I am a voracious reader and always have been. As a kid, I read the Star-Ledger sports section every morning at breakfast; as a young adult, I read magazines while brushing my teeth; nowadays, it goes without saying that I’m constantly on my laptop and phone, reading.
My reading sources run the gamut, from newspapers to magazines to websites to RSS feeds of dozens of blogs to Twitter and its successors to fantasy baseball experts. The best writing leaves me both informed and entertained. I gravitate toward news and well-thought-out opinion pieces. I will read and devour most anything discussing rock music, New York City, pro sports, new cars, the entertainment industry, Apple, business strategy and current events.
What I haven’t read, in many years, is a novel. Or pretty much anything in book form.
It’s not for lack of trying. I bought The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and carried it on so many vacations across several years that it became a point of amusement for my children. (I think I’m on page 87.) Two years ago, I decided that the issue was the fiction angle, so I bought The Power Broker, and I’ve only managed the first 27 pages of that, which has made the travel bag a lot heavier with the same result.
I bought Moneyball, but never cracked it; my son has it right now. I thought about re-reading the classics, but I never get started. At one point my sister-in-law bought me a thoughtful Adam Gopnik compendium, and I thanked her, and never opened it. “But you’d absolutely love it!” she said, when it slipped out that I wasn’t reading it, which was probably true, but it was a book. “If you had given him the link to it in blog form,” my wife said, both needling and truthful, “he’d have read the whole thing.”
This summer, in my building’s community bookcase, someone left two Carl Hiaasen novels. I brought them upstairs and wound up taking the first one (Bad Monkey) on vacation last month, where it came to the beach a couple of times, instead of the usual Sunday New York Times Magazine. And that did the trick. I read maybe 75 pages on vacation, and the book was fun enough for me to keep going when I got home, and before I knew it I’d finished the book and whipped through its sequel, too.
Fiction! I’d finally gotten back into reading something that wasn’t designed to advance an angle or teach me something. Hiaasen is fairly light reading, but he’s good at telling a story, and the books kept me going. And, happily, reading the books didn’t detract from my other reading; it pulled me away from sitcom reruns and video games, making for a much more rewarding diversion.
The two Hiaasen novels are headed back to the basement for another neighbor to enjoy, and next up is my first book on Kindle, an Amor Towles novel that my wife says is fascinating. I’m looking forward to reading it.