much easier on the eyes than my iPhone, which has also helped.)
The weird part for me is this feeling that I’m betraying my scifi/fantasy roots. I mean, I’ve read a couple scifi novels here and there (“The Martian”, “The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet”), and several short story collections since I’ve been branching out, but it’s mostly been non-fiction, history, classics, and other genres of fiction (oh, and the occasional erotic novel thanks to Forbidden Fiction). It’s like scifi is sitting there in my Kindle like an ignored puppy saying “Why aren’t you reading me anymore? Why are you reading that other stuff?” Or maybe it’s like I’m abandoning my childhood stuffed animal that I always slept with because I don’t need it anymore? Like it’s been relegated to a special shelf in my room, where I can look at it and be all nostalgic, but I’m ok without it.
Thing is, I’m still pretty steeped in scifi fandom when it comes to TV shows and movies. Doctor Who, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Arrow, The Flash, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, among others (and, this weekend, the new Star Wars movie!). I guess maybe the video side of scifi is more interesting to me at the moment rather than the book end of scifi/fantasy. I’m sure there’s scifi/fantasy books that I should be reading that would be juicy and feed my soul that people will want me to read (and you can leave recommendations in the comments), but a lot of it has been, very, well….formulary. It’s weird to read the same type of story over and over and realize that they are all written by different authors and have the same kind of characters that are just dressed differently. That didn’t seem to matter in my teens and twenties, but now?
Maybe I feel weird because scifi/fantasy books are what helped me through childhood. Or maybe it’s because the genre has a pretty hardcore fanbase? It always seemed that most scifi fans read only scifi for their recreational reading and that any other genre was inferior. That was my perception, anyway. I don’t think I ever really fully believed that, but I felt like I’d only been interested in that genre and nothing else for a very long time. Maybe seminary broke that in me, and now I’m looking for a wider world of books to feed my soul?
Maybe that’s it. No matter what, though, I’m glad I’m branching out.