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The Sunday Salon: Balancing My Reading Diet

The Sunday Salon.com Wallace (Unpoutdownables) had a post earlier this week where she talked about having a well balanced reading diet, and I really liked that idea, especially since for the last several months, my reading diet has been anything but balanced.

In the last two months I’ve read 12 books, and of those only two were fiction (and one was an audio book, so I’ve only “read” one fiction book in two months)! While that’s not entirely surprising given that I love nonfiction, reading Nina Sankovitch’s Tolstoy and the Purple Chair last week put me in the mood to switch up my reading diet a little bit and get some variety of the fictional sort.

I also haven’t had a really, truly stunning reading experience in awhile. I’ve read some great books, that’s for sure, but I haven’t grabbed on in awhile that twisted my heart and latched into my brain for the long haul in several months. Sankovitch writes about this in the book, using a character from a book to ask,

“Have you ever been heartbroken to finish a book? Has a writer kept whispering in your ear long after the last page has turned?” — Constance Fenimore Woolson in Elizabeth Maguire’s The Open Door

Yes, that has happened! The Book Thief, The Blind Assassin, The Weird Sisters, Nothing to Envy, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Warmth of Other Suns… all books that have whispered to me after I finished. I want to find another one of those.

But how to find one? That’s always the tricky part, isn’t it? With obligations and recommendations and whatnot, it’s easy to lose track of just reading to read. I think that may be part of my problem as well. There was one other piece of advice that Sankovitch quotes that I think offers an answer to this anxiety:

“Be serious, earnest, sincere in your choice of books, and then put your trust in Providence and read with an easy mind.” — Personality Development: A Practical Self-Teaching Course

I really like that idea… think carefully about what you read, but once you decide on the next book just immerse in experience. Don’t think about it so much. Just read.

With all of those things floating in my head, I decided this weekend — or my next couple of books anyway — were going to be palate cleansers, books to change things up and get me out of the same old thing, books that I wouldn’t feel like I needed to review when I finished, just books.

This week I had been reading Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl, which is an amazingly interesting book about the impacts of sex selection and Western population control policies on global sex ratios, but it’s also really heavy. Hence, the need to switch things up a little bit for awhile. I’ll be coming back to this one though, no doubt.

Since Boyfriend and I road tripped to Minnesota for a wedding reception this weekend and I didn’t have a ton of time to read, I did manage to start and finish The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa on Friday night, and get a good way through Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann on our drive back this afternoon. Right now, I’m debating the merits of putting my laundry away, going to the grocery store, or getting back to my book… any guesses what is going to win?

Do you ever feel the need to cleanse your palate or switch up your reading diet? What sorts of books do you read during those times?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Michelle June 19, 2011, 3:32 pm

    Absolutely! I was feeling bogged down with review copies lately but decided to forego all that until I feel more engaged as a reviewer. It feels great to do so. I tend to indulge my YA love when I get like this. It’s a fun way to shake things up!

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:19 pm

      I think I sometimes get bogged down with review copies as well. I pretty much only accept nonfiction, so that’s at least one reason I’ve been reading so much of it. I do need to remind myself that I need breaks in between or I’m not being a fair reader to the books I’m reading. I like YA as a palate cleanse once in awhile too.

  • christa @ mental foodie June 19, 2011, 3:37 pm

    I definitely do change things up. When I read too many non-fiction, I need to read some fiction, and vice versa. If I read too many memoir, I need to read other type of non-fiction… I definitely go by mood!

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:27 pm

      Oh yes, there’s definitely too much of a particular kind of nonfiction. There are just so many books I want to read!

  • Melissa June 19, 2011, 3:49 pm

    It’s funny, because I was just thinking that I needed to change things up the opposite direction. (Of my last 9 books, all have been either fiction or memoir.) I just finished a nonfiction book last night, but now I’m onto … you guessed it, another novel (although it’s YA, which is a bit different for me).

    And I hope you’ll review LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN, only because I’d love to hear your thoughts on it (but no pressure if it was one you’d slated for a non-review :).

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:28 pm

      I think we all get in ruts or moods or whatever and don’t spend time varying our reading. I’ll probably do short reviews of the fiction I’m reading now, just nothing extensive since I’m not taking notes!

  • Teresa June 19, 2011, 4:41 pm

    I definitely feel like that sometimes, usually when I’m letting those imaginary review copy obligations take over. When that happens, the best thing for me is something by a favorite author, perhaps something light, but not necessarily.

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:29 pm

      Ahh, yes, imaginary obligations. I almost think I should just mix all my unread books — review copies and personal copies — together so I would just read what I wanted. I like the idea of switching to a favorite author as a break.

  • Bailey (Window Seat Reader) June 19, 2011, 4:45 pm

    A couple of months ago, I overdosed on women’s fiction… The stories were just running together so I think I ended up going for some heavier nonfiction in an attempt to overcome that rut. I know what you mean about palate cleansers, though! Sometimes you just need to switch things up and explore different genres.

