Works of non-fiction are important. Who can deny it? They supply us with practical knowledge. From time to time we all need to know how to do something - like fix a leaky pipe or plant a garden or repair a toilet.
Non-fiction satisfies our curiosity. Some people enjoy reading the latest scoop about their favorite celebrities. Non-fiction feeds our intellect which is why some like to read historical works or the latest scientific discoveries.
I'm addicted to reading all the latest books about current politics. Apparently I like to scare myself - you know, the way some people like to scare themselves by watching horror movies or riding roller coasters. The fact that flawed, fallible politicians make ill advised decisions that eventually effect the everyday lives of everybody in the country is heady stuff.
As important as non-fiction is, it seems to me that a reading life confined to non-fiction alone is like a desert where facts rise up like buttes in a wasteland without warmth or humanness or domesticity. My mind may require non-fiction, but my soul and my imagination demand fiction.
But fiction is a broad classification, and I like a certain kind of fiction. I don't want to read disturbing, unnerving fiction. Reality is disturbing and unnerving enough. My soul wants to be soothed and consoled.
I like books about big families whose members are good enough to be endearing, but imperfect enough to be real. I like books that supply a lot of domestic details. I'm not a bit bored when I read about how the dishes are stored in the kitchen, how the sun strikes the diningroom table at an odd angle, or how the linens in the closet smell like lavender.
I get attached to characters - so much so that sometimes when I finish a book, I feel something akin to grief at having to leave the characters who have become real friends to me.
Two or three years ago I chose a book from the fiction shelves at Barnes & Noble because I loved the cover - a watercolor picture of a quaint village. Yes, I am prone to judging books by their covers - a bad habit that can lead to disappointment.
But this book - An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor - did not disappoint. It's set in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. I immediately felt a kinship to the characters - the well established Dr. O'Reilly with a personality like Rooster Cogburn (as portrayed by John Wayne in the movie by that name); Barry Laverty, Dr. O'Reilly's optimistic young assistant; Mrs. Kincaid, the bustling housekeeper; and a train of interesting patients from the village who show up with various ailments. Dr. O'Reilly and Dr. Laverty make regular house calls to patients who live in the rural areas outside the village. These travels are always interesting and often humorous. Needless to say, it was sad to finish this book and leave all my friends in the village of Ballybucklebo behind.
Fast forward to yesterday. I was at Barnes & Noble - in the fiction department again. After reading two political books, one after the other, I needed some soul nourishment. I was about to give up and leave empty handed when I saw what turned out to be a sequel to An Irish Country Doctor. It's called An Irish Country Village. I bought it, and I'm immersed once more in the life of Dr. O'Reilly and associates. The best news of all is that there is a third book, An Irish Country Christmas. So it looks like I'll be able to finish out the year with my Ballybucklebo friends.