Saturday, April 23, 2011

Coffee or Tea?


by KJ Howe

The border in my own home has a lot in common with the way a bookstore is divided up. My library tends to be filled with fiction (and books on how to write) while my husband's is almost exclusively dedicated to non-fiction. Lately, I have been thinking about just why it is when either of us have the spare time to read, we will reach for something completely different, but be equally rewarded. Is there a personality type drawn to either type of reading? Do they serve different needs in our lives? Do the different things we read shape us into different people, or is it the reverse?

Now, the first thing that might pop into your minds is that my husband is more practical than I am, but a brief scan of his bookshelves proves this is not so. His collection of books includes a great deal of science and religion texts (peacefully co-existing side by side), ancient history, medieval history, African history, and books on the law of war, and the rise and development of modern mercenaries. None of this has any practical impact on our lives. In fact, one could reasonably suggest that the things he reads about (ie. the catastrophic extinction of dinosaurs via an interplanetary collision) are as far removed from our reality as a Jackie Collins novel!

The first thing that is usually said about fiction, and romance fiction in particular, is that it is escapist. Now while there is nothing at all wrong with that (escapism is a quite healthy part of our emotional lives), I'm not convinced that reading real history is any less escapist. While doing some research for a novel I am working on, I read about Cicero, the great Roman lawyer/politician who played a role in the two great civil wars that turned Rome from a republic into an empire. His life was filled with domestic turmoil, dramatic speeches, political intrigue, exotic travel, and open war. It would take a combination of what Debbie Macomber, John Grisham, David Morrell, James Michener and Tom Clancy to do a novel that would do justice to his life. The maxim that the truth is stranger than fiction never seems to hold truer than in historical non-fiction, and there is no real excuse to learn about Cicero or the relationship between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin (or Philip II) than the same voyeuristic pleasure one can get from watching an episode of Desperate Housewives.

Perhaps the theme that binds together the reader of fiction and non-fiction is the pure joy of discovery. I can see the same look on my husband's face as he flips through the latest piece by Gould on evolutionary biology as I know I display when I am nearing the crescendo of a Lee Child novel. The rush of learning something new, something that fills us with joy, excitement, and satisfaction at a quality outcome is universal in the reading experience.

Are there similar borders in your house? What do you reach for first when you have the time to read for pleasure? Are fiction and non-fiction readers different species, or are the differences between them paper thin?

Happy Easter to all those who celebrate it!

46 comments:

Pissenlit said...

Tea. lol :)

Happy Easter!

Yep, I'm the big fiction reader in the house. Well, to be fair, I'm the big reader in the house, period. However, the books that aren't mine are mostly non-fiction.

kaelee said...

Happy Easter!

I read romance mainly and my husband reads cookbooks, atlases and travel related books. Once in a while we both will read a mystery or two.

Donna MacMeans said...

Here I thought I'd grab the rooster and I missed by not one - but two comments (grin). Congratulations Pissenlit. Keep an eye on your chocolate. That bird loves a good sugar high.

If I'm reading for pleasure, it's fiction all the way, but I probably read more nonfiction than fiction due to the need for research. In fact, I think I love your husband's library, KJ. Wouldn't mind spending the afternoon just browsing. While nonfiction might capture the action and drama of a fiction novel - it doesn't capture enough of the emotion for me. Can't help it - I LOVE romance.

Happy Easter everyone!

Donna MacMeans said...

Kaylee - Can't help but love a man that reads cookbooks...unless all he does is read them. He does try out the recipes, no? Who is cooking the Easter feast in your house? (Every celebration is a feast in mine). And atlases and travel books? Cool. He and KJ could have an indepth conversation. (grin).

Helen said...

