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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Fiction vs. Nonfiction

My mother was an avid reader yet I don’t recall her buying a single book. She would borrow many books each week from the library, and she was a fast reader. She had so many scattered around the house, my brother once joked about doing an intervention and having to take away her library card. (He was only kidding of course.) She wouldn’t give a writer much of a chance though; if she didn’t like it in the first few pages that was it. She didn’t try to “plow through.” That’s why she needed so many books in order to ensure that at least one would hold her interest.

She only read fiction. She might read a James Patterson or Patricia Cornwell or Lillian Jackson Braun or even a Maeve Binchy. It didn’t have to be about murder or some other fiendish plot by evildoers, but it had to be a made-up story. Now I’m sorry I never asked her why.

I’m not as wedded to fiction as my mother. Some nonfiction stories such as Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer or The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger or Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose are just as gripping as any fictional story. It’s one of the many great things about a library; you can try many different genres, and it doesn’t cost you a dime (unless you miss the due date).

Mary Mulrenan, Fairfax County Public Library

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