Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth
— Albert Camus
I’ve had a strange and complicated relationship with reading over the years. For most of my adult life, I settled into reading fiction – psychological thrillers and crime novels.
But on the morning I discovered my husband’s suicide, I stopped reading altogether. When I could finally concentrate enough to resume my reading habit, I could no longer read anything graphic, brutal or bloodthirsty. I read almost exclusively non-fiction, filling my brain with pop psychology self-help books and spiritual texts.
When I went back to University, I was plunged into the world of literary fiction, catching up on the masters I had overlooked in my youth — Faulkner, Marquez, and Flaubert. When I began to write my own memoir, I read every other memoir I could lay my hands on.
These days, I find myself reading short stories, in an effort to unlock the secrets of the form. Most of the time I’m either bored or lost. I’m not entirely convinced they are my thing.
And so I read bestsellers and try to feel moved, I try to understand what everyone finds so appealing. But sometimes it seems like a waste of time. Jeanette Winterson says reading gives us what religion used to — comfort, solace and a sense of being in a time and place beyond our physical experience. I wish it did — it’s not working for me anymore.
In the past four years I’ve only read a handful of books that have stuck with me … I can only think of three off the top of my head ~
- The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure (Spiritual Fiction)
- Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Memoir)
- Into the Garden of Gethsemane, Georgia (Magic Realism)
I’m running out of ideas of what to read (and the related issue of what to write). Please help me out.
What type of books do you like to read?
What one book could you read over and over again?
What book transformed your view of the world?
This post was inspired by the Daily Post blog prompt.
13 thoughts on “Truth or Fiction”
I love memoirs too! I always go back to fiction though, but not one type of fiction. Working at a library for many years taught me to explore the stacks.
Working in a library sounds like my dream job. Lucky you 😉
It was wonderful! I don’t work at a library anymore but of course I am a frequent visitor.
AS Byatt’s Possession and Children’s Story are two favorites. Both are dense but deeply satisfying.
I haven’t heard of either of those books. I’ll have to look them up. Thank you.
I’m a hell of a bookworm, not so much now as I used to – I blame Netflix for that – but still… I’ve read, easily, hundreds of books, with no exaggeration there. Yet I can only put a finger on a very select few books that REALLY stuck with me, moved me and made me feel like I was reading something special. There’s just such a huge body of literature available to us now that we’re much more likely to come up with a miss than a hit. Not to mention best sellers and really ‘popular’ books tend to have gotten to that point more via marketing than the actual book content and its worth as a literary work. Don’t give up on books just yet, you just have to find your new niche. And honestly, I’m not a fan of short stories either!
Too many misses, that’s the problem. Hit me with your best recommendation x
Katie, get hold of a copy of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. It’s one of those books that stays with you…
Thanks for the reminder, Linda. I’ve been looking at that book for awhile.
Truth be told, “serious literature” bores the snot out of me. When I’m reading to relax, as opposed to learning something, I like cheesy little cozy murder mysteries, where nothing is that graphic and the focus is on the puzzle and the relationships that drive the sleuth’s life. I also like fantasy and light science fiction. I’ll even check out the odd romance or two, although those can get really old really fast. Oddly enough, the books that stick with me the best are some of the lightest, most fun, rather than emotionally draining. Give me Harry Potter, or better still Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels (starts with The Lightening Thief). Or (dare I suggest it?) a bit of a light romantic serial called White House Rhapsody….
Thank you for your suggestions — I haven’t heard of any of those (except HP of course). x
I’ve been reading through a bunch of posts responding to The Great Divide daily prompt. I feel drawn to comment on yours because it connects with me in several places. The word ‘suicide’ leapt off the page for me as it’s figured too heavily in my life these last two years, and even this last month. And another thing that caught my attention in your post was how, like many other bloggers, you say how much you once loved reading fantasy. And yet this is one genre I just can’t connect with, even though I’m an avid reader of almost anything. So it’s really been noticeable how many bloggers name fantasy as a favourite genre. You ask some good questions. I like both fiction and non-fiction and particularly enjoy novels that are historically quite accurate even if entirely fictitious. The one book I can and do read again and again is the Bible and a book that transformed my view of the world when I was a teenager (over 30 years ago) was Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. I couldn’t bear that humans could treat other human beings so badly and justice is still one of the things I care most passionately about. Thanks for an inspiring post.
Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I’ve read the Bible but not the other one you mentioned. I’ll check it out.
Comments are closed.