Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Reading = Happiness

For me, reading has always been one the chief pleasures of life.  However, my reading habits have changed over the years.  I recently found myself reading almost exclusively non-fiction—not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I also included a few mysteries and police procedurals on the side, almost as a guilty pleasure.
            I’ve had some time to think about why this is so.  I think I can trace it to 15 years ago, when my parents were killed in a car accident.  My mother & I loved to discuss fiction, particularly Canadian fiction, and shared books regularly as part of our relationship.  When I lost Mom, I also lost the desire to read fiction.  What was the point if I had no one to discuss it with?  None of this was deliberate; I just drifted into the non-fiction habit without thinking about it.  It makes sense, as both my work and volunteer duties require a lot of factual knowledge.
            I also used to read science fiction during my teen and young adult years and even had certain authors whose works I collected.  I thoroughly enjoyed the genre, but once again, had wandered away from it.  This summer, events conspired to bring me back to the fiction and the science fictions folds.  I signed up for a writers’ conference (which had evolved from a science fiction writers’ conference) and decided that I would like to read some of the works by the guest authors before I attended.  That led to some research about the current state of the sci-fi genre and the discovery of a website.  On it was a list of many titles, urging readers to vote for their top 100 science fiction & fantasy novels of all time.  I recognized some old friends on the list, but there was so much more material that was new to me.  “Why not read through the list?” I thought. 
            Now, people like me need a plan, an organized way of tackling a project of this size.  The works were listed alphabetically by title.  Should I read through them in that order?  Or should I organize them by author?  What to do?  The conference helped me find my way to organize the reading list.  Two authors talked about the canon of SF literature and how many reviewers did not appreciate it.  Suddenly I had my framework:  I would start with the oldest books and work my way forward in time.  I would treat it like a literature course, where one begins with Beowulf, Chaucer & Shakespeare and works toward present day.  Then began the task of putting all the titles into order on a spreadsheet—while doing this, I discovered that many of the entries were not just single novels, but represented series.  Gulp!  Close to 600 titles appeared on my document.  I had certainly bitten off a big bite! 
            I’m enjoying the process immensely.  It has spurred me to read some classics that I would never have looked at without this impetus and I have revisited a number of titles that I read as a much younger person.  How my perspective on them has changed!  Now, when I babble about books, you may have some idea was has inspired me to read them and maybe some desire to read them yourself.

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