Typically, I alternate between fiction and nonfiction books in my reading. My fiction selections tend toward the literary in genre; my nonfiction reads run the gamut from science to business to essays and history.
I find truth in both types of books.
In fiction, I discover more truth about the human condition and relationships. In nonfiction, I uncover insights into the past and present, business and economic realities, best practices for living, and the wonder of the natural world. Alternating types of reads makes me feel better rounded than I would feel if I read in gluts of one or the other.
And sometimes, just reading fiction feels overly self-indulgent.
Yet when I went to my bookshelf today to select my next read, I had no interest in any of the fantastic nonfiction prospects on my shelf. I didn’t want edification on business or life hacking or the history and current affairs of science—to name a few examples. These books didn’t call to me even though I find them interesting and look forward to reading them (at some point).
I just wanted another novel.
Given that year-end always turns into a busy time in my work life, I could likely benefit from reading some of the business options. Yet right now I spend the overwhelming portion of my day—an even vaster majority than usual—puzzling through business problems and reading business materials.
I’ve reached my capacity for business thinking at this particular moment. I could read one of the great business books on my shelf, but I wouldn’t do it justice right now. I wouldn’t read it as actively as I should read it. In a way, I need to read business books when I have calm in my work life—when I’d have more receptivity to absorb their wisdom.
The other nonfiction reads?
I love science, but it doesn’t pull me today. I don’t feel open to its wisdom. History? Same. I don’t feel like nonfiction can fulfill my intellectual and spiritual needs right now. No matter the book’s topic.
Novels might. In this very moment, I crave the insights and knowledge that fiction provides about human interactions, emotions, and conditions. I need to sense a commonality of feeling and thought—and to see where perspectives differ from mine.
And yes, I seek the comforting cradle of characters, settings, plotlines, stories.
Call me self-indulgent. After all, sometimes self-indulgence serves a deeper purpose. Sometimes we know what we need.
How do you decide what to read and when to read it? And why?