As Sir Francis Bacon observed: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested…” and as someone who gets cravings for books as well as food this is an apt quotation. Just as my balanced food diet has room for a little bit of everything, so too does the food for my mind.
When I’m looking for a light, pleasant, snack kind of read, I turn to Janet Evanovich. Her books are sometimes sweet, sometimes salty, but always fun,kind of like trail mix. They’re a great little cognitive coffee break, and the laughter that results from reading her books refuels me.
An author like Kelley Armstrong provides a more substantial read, more like a meal. With her gift for creating inhuman characters like werewolves and witches, with very human personalities and problems, her books are a great choice for times when I want more than a quick bite, something like a really good hamburger and fries. Nothing upscale, just good solid entertainment.
When being an adult is just too hard, I turn to the books I read as a child, my emotional comfort foods. Re-reading A Little Princess and befriending a rat with Sarah Crewe, being Anne Shirley’s bosom friend again, or going through the wardrobe with Lucy are my mental equivalents of mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese. Heavy on the happy endings and the carbs, but soothing to the stomach and soul.
Other authors require more attention, in order to savour the multi-course presentation of characters, descriptions and dialogue. Much like savouring a meal in a good restaurant I don’t want to rush through the chapters. An author like Charles De Lint feeds that hunger very well. I find myself reading more slowly, lingering over the text, to experience every nuance of flavour, to put off as long as possible the moment when the last page is turned, and I have to leave and take part in the real world again.
And then there are books like Thinking of Answers: Questions in the Philosophy of Everyday Life which is a gourmet feast – so rich with ideas and concepts that it must be read one essay at a sitting and chewed over thoroughly in my brain, or else my intellectual palate becomes overwhelmed and mental indigestion results. Some of the ideas presented by A. C. Grayling seem odd, incompatible or downright disagreeable at first taste, like trying an exotic new dish. But, like an unusual new taste, the ideas linger, and infuse my ordinary mindset with something exciting and new.
French fries or French cuisine, brain candy or brain fiber, every book and every meal brings its own pleasures. However, the advantage to reading is that each and every book you read contains absolutely no fat, calories or cholesterol in each serving, er, chapter.