Well done pissenlit and yes I agree watch him with the chocolate LOL

KJ

Happy Easter to everyone

Well my hubby doesn't read at all LOL maybe a newspaper here and there so the 7 bookshelves that we have in our house are filled with you guessed it romance and more romance books LOL I do have the Harry Potter books as well and you will find a few of my daughters books around the place like Stephen King, Dean Kootz, Patricia Cornwell but that is about it

Have Fun
Helen

Sheree said...

Happy Easter!

I read genre fiction - romances, scifi/fantasy, mysteries, and YA - with some science/technology non-fiction. My boyfriend reads mostly scifi and mysteries. We both enjoy Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin books. Sometimes we'd read passages from our books to each other (although not the sex scenes from the romances - ever since I volunteered to do so in Gollum's voice).

June M. said...

Happy Easter everyone!

I read fiction. I love a good romance, whether it be historical, paranormal, or some contempory. Everyone else in my house it is mainly newspapers, magazines, and gardening books. Give me a highlander, duke, vampire, or shifter anyday and I am happy.

Dtchycat said...

I grew up in a household of readers. From my earliest memories my father spent every single night sitting at the kitchen table reading his book while everyone else watched tv. And now, I sit and read every single night. I typically read a mixture of both non-fiction and fiction mainly because I am such a fast reader that if I was to limit myself to just historical romances, I would need at least 30 books a day, probably more...and those little harlequins...two-three a day. So alot of the books I read are non-fiction, they are usually more in depth reading and I switch them off between me and my parents - who I have managed to get addicted to non-fiction books (which are usually social history, history, anthropological, evolutionary sciences, etc.).

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I am the only reader in the house and it is all about romance, mostly historical, with a very healthy dose of contemporary and a little paranormal. What little that doesn't fit into the above is cookbooks and sewing.

KJ Howe said...

Congrats, Pisenlit! Have fun with the GR! Men tend to read more non-fiction than fiction, which is interesting. 75 percent of all books published are non-fiction.

KJ Howe said...

Kaelee, go romance! Awesome that your husband reads cookbooks...I hope he experiments as well!

KJ Howe said...

Donna, my husband says that you can come over and raid his library anytime. It's an impressive one!

KJ Howe said...

Donna, I would love to talk travel with any interested parties! :)

KJ Howe said...

Helen, may I ask why you choose fiction first? Is it because of the escapism of a romance?

KJ Howe said...

Sheree, hilarious about reading those sex scenes in Gllum's voice! That might ruin the mood.

KJ Howe said...

June, great taste in heroes! I love losing myself in stories as well.

KJ Howe said...

Dtchycat, wow, do you ever read a lot! Impressive!

KJ Howe said...

Dianna, may I ask what it is that makes romance so appealing?the men?:)

jo robertson said...

Interesting post, KJ!

Wooohoooo, Pissenlit. What will you do with the rooster on this fine Easter day?

Happy Easter to all who celebrate.

Pleasure reading to me is always fiction, KJ. I want to escape from my ordinary life LOL.

Nancy said...

Pissenlit, congrats on the bird!

KJ, my actual beverage of choice is Coke, though I've cut my intake a lot. For morning caffeine, I go with coffee. For a lunch or dinner beverage, true to my Southern heritage, I opt for iced tea. In the winter I go for hot tea in the afternoon and evening. So my beverage tastes are eclectic, as are my reading tastes.

My shelves hold romance, science fiction/fantasy, mystery and suspense, thrillers, history, military history and memoir, bioigraphies, and miscellaneous reference works.

The dh doesn't read a lot, on grounds that he reads so much at work that he doesn't want to do it on his free time. He's leaving administration in July, so I hope he'll start reading again. He teaches children's and YA lit because he loves them, so that's what he reaches for.

He also likes science fiction and fantasy, biography, history, and philosophy. I'll be interested to see how things shake out when his schedule opens up.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey KJ! What a great post!

Pissenlit, congrats on nabbing the chook. Make him shake out before he sits down anywhere as I had him dusting yesterday. Grins.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Ooops, hit send too quick!

Happy Easter to all who celebrate, or good Passover, Happy Osatara, etc. Grins.

