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17 January 2012

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Hey CR,

I really think that depends on the person, and the situation - especially, how well they can compartmentalize. I don't think it's necessarily gender-related, although you make a good point about the way women in our culture are still often expected to shoulder the majority of child- and eldercare, as well as other domestic duties, regardless of whether they're also employed outside the home.

I used to read doorstops in both fiction and nonfiction (massive biographies, M.M. Kaye historicals, epic fantasy, that sort of stuff), until I became a working mother (full-time plus a killer commute) with a new baby. Then the most I could manage for several years was category romance - guaranteed happy ending in 188 pages! No lengthy list of characters or multiple subplots requiring concentration, either.

Now my tastes are changing again, and I'm exploring various types of NF (particularly enjoying how-to's like Michael Ruhlman's 20 Techniques and his Ratio) and fiction (urban fantasy series, for one) as well as returning to my early roots with detective novels, cozies and historicals with a strong sense of place and a fun twist, as well as SFF (but still not the doorstops!).

Cut yourself some slack; you'll probably be in this stage at least until CRJr goes to school ... parenthood is a very demanding time and you don't even realize how much attention and energy it requires until much later, when you can be amazed you survived! ;-)

Two comments: I do a monthly reading at an elder day care. I just finished reading the juveile book A Long Way from Chicago, which they all seemed to enjoy. It was recommended to me to start reading them Anne of Green Gables. I had a misinformed childhood and nevver read Anne. Do you think it would be something that elderly (early Alzheimers) people would like to hear?
Second: Two years ago I moved up to my Library Director position. And I am just now getting back to reading decent literature and non fiction. The first year I barely read anything, and the second year I read alot of romance novels. It was distressing to me that I couldn't read. The key for me was to just keep reading no matter what and I eventually founf my way back. I did feel like I was appologizing to my patrons and friends for not having better recommendations for them. You should just call it research and don't appologize. Keep reading.

Lynne,
You make many valid points, particularly regarding different people, different situations. I do firmly believe that women have gotten the short end of the stick in today's work/housework scenario, though--I guess it's hard for me to hide that opinion!
I was very interested to hear of your personal reading journey and am heartened, actually, to know that reading tastes can and will change but the importance of it as an activity remains, no matter the genre or subject.
And thank you for your support, but I typically cut myself more than enough slack (as only a true slacker can!). I just don't want to change too much from nonfiction because a. I love nonfiction and b. I write a nonfiction blog. :)

Melanie,
Yes, I can well believe you had to cut back on some reading with a big new job--and one as Library Director. I would guess you have many, many balls in the air at all times. I salute you!

I actually think the people in your elders group would enjoy Anne of Green Gables. I didn't read it as a young kid either, I just watched the two miniseries directed by Kevin Sullivan. I know my mom got a real kick out of those, so I think older people would enjoy the books. And they're kind of simple, without a whole lot of complex plot points and characters. Maybe they would also like the Little House books? Or perhaps they'd already read those as kids. What about classic short stories, O. Henry or Ring Lardner? Huh. What an interesting question. Keep us posted on what you choose to read to them and how they like it, would you?

Your blog post title was I thought particularly apt...for me anyway. As an avid genre fiction reader I read for escape. Home & work & life are all there, but not exactly what I saw for myself when I was in my early 20's. The 40's aren't as sunny and clear. As to not being yourself...I am not myself when I read...and when I share with my students and other readers I am the best part of myself: the love of reading and the worlds reading opens up to me. I think you'll get back to nonfiction. It is totally obvious to this reader of your blog that you are passionate. Maybe you just need to rest those NF muscles! And enjoy some romance novels!

I know this is about reading, but many men have their escapism in watching sports and talking sports and engaging in fantasy sports. So, if women do a little light reading, is that less respectable?

Beret,
Yes, it's very interesting. It's not like I didn't understand the need for escapism--who doesn't need to, sometimes?--I guess for me it just showed up in other ways, primarily movie and TV watching. But to need a bit more escapist reading has been all new for me.
Totally agreed about a love of reading trumping all, and how nice to realize reading is a habit that grows and changes with you. And for the record, I always have enjoyed romance novels--particularly the spicy ones--just never thought about "needing" them before!

