Reading is such a necessity for me that when I go too long without doing enough of it, I have a hard time. Also, it fills so many different needs that I develop various pent-up cravings for different kinds of reading.
They are, roughly:
- Reading for pleasure. Anything that satisfies, but especially things that are enjoyable for personal reasons that have no concrete connection to their utility, and have language and style that entertains.
- Reading for knowledge. Essential information about the world. Feeds the appetite for understanding and making sense of things, settles the anxiety of ignorance and facilitates order and reason.
- Reading for depth. Reading that feeds the subconscious or soul, the narrative-craving part of you. Reading that upends things, that is chaotic or random, that disturbs or thrills. Reading that swallows and confuses you, but leads in the end to the most astonishing connections and unexpected insights.
I like this division better than simply splitting things up by genre—fiction, nonfiction, etc. The first is a binary value, it’s either present or not, but on its own it’s never enough, like sugar is bland by itself. Types two and three are archetypal; two is Apollonian and three is Dionysian.
Fiction and poetry tend to fall into type three, while nonfiction and essays into two, but most works straddle the lines or overlap.
While I’m always craving immersion in the third kind of reading, if I don’t get enough of type two, I find myself distracted by my own lack of knowledge about so many things which I know so little about. Sometimes I have to read my way through some number two stuff to get my mind free for type three.