...I recently found myself watching 'Northanger Abbey' as part of Masterpiece Theatre's Jane Austin rundown and was intrigued by a question asked initially in the dramatization:
Is it possible to read too many novels?
I was stunned by that question and stopped the playback for a moment while I considered two things: 1) what a great blog topic that could be and 2) how insane that question is. Question #1 gives you insight into how I come up with some of my ideas. Question #2 is a different matter entirely.
I'm a rather voracious and avid reader. I will rarely turn my nose up at a book be it discourse, fiction, economic review or history. Pop-fiction and classic literature sit side by side on my bookshelves. I read a lot of things every day that aren't just books too - website television and movie reviews, blogs, studies on the textbook industry, and news (when I get a chance to). But fiction - a nice thick book in my hands - is still my first love.
Now, the story in Northanger Abbey, for those not familiar, is about a young lady who has quite the taste for gothic novels of the time. This has colored her perception of many things, not limited to the ability to be swayed by a simple piece of mis-information and her overactive imagination. She faces her biggest issue when she mistakenly believes that the mother of a man that she is in love with was killed by his father and admits such. She is sent back home mysteriously and suddenly and believes that it's a result of this terrible thing she has admitted instead of what the actual truth is.
Reading too much for her ended up having a very serious drawback and led to a series of consequences that wrap themselves up nicely as most of Austin's novels do. Reading too much for the rest of us in the modern world though? Well, I suppose it's possible...
I went to college with someone who was more voracious about reading than I. She preferred to spend what little free time she had (as a Chem major) reading constantly instead of working or socializing. As a result almost everything out of her mouth was comparing real life to something she had read in a romance novel, or a pop-fiction book, or a classic piece of literature. To say she was a bore would be accurate and an understatement and not quite right all at the same time.
There was real life just outside her door and yet she was content to spend all her time reading. Someone else I knew in high school was like that as well, with a different twist. For him, all true knowledge was in books and nothing less than 60 years old was worth reading. It was a very interesting day in 1987 when our English Lit (Honors) teacher said we would be reading the classic novel "Catcher in the Rye". The entire time we spent on that novel was colored by this individual's comments of how that piece of pop-fluff could not be considered a classic, how trashy it was, and completely disrespectful of true classic literature it was to be calling that book a classic. And that maybe we should be reading a true classic. Like "The Iliad". By Homer.
Too bad The Simpsons weren't really on television by that point because I would have been the eternal smart-ass and said "Simpson?" in response. And believe me, if you wanted color in your English Lit responses, I was the person with that color. But he was way out of touch with real life, believing that what Austin and Bronte had to say about relationships was the real way things work (and the lovestruck will always get the object of their heart's desire because the clueless individual *will* see reason eventually) and, despite the age of their works, that Poe and Doyle didn't know what they were talking about when it came to a mystery story.
Now, I do spend quite a bit of time reading and at home with my family but I don't think that I've fallen out of touch with the real world or lost my sense of reason. I recognize that there is classic literature being written every day, and am fully aware that perhaps sticking your nose into a book at every opportunity might not be the way to live one's life. That's not to say I don't mind spending an entire day inside and reading instead of doing other things that need doing. I do encourage my daughters to read, and they seem to have a fairly healthy appetite when it comes to books. They have their genres that they enjoy, and a couple of favorite authors already. I won't ever discourage them from "reading for pleasure" unless it's severely interfering with schoolwork or other required chores.
Even my own chores have disrupted my usual reading schedule, and I find I'm only reading at the gym on the stationary bike now. That's probably why I manage to stay on the bike for about 30 minutes - because it's a good chunk of time for me to read that I don't have anymore. Even the newspapers are piling up and I'm finding that I'm renewing books for as long as I can at the library in the hopes that I might finish before they're due. I know I haven't really answered the question - can you read too many novels - but I know this:
You can definitely reach a point where you feel you're not reading enough.