Monday, April 25, 2016

The Cozy Book Corner No. 5: Balancing Fiction and Nonfiction

Welcome to my Monday feature!

I have moved this feature
from Friday to Monday.

In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.

This post might sound a bit 
like the one from last week.
Please bear with me. I think my 
subconscious mind simply decided to
expand upon the topic presented in 
the previous post.   

Book blogging is such a delightful venture! All of us who blog about books do so because we love to write book reviews, post other kinds of book articles, and, of course, also love to meet other passionate bookworms. 

Most book bloggers, I've noticed, blog about fiction, and prefer specific fiction genres, as well. However, there's a number of book bloggers who also, or even exclusively, blog about nonfiction. The first example that comes to mind is that of Brian Joseph, whose blog, Babbling Books, contains fascinating posts about both fiction and nonfiction books. I'm not sure whether he consciously strives to keep a balance between these two broad categories, but I do see a nice mix of the two on his blog.

In the years since I began to blog about books (2010), I have often resisted specializing in one specific genre or category, preferring to have an eclectic blog, instead. However, I have also noticed that, whenever I have posted a review about a nonfiction book, I usually got very few or no comments. This was very discouraging, as I wanted -- and still want -- to be able to read and review all the genres I love, and these definitely include nonfiction books. 

One day, I decided to start a blog specifically for classics, literary fiction, adult fantasy, science fiction, and nonfiction. I also wanted to include Christian fiction. Thus, MindSpirit Journeys was born, in 2012. Meanwhile, I decided to dedicate my first blog, A Night's Dream of Books, exclusively to the Young Adult Fiction genre, with perhaps an occasional adult title (historical romance, for instance) every so often.

I soon began to feel the pressure of having two blogs, so I abandoned MindSpirit Book Journeys for quite some time. I didn't think I'd ever return to it, but eventually, I did, for the simple reason that I wanted to review books I knew my YA audience wouldn't be interested in. Most of these were nonfiction books.

Then the tug-of-war took me a long time to actually acknowledge it, but now I am doing so. Both fiction and nonfiction are interesting to me; both draw me in, and there are times I prefer to read one more than the other. So it's quite impossible for me to attempt to make sure I read an equal number of books in each category, much as I would love to! I simply "go with the flow", at least most of the time.

Even when I begin reading a novel that keeps me turning pages, there are times when I fall into certain moods, or some topic catches my interest. At such times, I frequently will abandon or "leave for later" whatever novel I happen to be reading, and reach for a nonfiction book.

A case in point: for several days now, I've had the novel Water For Elephants in my sidebar, posted as the next book I'll read. Well, sure enough, a nonfiction book has caught my attention, and this is the book I'm actually reading.... I'm not sure why I got into it, except that the topic involved -- the Kaballah -- has been an interest of mine for quite some time, even though I haven't read about it consistently, or extensively. The reason for this, ironically, is that I've been pulled away by either other nonfiction books, or some very compelling novels! Now I'm feeling a pull in the opposite direction, and so I have started (I'm currently in the middle) Kaballah: Key to Your Inner Power, by Elizabeth Clare Prophet.

I have already changed the picture in the sidebar to reflect my real current read. So now I'm feeling somewhat "guilty" for not reading the other book at this time, when I was "supposed to". I almost feel as if I have to make it up to this book, as if its feelings had been hurt.... Kinda funny, right?

I do want to read Water For Elephants. I will probably do so after I finish the Kaballah book. Well, that will happen unless another nonfiction book happens to catch my eye.... Could there possibly be such a thing as "fickleness" and "unfaithfulness" in reading?

I wonder if other book bloggers also experience this tension between reading fiction and nonfiction. I wonder if any of my fellow bookworms agonize over their decisions to read one or the other of these two categories...

Compounding the problem, in my particular case, is the fact that I do have two blogs, AND, on top of that, am a pretty slow reader, usually managing to finish 2 or 3 books a month. This means that, if I read a book that I know I will review on one of my two blogs, that's time I cannot spend reading a book that I will review on the other blog, because of the different target audiences.

What to do?! I'm seriously thinking of flipping a coin the next time I get ready to start reading something!  I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. I should be asle to decide, in a logical, non-emotional manner, which book -- as well as genre -- I should read next. Well, perhaps Mr. Spock would calmly be able to do so, but I have emotions, and it's frequently my emotions that influence my choice of fiction vs. nonfiction. On the other hand, intellectual interests do influence my decision to read nonfiction (although these interests are tinged with emotion, as well, albeit one of intellectual fascination). There are many topics that utterly fascinate me. Most of them have to do with psychology, art, literary criticism, theology, and even some philosophy and science. History is another topic I want to read more about, as well.

The thing is, when I am caught by the pull of a particular interest, I am unable to ignore it, and stick with the book I had previously chosen to read. Whether the pull is an emotional or intellectual one (or a mixture of the two), actually doesn't matter at all. I feel compelled to abandon my previous reading plan, and go with the one that has unexpectedly presented itself....

Meanwhile, my mind and emotions are usually torn; I want to go on with my original intent. But there are other times in which I feel no regrets whatsoever, and happily go on with my revised reading plan.

So the struggle continues.... As I look over my bookshelves, here in our living room, my eyes lovingly caress all those fascinating book spines, and I sigh with a mixture of love nd despair.....I love all of these books, and want to read them all, but don't know if I'll EVER be able to, especially when there are times I can't decide between reading fiction or nonfiction, and, even when I make a choice, I still look longingly at the book I have "left behind" for later, wondering if perhaps I never will get back to it....               

What are your thoughts 
on this subject?
How do you balance fiction and nonfiction in 
your reading life?


Brian Joseph said...

Thanks so much for the mention Maria.

This has been a topic of great interest for mr. I have given it a lot of thought. I very much relate to the issues that you brought up.

I think that I mentioned to you before, if I have the urge to read something I read it and try not to put it aside so that I do not lose interest in it.

When deciding what to read next the decider will be a balance between fiction and non fiction if I am torn between picks. But it is not my prime consideration.

Maria Behar said...

Hey, Brian!

You're very welcome for the mention! I really like the mix of fiction and nonfiction you have on your blog!! :)

I see that you have less trouble than I do, when it comes to balancing these two broad reading categories! I, on the other hand, do tend to feel very conflicted when choosing between the two.... Since I'm such a slow reader, I do have a hard time choosing what to read next....I have SO many terrific books to choose from!!

I should have mentioned the fact that I'm also already reading a fiction book -- "Last Sacrifice" -- for A NIGHT'S DREAM OF BOOKS. I guess that also played a part in my choosing to go with nonfiction for this blog. However, it was also that inner pull toward the topic covered in the book.

Thanks for the nice comment!! :)