My two great loves are food and books. They’re two surprisingly similar things, though it’s much more difficult to fit a pizza in your handbag, and books probably wreak havoc on your digestive system (those things are all fiber).
I want to avoid waxing philosophical about the nature of reading, the grand human experience of what it means to consume literature, be a part of a story, or indulge the parts of us that elevate the soul or spirit or whatever. I’ll try. Sometimes I can’t help it.
So instead we are going to talk about eating and reading. Pizza and novels. Tacos and poetry. Chips and short story anthologies.
The act of reading, I think, is much like tucking into a meal. Both satisfy human desires to be full, incite visceral anticipation, and are subject to cultural as well as personal tastes.
When we eat pizza, we do so most likely because we are hungry (or because we are bored, or because it’s there and why not?), but also because we like how it tastes. Cheese and bread and sauce and meat are all great things, and they are especially good when they are on the same plate. It not only makes us full, it makes us happy. Food is an excellent friend like that.
When we read a book, we do so most likely because we are starving for an unknown and unnamable thing because it isn’t just a single thing. We read, I think, because we are starving for access to other parts of ourselves that can experience the world in ways we haven’t thought to.
Though in food we often indulge the familiar while in books the unfamiliar, it is often the other way around. Instead of a gas station hot dog, we might have some kind of gastropub deconstructed aerosol pastrami (a food I just made up, patent pending) because we want to extend ourselves, eat not necessarily because we are famished but because we want to satisfy hunger in a new way. Or when we read, perhaps we eschew that new critically acclaimed memoir in favor of reading Harry Potter for the millionth time because it reminds us of what is comforting, gives us access to a part of us that used to be. Books provide millions of perspectives as food provides millions of tastes.
So I say approach books the way you approach food. Read well but also, from time to time, read the book equivalent of fried chicken. Read like a starving man—because when you’re starving, Cheetos are just as good as quinoa.
Wow, I’m sorry. I promised not to wax philosophical, and I’m really starting to trip over this analogy. It’s out of control. I just tried to read a hamburger.
“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.”- C.S. Lewis