I usually get into bed with a novel and our Post-it-studded Times. I try to read the Times thoroughly and carefully at the end of the day. I’m fully aware that the news is two days old by then, and of course in certain areas I’ll be way ahead of it, but it’s the depth that I enjoy, and I find that it serves me well when the news isn’t fresh. The depth is twofold; on the one hand, I want to try to understand what’s going on, rather than just know what’s going on. On the other, I’m always trying to feed the unconscious part of me that’s scheming away—often without my conscious knowledge—at fiction writing. I never know what material that fiction writing part will end up needing or using, but I do like to let it chew through the Times on a daily basis.
After I’m done with that, I read fiction. Reading fiction is purely fun for me—and luckily it’s also something that feeds the work I do. Yesterday I finished Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I’m about to start Jessica Hagedorn’s Toxicology, which I’ve heard great things about. I think the last thing I read that got profoundly under my skin was Emma Donohue’s Room, which I read a couple of weeks ago. I thought about it as I read a news story (in the Times, of course!) about the guilty plea by that couple in California who kidnapped an 11-year-old girl, Jaycee Dugard, 20 years ago. They imprisoned her in the backyard and she had two daughters by her captor before she was discovered. Because of Room, I read the news story with a sense of resonant personal knowledge that I’ve never felt about those stories of captivity before. The feeling reminded me of why fiction is critical to me—more than nonfiction, and I say that as a journalist! Nonfiction expands my knowledge, but fiction broadens my experience. Reading the news story, I thought: I’m so glad to have read Room.