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:30 pm

      Definitely. I do that if I read too much nonfiction on similar topics — the Middle East or memoirs or whatever. I’m liking the switch to fiction for the moment 🙂

  • Florinda June 19, 2011, 5:30 pm

    My preferred palate-cleanser these days seems to be YA fiction – not necessarily light reading, but I do usually read it faster than other genres, so it works very well as a change of pace for me. And I’m overdue for some, I must say – once the reading calendar opens up a little, I think I’ll dig into that stack!

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:31 pm

      I think I part of the switch to fiction is a speed thing — I get through fiction faster than the more serious nonfiction I’ve been reading. And all the books I was considering are relatively short (and paperback, so small pages!).

  • Eva June 19, 2011, 9:06 pm

    May was a meh reading month for me, so this month I promised myself I’d read mainly fiction by authors I’ve loved in the past (my nonfic choices have been good this year regardless). So far, it’s been working perfectly! I’ve been reading like a madwoman and enjoying every page of it. 🙂

    I’ve also just rearranged my reading approach…usually I’m reading 2 fiction and 2 nonfiction books at any one time, so 4 total books in my rotation. But right now, I’m cutting back to 1 nonfic and using the extra slot to read a book written pre-WW1. I’ve just been missing old books, so I thought I’d devote a slot to them to make sure they get read! We’ll see if I keep it up, but it’s working as a temporary thing at least. 🙂

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:32 pm

      I love that! June has been a much better reading month than May was, but I still like switching things up a bit. I like how organized you are with your reading — I’m more spur of the moment on things, and don’t usually have more than two books going at a time. I’m glad your pre-WWI switch is helping!

  • Amy June 20, 2011, 9:05 am

    I really don’t balance my reading at all. It goes in cycles and waves of one interest to another… and I kind of love it that way!

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:33 pm

      Sometimes reading in waves is fun — you get to immerse yourself in a sort of thing and start to see really cool connections and comparisons between issues and topics. That’s one of the things I always loved about being in school.

  • Jeanne June 20, 2011, 12:51 pm

    Especially in summer, I do more rereading and pick up YA and romance novels for beach reads.

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:34 pm

      Yes, rereading! That’s what I should be doing. Maybe ‘ll grab some Harry Potter for before the last movie comes out.

  • Lisa June 20, 2011, 4:25 pm

    I’m big on palate cleansing! I do try to switch things up as I’m reading but review commitments sometimes get in the way. So when I get a chance, I do try to do something that is really a no-brainer, something that might not have a single tab or note taken because it’s just so light that it won’t be tough to remember enough to write a review about. I suppose the word “light” is relative, since I often use murder mysteries as my palate cleanser!

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:34 pm

      Ha, yes, “light” is relative! Earlier this year I made a comment about switching from one nonfiction to a lighter version, and someone teased me about that because they didn’t see nonfiction as light regardless. Just depends on the reader 🙂

  • Jenny June 20, 2011, 5:03 pm

    I think I tend to try to force myself to read more nonfiction than I can handle all at once. I love nonfiction, and yet I can’t have a steady diet of it. I always try to trick myself out of it, but I need, basically, a ratio of at least three fiction books for every one nonfiction one. And ideally more fiction. If I try to pretend this ratio doesn’t exist, I get all cranky and end up binging on trashy novels.

    • Kim June 20, 2011, 7:35 pm

      I love that you know the ratio of books you need to read. I still haven’t quite figured that out yet, but I wish I could. More data!

  • Ash June 21, 2011, 2:15 pm

    I’m currently doing a little bit of cleansing with Harry Potter. Such a relief! I’ve read a string of so so books so it’s nice to have something I can rely on.

    • Kim June 24, 2011, 4:37 pm

      That’s such a good idea. I might use HP for my next cleanse, after the last movie comes out to ease my sorrows about no more HP 🙁

  • Vasilly June 21, 2011, 8:21 pm

    I’m cleansing my reading palate right now so I understand the need to “balance” your reading diet. I do that by reading children’s books. I’m actually reading more non-fiction right now than fiction because it’s a genre that I’ve been neglecting. Happy reading!

    • Kim June 24, 2011, 4:37 pm

      That’s a great idea! If I had more kids’ books laying around, I might do that too. I’m enjoying the fiction break, but am probably heading back to nonfiction pretty soon!

  • Cass July 3, 2011, 9:04 pm

    It’s surprising to me to see that most of the books that ‘whisper to you’ after you’ve finished them are novels! You clearly need some more novel action in your life. 🙂

    • Kim July 5, 2011, 8:24 pm

      When I was thinking about books, that surprised me too. Those are all books that made me cry, which nonfiction doesn’t do very often. It usually makes me mad, indignant, whatever, but not the same emotional resonance. I do need more fiction 🙂