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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Reading Resolutions or Learning How to Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

This year I’m not getting a new gym membership or cutting out carbs, but I have decided to commit to being more thoughtful about what I put in my brain. Food and books are two of my favorite things and I’m omnivorous and voracious with both. However, while I stock my fridge and pantry with the things that I know are good for me and search for the best ways in which to incorporate them on my plate, I have not been as careful in my library.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading things that are good for me, but perhaps a concerted effort to include them in my rotation is just what the doctor has ordered in this, first day of the rest of my life. It’s time to be more conscious of the most overlooked parts of my reading diet: The Classics (fruits) and Non-Fiction (vegetables).

There is an assumption among many that book lovers have read the mainstays of literature, but, alas, this is often not the case. In particular in my case... Sure, I have a strong background in sailing with Prince Caspian and Captain Hook, trekking to the Lonely Mountain, searching the streets of London with Holmes and Watson, and The Bard and I go way back, but there are some serious holes. I don’t know the ins and outs of Elizabeth and Darcy when they aren’t being chased by zombies and the Artful Dodger, in my experience, comes complete with an introductory song. I’m not saying I don’t know anything about these books, they’re so ubiquitous that I’m well versed in their basic plots, but I’ve never read them for myself to truly see what all the fuss is about. I think it’s time that starts to change.

I’ve deemed Classics as the fruits because most people, even if they don’t like healthy food, will eat berries, citrus or something tropical. It’s one step away from candy! In fact, most candy is supposed to taste like fruit, that’s how sweet it is. These are the stories that have been in people’s minds and on their tongues for generations. Recreated and re-told, they stand the test of time. It should be fun to discover why they’ve made it so far and are considered some of the great works of literature. I will endeavor to do just that.

I like non-fiction. Really, I do. My particular favorite is the stuff that reads like great historical fiction. It’s like eating delicious queso only to find out that it was butternut squash the whole time! Part of that is probably because I love historical fiction (when it’s well done), which is more akin to eating a brownie only to discover there was also zucchini delicately folded into the batter. I think really wonderful historical fiction writers are equally great historians in their own right. But that’s not what I’m supposed to be talking about here…There’s a lot of great non-fiction out there, but it’s not always the first thing I’m drawn to when I walk into a bookstore. Or the second. In fact, it might be the section I’m most likely to skip. That ends now! I will seek out non-fiction first—well, sometimes—but I will look certainly look harder to find what I like.

Most people feel that they should read non-fiction, but are sure that it will be boring. Like vegetables. But there are so many different varieties: memoirs, autobiography, history, far off lands, harrowing tales of heroism, little known facts and events, scandals, etc. I want to try more of all of it to really help me understand what I like. Trying all the vegetables and discovering which recipes make them the most delicious. I need to accustom my pallet. Turns out I actually like Brussel sprouts. Who knew?

Anyway, this is my get in shape brain plan for 2016. It’s still all the good stuff, but more variety. I will endeavor to sneak the healthy things into my regular rotation so that at least 20% of the books I read move from my “I Wish I’d Already Read This” pile to my “I’m Actually Reading This Now” pile. That’s 1 in 5, People! Wish me luck!

P.S. - How much do you want to start comparing all genres to food groups right now? Because that’s definitely what I want to do with the rest of day.

1 comment:

  1. The interesting thing about reading well-known classics is how different they can be from what you expect. For example, Oliver Twist is thought of as a children's book, but it's actually extremely dark, and Oliver practically disappears from the final third of the story. I thought Wuthering Heights was a romance, but after reading it I'm convinced it's really a horror story; I didn't find it romantic at all, but successfully horrific.