Brenda,
That's very true, re: men and sports. And how single-minded they can be in that. (Not all men; you know what I mean.) Once I asked my husband what he and the guys talked about during 9 holes of golf, and he looked at me like I was nuts and said, "Golf." Talking about golf while playing golf--it's like being at the vortex of the universe.
Also for the record, I don't think there's anything less respectable about light reading (okay, unless it's Jodi Picoult. I cannot STAND Jodi Picoult) at all. I just like to tease my husband about genres. It doesn't bother me at all to see someone reading genre and I've never understood why someone might be embarrassed for others to see what they're reading. Even if I judge someone for reading Picoult I would hope they're too engrossed in their reading to notice me noticing (or to care!). :)

I'm not sure about men vs. women and fiction vs. nonfiction in terms of escapism--there is, after all, grim fiction in the world, and funny nonfiction--but I am interested in seeing how my reading life will change again once I become a single working mother (supposing my child ever decides to be born).

I consider history and historical fiction to be my escape and my "fantasy". I just figured that out a year ago.

Interesting stuff. I've gone off my feed (reading-wise), too, and I know it's precisely because of stress. But I'm seeking haven in nonfiction because of all those darn interpersonal conflicts that erupt all over the place in novels. But I'm specifically choosing nonfiction that has some sort of heroic element (heaven help me, maybe even stuff people would refer to as "heartwarming" - normally the kind of thing that might gag me a little or a lot) for the comfort factor. It's pretty weird.

Laura,
That's very true re: grim fiction (although I tend to term it "ugly fiction") and funny nonfiction. I'm still interested in the broader question of escapism, though, and how we all find it in different ways.
I'll bet you're ready to have that kid already! I wish you the best of luck and I hope you're the exception--the single working mom with time to read. Although I suppose for that you'd have to win the lottery. I'll hope for that for you too. Pop back in sometime after LL (Lil' Laura? or Lil' Larry?) arrives and let us know how both of you are doing.

Sarah,
Well, I still read a lot of escapism NF, too, I think books about books are always good for that. (84 Charing Cross Road, anyone?) Kudos on figuring out your own style!

Unruly,
Gosh, it sucks, doesn't it? I'm off my feed in general (or as Anne Shirley would say, "considerably rumpled up in spirit") and am sorry to hear you're stressed. What's some good heartwarming NF that's been cheering you? I'm willing to try anything.
Here's hoping you find your reading groove soon...

Citizen -- Thanks for the kind words. Trust Anne Shirley to have a poetical way to state the condition.
I'm partway through a book that apparently has a happy ending: Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock. (I think there's forgiveness and redemption on the way, but it ain't here yet, as of page 109.) The other NF book I have on the go isn't exactly heartwarming, but the bad guy gets got (and I guess cosmic justice is comforting to me): SEAL Target Geronimo. Also just finished Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, and anything Kennedy-esque is of comfort to me. Also: Blue Blood by Edward Conlon. He's a good cop and an amazing writer.
Hope your spirit considerably UNrumples soon --

Here's one to consider if you haven't before: Jasper Fforde. I bounced off The Eyre Affair the first time I tried to read it (much to my own surprise). But I always kept it around because it just seemed like the kind of book I SHOULD like. I picked it up again during an EXTREMELY stressful time (combining a demanding job as a small town newspaper editor, multiple hurricanes and major medical crises for both me and my husband). It was perfect -- just the right level of distraction and entertainment that my distracted mind needed. And there's a bunch of them, plus another whole series based around nursery rhyme characters if you find you like him.
I also think well-written juvenile and YA books are a blessing in these times -- I haven't re-read Anne of Green Gables as an adult but I enjoyed Lloyd Alexanders Taran series a lot and I'm always a fan of A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsberg. Really fun approach to Eleanor of Aquitaine (she's up in heaven, waiting to see if Henry II is going to make it out of purgatory and reviewing the events of her life with various people who were there).
But really don't blame yourself for anything. Just read what feels right and what your brain craves.

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