I'm a must-have-one-giant-cup coffee drinker, but otherwise, I prefer tea - cold and sweet. Ha!

And that divide exists in my house as well, KJ. Mostly history, or WWII biographies, etc. And yet, as you say, it can be as exhilarating a "hit" as any fiction. I'm more of a fiction reader, but still love the non-fiction too. :>

Fun post!

Louisa Cornell said...

Tea, hot or cold, depending on the weather.

Watch out Pissenlit! Your Easter basket is in SERIOUS danger of a GR raid!


The vast majority of my library is fiction - romance primarily and a great deal of it historical romance. I do, however, have sections of contemporary romance, series romance, paranormal romance, you name it.

Then there is my Regency research library, nearly two hundred books and counting.

I have another section of horror - Stephen King, Dean Koontz, etc

I have a section of classics - Capote, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Thomas Mann, ETC

I have a section of herpetology books, one of ornithology books, one on zoology, a large section on pets, pet biographies (Oogy, Cleo, Dewey the Library Cat type books) pet health, pet psychology.

I have a section on Native American studies. One on the Holocaust. (I taught both of those subjects when I was teaching high school.)

I have a section on foreign languages.

Can you tell I have A LOT of books?

I read research for enjoyment and for my writing.

When I want to relax completely I read romance.

And I think readers don't just fall into fiction and non-fiction readers. There are those who only read one genre and their reasons probably have to do with what they seek as entertainment or perhaps to fill a void in their own experience.

Non fiction readers who ONLY read non-fiction love the factual and read to expand their horizons in reality.

Those who read it all have different reasons to read in each.

Ultimately I think we all have our own reasons for what we read at any given moment. For me, reading fulfills many, many of my needs. LONG LIVE BOOKS !!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Happy Easter to all our readers who celebrate the holiday! If not, hope you're having a GREAT weekend! ;-)

KJ, make mine hot tea with milk (the Irish way). But mostly make mine Diet Pepsi with LOTS of ice. LOL!

I'm with Donna, most of my non-fiction reading is for research. Pleasure reading is fiction. Neither my son nor my DH read very much, usually just magazines. So the Great Divide around here is Reader/Non-reader.

Pissenlit, heed what the others have said about the GR and chocolate and/or sugar! Did he get an Easter bonnet before he arrived? I liked Jeanne's suggestion of a tam o'shanter, but I'm thinking a derby is more his speed. ;-)

AC

jennifertanner said...

Hi KJ!

Happy Easter!

My hubster and I are both readers. I have tons of romances, but we both read bios, memoirs, history and non-fiction. He likes books on cars and how things are made. I'm into design, cookbooks and good thrillers.

Hope every one had a great weekend.

Pink P.

KJ Howe said...

Jo, I hear you on escape. Sometimes life is just crazy, and a good book can take you to another world, a happier, saner one!

Anna Sugden said...

Interesting post, KJ.

Happy Easter all.

Our 30+ bookshelves are filled with all kinds of books. We both read fiction, but different types - mine are romance, RS and romantic thrillers, while his are more crime and general fiction. We both read biographies, but mine tend to be hockey players or movie related, while his are football, famous Brits and world figures. We both have our own research books - again very different. I have a number of film books and children's books, while he has a collection of graphic novels.

We also have cookbooks and travel books galore.

Hot tea with milk (and not that yucky Earl Grey stuff either *g*) for me - but I enjoy a latte too every now and again. I also picked up a taste for lemonade from our time in NJ. We don't have it over here, so I have to make it myself.

KJ Howe said...

Nancy, now we know the secret to your prolific writing...caffeine! LOL Wow, I can't drink any caffeine (allergy) so your schedule of coffee, coke, and iced tea amazes me. You go, girl!

I really hope your DH reclaims his love of reading once he has more time. It is tough to spend all day reading and then do it again at night.

KJ Howe said...

