It is a few months since I have been stuck in this persona of a non-fiction reader.
And this turn of events surprises me because there was a time in my life when I thrived on fiction. I would read almost a book every day – and get consumed by the ebbs and flows of all the action in those pages. In my teens, it was the Nancy Drews and Agatha Christies. The twenties started with the intensity of Ayn Rand – followed by Booker prize nominees and winners – Aravind Adiga, Amitav Ghosh, Emma Donoghue, you name it. The only non-fiction books that sneaked into my reading list were celebrity publications. One that I distinctly remember is Shashi Tharoor’s ‘The Argumentative Indian’ – that one was like a workout for my vocabulary!
And then later, as screenwriters ran out of creative ammunition and the trend of books screenwritten into movies took over – The Twilight Series, Vampire Diaries, Game of Game of Thrones, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had always read the stories cover to cover before anyone had even heard of them on TV or Netflix. Boy, was I ahead of the game!
But then, one fine day – the rush stopped.
It is hard to pinpoint what caused this, but there was this long phase when I didn’t do much fiction reading and the switch flipped. I think that with time – you are more aware of your factual ignorance, and a lot of non-fiction reading I began with was to bridge that gap. Some of them – like ‘Homo Sapiens’ helped me understand my own roots.
And slowly my bookshelf filled up with the Ray Dalio, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Tim O’ Reilly and Malcolm Gladwells of the world. In fact – the last book I was hooked on to was ‘The Society of Mind’ by Marvin Minsky ( a friend of mine was appalled when I had tugged it along to a coffee shop – Seriously, this seems like a dense reading assignment you’d punish someone with, how can you read it for pleasure?!! )
Well honestly – it was not an easy read. And even though the language was simple, I had to read it over, again and again, to connect the dots and get the message right. Still, with my current frame of mind, it was easier for me to absorb than a work of fiction. Nowadays, I pick up fiction books to read but it’s hard to follow along with the emotional threads and vagaries of a story. I get exhausted and give up.
Surprising, isn’t it?
My guess is that after a while of practice – facts and logic get hammered into your brain, and you almost start predicting what a logical argument will look like. There are, after all only a few ways in which you can get the logic right. And somehow I observed that there is a lesser cognitive load in reading non-fiction- because is almost an extension of what I do in my day job.
Or… Perhaps I am going through a phase – you may say.
Whatever that is, I would hate to lose that appreciation of fiction, poetry and intense emotions that a string of words can bring. That’s what attracted me to the lure of reading in the first place!.
Those stories that can take you through a rollercoaster of thrill, happiness, hope, dismay, and laughter have burned timeless memories in my brain. So many solitary, but memorable moments spent with a book – alone at times perhaps, but never lonely.
Which brings me back to the current state of things.
The long weekend is here – I am struggling with Zadie Smith’s ‘Swing Time’ .. nursing a cup of coffee.. and fervently hoping that my Fiction reading bug comes back!
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