My love-hate relationship with non-fiction

The perhaps quintessential book blogger complaint? Too many books, not enough time. Right? This has always been a challenge for me but it has only grown with time and overall life complexity.  My kids are getting older and that brings with it school, sports and activities. My career has added its own set of responsibilities and stresses that sometimes make reading, my normal source of stress relief, a challenge.  I am also teaching a Sunday School class that requires preparation, reading, and thought.  Throw in football season and free time for reading and reviewing seems a pretty narrow slot.

This connundrum is elevated when it comes to non-fiction.  I love to read history, theology, and biography not to mention books on cognitive science, time management and strategic planning. I love to expand my knowledge, challenge my way of thinking, and explore ideas.  I have a tendency to think of these books as the key to making my life deeper, more organized, and more effective. This is sometimes true but can also be a naive belief that mere knowledge, or a particular insight, will lead to happiness; or to more discipline, focus or skill.

Regardless of its particular motivation or psychology, I view myself as a person who wants to and can read a decent amount of non-fiction.  So when I see books at the library, at the bookstore, or in emails from publishers and publicists I have a hard time not checking them out, buying them, or requesting review copies.

My TBR pile is starting to look like this ...
My TBR pile is starting to look like this …

As you are probably guessing, the problem lies in blocking out time to read said books and then to review them.  But a busy life makes more serious reading difficult.  Many of these books are not necessarily best experienced in a few minutes at the end of the day before I fall asleep. And the busier, the more stressed, and more mentally challenged I am at work the less likely I am to want to read non-fiction to relax.

Lastly, as I think I have mentioned before, I find writing reviews of non-fiction more challenging; a pressure to offer something more than “I enjoyed it” or “I didn’t”. So then I not only don’t read as many non-fiction books as I would like but I don’t reward the author/publisher/publicists/reader with a review.

You know that phrase about your eyes being bigger than your stomach? It captures that sense of wanting to eat everything but then once you put it on your plate you can’t finish it.  I have this with non-fiction books. Always seeking out more and more to read, always distracted by the next shiny object that is dangled in front of me yet never making much of a dent in reading, comprehending, and reviewing the pile of books I own or borrow.  There should be a term for this.

All of that said, my resolve to continue to read non-fiction continues.  Can I be more realistic about what and how much I can read? Sure. Can I prioritise and organize the books I do read? Yes. Can I do a better job of posting reviews, even short and high level, of non-fiction? You betcha. But I am not going to give up on non-fiction just yet …

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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