Jeanne, I find it's often the case that men are drawn to history and military books--it seems to entice them into the past, perhaps an escape of sorts as well.

KJ Howe said...

Louisa, great comments. And, yes, you have a lot of books!

I once read that people read different fiction to experience different emotions. For example, people read romance for hope, science fiction for wonder, thrillers for excitement, mysteries for logic and puzzle solving triumphs. I find this subject fascinating and would love to learn more.

KJ Howe said...

AC, thanks for stopping by! Diet-Pepsi with ice sounds fab! Reminds me of another debate..Coke or Pepsi, but we better not start on that. LOL

Women tend to be more voracious readers than men on the whole. Maybe something about the way our brains work?

KJ Howe said...

Pink P, I also love thrillers, as you guys can probably tell. Something about that pulse pounding excitement and page turning suspense makes me addicted!

KJ Howe said...

Anna S, wow on your bookshelves. How many libraries do you have in your house? Do you think eBooks will cut down on the number of books you keep? I really wonder what will happen with eBooks for so many reasons...

Helen said...

KJ

Yes I read romance and all genres for the escapisam they take me away from the everyday things that are happening and I know there will be a HEA no matter how many obsticales are thrown at the hero and heroine LOL love them can never get enough LOL

Have Fun
Helen

Anna Sugden said...

ebooks will definitely cut them down, KJ. We've just got new iPads for our trip to Australia later in the year, so the switch has begun - though I must admit to still wanting to buy my faves in print ... at least for now.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Pissenlit! Great catch on the Easter Rooster!

Kim, had to smile at your post. I'd just had a discussion with my visitors about the crazy selection (and number!) of books in this house. I read a lot of nonfiction and of course there's all the romance - and then all sorts of other stuff as well!

Nancy said...

KJ, I drink mostly water, and one cup of coffee a day is my usual, mainly so I don't become a caffeinated ping pong ball. *g*

Nancy said...

Anna, I also have an iPad and have a fair number of books on it. I find it especially useful for trying new authors, but I've also loaded it with some favorites so I'll have them when I travel.

I don't think I'll ever move completely away from print. I like the tactile experience of a book in my hands.

KJ Howe said...

Helen, if only we could be guaranteed a happily ever after in real life! Very good point.

KJ Howe said...

Anna S, nothing is better than the feel of a book in your hands, but I do LOVE my ipad. The flexibility of going from reading to sending an email to surfing the net is unbeatable. Did you get the ipad 2?

KJ Howe said...

Anna C, I have a feeling that many of us on this blog have "collections" that might wow some folks. To try and manage the clutter, I've been trying to give books away to people, spreading the love!

KJ Howe said...

Nancy, water is good as well. Anything to hydrate and keep those fingers clicking on the keys. :)

Do you use the sample feature on Amazon? I love using it, as I often download the sample, and if I'm hooked, I buy the book. If not, I try another. This process has saved me a lot of money.

LilMissMolly said...

Good question. I'm an Irish Breakfast girl myself. So is one of my daughters and now even my hubby drinks it at work.

Did you ever notice how coffee drinkers if they do drink tea, they don't mind Earl Grey? But those of us Irish and English Breakfast people can't stand it?

Barbara Monajem said...

Usually, I read fiction (lots of it romance), but lately I've spent so much of my reading time writing romance instead that I'm beginning to feel overdosed on emotional highs and lows. I find myself turning to non-fiction, mostly historical (for research), plus field guides (so I can recognize birds) and cookbooks (because I like eating).

Pissenlit said...

The GR was quite interested in my chocolate but I got to it before he did. :)

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

KJ Howe said...
Dianna, may I ask what it is that makes romance so appealing?the men?:)

Not just the men, because frankly some of them can really tick me off and make me thing redeeming a villian would be better than the hero. It is the HEA, I just like to take little vacations when I read and go to a place where there are happy endings at the end of your struggles rather that just more struggles.