Do real-world catastrophes such as 9/11 (and the bombs in Madrid, and the ones in London, and the war in Darfur, and … really, all the human-driven, mass loss-of-life events) affect what you choose to read?On 9/11/01 I was dealing with a personal catastrophe when the global one hit, and so there was a surreal feeling to life that was unavoidable for a long while. My reading during that time was more for escape than anything else.
Then during the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq - which I also consider a tragic, human-driven, mass loss-of-life avoidable event - I became heavily involved in political activism and started reading a lot of nonfiction books - political , environmental, the genre known as Hell in a Handbasket. It became obvious to me that we were on a path of monumental global destruction. I was seeking affirmation and solutions; I was getting a lot of the former but not much of the latter.
About a year and a half ago, after spending 5 years actively protesting the Bush administration, writing, reading doom and gloom nonfiction, I reached a bit of a meltdown point and pretty much gave up reading any nonfiction, particularly having to do with illegal wars, terrorism, politics, food crisis, or environmental destruction. It was an unconscious decision - I just found I couldn't stomach it anymore. I've been reading fiction almost exclusively this year, I think as a way to protect myself against the pain and trauma of what's happening around us. It's not that I'm in denial about it, or unaware, but I'm choosing to not live and breathe it every moment and to give myself a break from it for awhile.
Perhaps after retirement I'll be able to muster some energy to get back in the fray and take on more nonfiction reading. For now I need to stay in a fictional world, one that I can close the cover on and make it go away.
Again, wishing the best outcome for all of you affected by the hurricane in the Gulf. Be safe, be well.