Monday, April 6, 2009

Pop Fiction versus Literature

There are two drastically different books on my Kindle right now: "Black Widow" by Randy Wayne Wright, and "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck. I find myself switching between the two depending on my mood - like drinking fine wine versus Pabst Blue Ribbon. Sometimes I want to immerse myself in the detail and complex flavors of Steinbeck, sometimes I just want to get drunk. That is how I differentiate literature and fiction.

I often read pop fiction. I love intense thrillers, chick lit, mysteries,..from John Grisham to Dan Brown to Mary Higgins Clark. I don't ready these books for the stunning writing style, I read them to quickly, very quickly, get immersed in another world. The fast-paced action scenes and dialogue become addictive, and I find it hard to read a book that doesn't immediately delve into the plot. This is what I find with John Steinbeck. The words are delicious, the sentences like morsels of a decadent dessert. Descriptions of one valley can go on for pages. I have to have patience to read literature, and I think it's because I am so immersed with the fast food version of books.

When did this happen? When did books become something to race through, without savoring the beauty of writing? We say it's beneficial to read, but is really when there aren't any new words to learn, ideas to relish, thoughts to decipher? I read a lot as a child, and I credit my vocabulary to the books I consumed. But these days, I find there are more words I don't know in Time magazine than in an average pop fiction book. What do you think? Is it good to read no matter what it is, or should we try to delve into literature, something challening, once in awhile?


PaulHanson said...

All reading is good, although not all reading is good for your Soul. Personally, I stagger the brain candy with sumptuous soul food like you. Being part of a book group has widened my literary horizons by 'having' to read great books I'd not have picked on my own. The ensuing discussions deepen my understanding and appreciation all the more!
-Paul Hanson
Eagle Harbor Book Co

Kristin said...

Thanks for your perspective, Paul! Are there any good book groups on Bainbridge? Or any particular "brain food" books you recommend?

Travis said...

I am like you Kristin...I am usually reading several books at once. Right now I'm halfway through a Harlan Coben thriller, nearly finished with this trashy brit-lit book called 'Gods Behaving Badly' all while reading a collection of F Scott Fitzgerald short stories.

Reading is always good...but diversified reading habits are the best! You wouldn't just run on the treadmill all the time at the gym if you wanted to stay in shape would you?

Lisa said...

I miss my days of immersion in novels and literature. I went through a real Steinbeck phase, reading almost everything he had written.--but that was years ago. And I used to get lost in thrillers, romance, historical novels etc.

After returning to college at age 35, I had so much reading to do that it sucked the joy out of it for me.

I might read one novel a year now.

It's been 10 years since I graduated, and still, I have trouble getting lost in a book.

I miss it.

PaulHanson said...

Not to be TOO self-serving, but there are 2 great ones that meet at the bookstore that you may like to dip your toe into: the Eagle Harbor Readers Circle (1st Tuesdays at 7pm, discussing Out Stealing Horses tonight and Gilead in May) and Mystery Book Group (4th Tues. at 7pm-discussing Time & Again by Finney in April). There are a few other 'open' groups I can list when I get into the store and we're hosting a Book Group Mixer on May 14 at 730p! TONS of recs but try Thirteenth Tale for some guilt-free fun!