The Novelty of Reading Novels Has Worn Off


First novel: Depressed woman locks herself up with hawk. (H is for Hawk)

Second novel: Blind girl and her father flee Nazis carrying a diamond. (All The Light We Cannot See)

Third novel: Fat boy tries to lose his virginity during the bloody reign of Trujillo in Dominican Republic. (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)

Fourth (and current) novel: 2 guys try to defeat Hitler and get rich writing comic books. (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay)

Literature-wise, it’s been quite the summer. I went into this novel-reading project in an effort to escape time, and it’s worked.  But..

I’m not happy.

Of all my strategies to slow down time this summer, this has been the hardest and, psychologically, the most uncomfortable.

It’s not been hard to read. Hell no. It’s been easy to dive in and and become immersed. It’s been easy to succumb to the captivating artistry of first-class storytellers, to live for long stretches in their  virtual worlds. It’s been easy to while away weeks of afternoons in the hammock, swaying to the mind-music of literary virtuosos. It’s been pure heaven in a lot of ways. It’s reminded me of the Nancy Drew summers of my youth..

And it’s not been hard psychologically because all these novels have been a bit on the gloomy side. No. It’s really not that.

It’s totally because of me, and the the way I am.

I can’t seem to drown out the voice in my head that says that this novel-reading time might be better spent reading about neurobiology, and about what motivates people, and how to achieve mastery, and how to get into flow, and how (maybe) technology can take us there, or (maybe) not.

I keep staring at this pile of books that’s been accumulating on my shelf for the last 6 months or so.


These are the kinds of books that I attack with a pen in a my hand and an open notebook at my elbow.

These are the books that I scribble in, underline, and argue with. These are the books whose ideas I try to articulate and practice in my notebook to see if I’ve really understood them. These are the books that help me with the stuff I wonder about in the shower, and when I’m driving, or planning a yoga class. These are the books that completely jazz me.

In comparison, novel reading feels like polishing off a pint of gelato with a spoon while binge-watching Orange is the The New Black. So,so gooooood. So deliciously fun.

But now?

Now I feel it’s time to steam up some broccoli and brown rice.

So today I made a decision. I am going to finish Kavalier and Clay, and for the remainder of July, dig into this non-fiction pile. I’ll return to novels when I go to the beach later this summer, and then again when I have to fly to the West Coast.

It was a good plan, this reading project. Time has definitely slowed down in a very good way.


5 thoughts on “The Novelty of Reading Novels Has Worn Off

  1. I prefer nonfiction…or at least those are the books that grab me. I joined a book club years ago & somewhat rekindled my relationship with novels. Now…i try to strike a balance & read what I want — usually 2 nonfiction, then a fiction, BUT I read what I want in the fiction department & it doesn’t have to feel worthy — a run-of-the-mill best seller trumps proper literature or classics any day. Life’s too short to not read what you enjoy. I say tackle that stack with gusto…and if nonfiction excites you then don’t feel bad for indulging yourself!


    1. I’ve always been a little bit intrigued by the idea of a book group. But I don’t want to be dictated to about what I read. You find your group okay? What happens when you hate the group’s selection?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Kath, sorry I’m so late replying to this. AHHH, life and summer. Well, as for the book group…I was an active member of a great group for about three years. When we started I really loved it. There were 12 or so women but it was pretty chill and low-key. We all nominated books at the beginning of the year and then voted from everyone’s nominations (it sounds complicated as I’m typing it now…but one woman loved compiling a list, so having her head up that project made it easier.) The first year it seemed that I read very few books I wasn’t interested in, and I liked that it stretched me. I had been ONLY reading non-fiction prior to participating in a book club, so it got me back into a bit of fiction reading (we read an assortment.) As time went on, a lot of my favorite book club people moved away and I felt less connected with others that started coming. The last year I was involved, I probably read less than half the books to completion. Then I moved and am no longer active in a regular in-person book group. I do have access to my old groups FB page, and occasionally I’ll see what they’re reading and read along, but we don’t have online discussions, so there’s no pressure to complete and thoroughly comprehend the book. Wow. That got long. Obviously, it’s a tricky thing. I’ve considered starting a group where I live, but honestly it seems daunting at the moment. There’s a fine line between having too much structure/being laid back and making sure there’s enough so that meet-ups happen and enough people actually read the book and show up. Plus, it’s a lot of personalities. I DID like that it was an opportunity for a set social event every month. And as far as reading, a lot of people didn’t read the book. I tried to in the beginning, but as time went on I found i had no problem putting the book down if I hated it. Again, long, but hopefully I gave you some ideas on whether it’s for you or not. 🙂


        1. Okay, obviously this topic engages me. I just went back and re-read your post since it had been awhile since I first read it. WOW! You dove in head first with that list of fiction! I say congratulate yourself and read what you love going forward (in your case, that big stack of non-fiction.) Because I’m a writer, and need to have a grasp of various parts of language, I TRY to read across genres, but my focus is nothing like yours. I kind of loathe Jane Austen, yet I feel as though I need to know those books to even qualify as a writer (even though that’s not at all similar to things I write.) But if I had to spend an entire summer reading Jane Austen, I might completely nut up. My approach is more to read what grabs me, and then I toss in a book here or there that I feel pushes me. Well, thanks for giving me a lot to think about. Happy reading, and enjoy the remaining days of summer. 🙂


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