Reading Diet 101

News flash: I am not a nutritionist. I am not a scientist. In fact, I haven't taken a science class since high school (unless you count a computer class in college). Therefore, I am not about to announce some rad new diet that involves eating your library books and promises to make you thin in 2.45 hours.

What I am proposing is a well-balanced reading diet. Because your mind is just as important as your waistline.

What's on your (reading) plate?

Here's the problem I see: we all are attracted to certain kinds of reading material, and we get stuck there. I for one get addicted to the likes of Malcolm Gladwell with a touch of self-help and memoir thrown in. I'm not entirely sure what you would call Gladwell's genre, but for the purposes of brevity, we're going to go with the name Big Idea Nonfiction.

My husband Aaron, on the other hand, gets way too caught up in sci-fi and, yes, manga. I've never understood the allure of comics, but there he is, a mid-twenties adult male reading manga before bed every night.

And then there are people who only read blog posts. And others who only read newspapers. And others who like thrillers. You get my drift.

Burgers and more burgers

My theory is that getting stuck in one kind of genre is like eating meals that consist of only one food group. Sure, eating only hamburgers has some nutritional benefit, I'm sure (protein, anyone?), but you miss out on all the fiber from the grain category and all the vitamins and antioxidants from your fruits and veggies.

For instance, if you only read Big Idea Nonfiction like me, your head will be full of random knowledge and big ideas (plus, you'll be looking for the tipping point of everything - your bank account, the bathroom scale, your kid's temper tantrums).

That's all good and well, but as great as that genre is, as motivated as I am to do big things when I finish the book, I'm missing out on the imagination and creativity that fiction offers.

Consuming only online content like blog posts, news articles, and email newsletters is great for quick reads and inspiration. That type of content, though, is by nature limited. A 1000 or 2000 word online article can't do complete justice to a topic.

It's helpful in getting the ball rolling and helping you see life from a new perspective. But only reading short content is like trying to put together a puzzle with only half the pieces. Full-length books help round out your knowledge.

Only reading fiction is limiting as well. Sure, you get a great imagination boost out of the deal, but it's like eating ice cream for every meal.

And this is a polite reminder to my husband that when he only reads manga, all his thoughts pop up above his head in thought bubbles. So I now know what he is getting me for Christmas.

Read your veggies

Is there a perfect reading diet? I'm going to take the lazy route and say it probably depends on the person. I'm not a fan of one-size-fits-all food diets, and I'm pretty sure one-size-fits-all reading diets are just as ineffective.

Here's what I will say: just like we all need decent portions of nutrient-packed-even-if-it's-not-our-favorite food (aka brussel sprouts) to keep our bodies healthy, we all need a good balance of reading material that expands our minds plus a little bit of the fun stuff thrown in.

It's all about moderation. Just because one genre is easy for you doesn't mean you should stay there. Read the hard stuff, too. (And no, Aaron, reading manga in Japanese instead of English doesn't count as the hard stuff.)