Jeremy1952: I'm having an awful time "getting into" the book, and I don't think it's Doctorow's fault, fiction just doesn't grab me anymore.
It's funny. I used to read nothing but fiction. I have a long history of blowing off school work to read whatever fiction author I was into at the time. When I got out of school, that ended almost over night. I still enjoy fiction, but I read less of it than I used to. I think there's probably two reasons behind that. One is that I've gotten pickier. The other is that a lot of the non-fiction reading that I do is more precisely motivated. I'm trying to follow up ideas or learn more about some aspect of the world that I think is important. Fiction has its own uses, though, so I keep reading it, and it continues to be rewarding. If you're not finding fiction rewarding any more, maybe it's because you haven't found the right book.
misterpessimistic: I forgot how fun it was to read a good story without worrying about how it impacts on current events or divisive issues.
This probably won't surprise you much, but I don't do that very often. I feel that fiction gives us a different avenue for approaching... not issues... let's say, things that are meaningful to us. That isn't to say that I look at fiction as a repository for ideas. I just think it's a creative way to get at the grist of what's important in life. Good fiction can be transformative.
But I don't think that difference really devides us. You may read a book as a form of escapism, but if you remember what you've read, it will usually come up in your life later on. There's a little paradox there, maybe: you escape by reading, but eventually it brings you back around to that from which you were escaping. We tend to hold on to these things and compare them with our experiences. Good fiction makes our perceptions richer, and I think that's what's most compelling about it.
Chris OConnor: Maybe one of these days we can all do a fantasy genre book - even if it is in the Additional Book Discussions forum.
I've got some recommendations...