I read a lot. I always have. I think it's probably been the single most important contributor to my success (as large or small as it may be..) over time. I believe the ability to educate myself and to discover new areas of interest is hugely important to building a sustainable process of self-improvement and critique. That's not to say that reading is the only way to achieve that end, but for me, it's certainly been the most effective.
I also find that reading is one of the most fulfilling activities I can pursue. I rarely feel as centered, productive and healthy as when I'm reading regularly.
Having said that, I've noticed that over the past decade (makes me sound old doesn't it??), my consumption of fiction books has really diminished. Right now, of the 50-some books in my apartment that are part of my everpresent "to read" list, perhaps 5 of them are fiction. Which is why I came across this piece in the New York Times on the Best Works of American Fiction and felt a pang of regret. None of these books is even remotely close to my radar for books to read and browsing through the list, I wonder how much I'm missing out on.
It's a question of time, of course. But I wonder if reading more fiction might make me a more productive reader in general. What I mean is this: what if my propensity to choose non-fiction actually made it harder for me to digest the density of non-fiction content because I never give myself a "breather" from it?
I've found over the years that I'm less and less capable of reading just one book at a time. For the most part, I am usually reading 3 or 4 books at the same time, some of which might fall off the list. I have attributed this to the density of most non-fiction and simultaneously, the constant march towards faster, shorter, less dense media. The Internet is only the latest in a string of media delivery vehicles that has allowed us to break down content to bite size easily consumable pieces, to the detriment of our attention spans. BUT, what if mixing up the formats (digital text, video, printed text etc) and densities (non-fiction vs. fiction) actually meant that we could make the transition between the choices more easily and consume more. What if the simple act of introducing more fiction into my reading list meant that I could cut back to just reading one non-fiction book at a time and also consume bigger "bites" at a time, so to speak? What if that was not only true, but that implementing a balance between the Internet, television, radio, magazines, books, etc would make all of us more productive and capable of further media consumption? What if our brains got less tired as a result of strategically mixing up our media consumption?
Hmmm.. looks like I've got some books to go read :)