Up until a few years ago, I was always a fiction-only reader. For fun, that is. I’d read the paper, sure, and bits and pieces in magazines, but I didn’t really read non-fiction books.
Looking at things I’ve bought and read recently, that has definitely changed. While I doubt I’ll ever be a non-fiction-only reader- I like my stories far too much for that- I’d guess, at the moment, it’s about a 50/50 split.
Well, at the same time I was shifting between fiction and non-fiction, the type of fiction I read changed a bit too. I used to be a shameless lover of that most-tragic-of-genres, chic lit. Actually, the well-written stuff (most of what Sophie Kinsella and Meg Cabot have written), is really light and fun, and generally quite clever. But I started reading more “serious” stuff. Things I once read for class, I now read for pleasure. So reading became less about enjoying the story, and became more about the book.
Because the simple fact is that Tess of the d’Urbervilles is not a nice story. It’s a wonderful book, but it’s not a nice story. Separating the experience of reading a book from enjoying a story is a key part, I think, of maturing as a reader.
And beyond that, you can then separate appreciating a book from enjoying the experience of reading a book. I’m taking part in Infinite Summer, though it’s winter here and I’m impossibly behind. Infinite Jest is a rewarding book to read, and whenever I close it, I can honestly say I appreciated it. But did I enjoy it? I don’t know.
And perhaps maturing in my approach to fiction allowed me to engage with non-fiction. To see reading for something more than the story. Which I always knew it could be, obviously, but rarely pursued recreationally. I think reading novels from which the reward springs not from the story, but the book as a whole, warmed me up to reading non-fiction. And I’m glad it did. I’m just sort of sad it took this long.