On a Saturday not long ago, we had no plans, and no place to go, as is mostly the case during our pandemic life.
My petite Lark was bored and complaining that she had nothing to do, although she owns all the toys and art supplies in the universe.
I suggested that we all grab a book and have a “family reading session” in the living room for half an hour. Admittedly, I expected her to scoff at this suggestion as she had the other 1,000 ideas I’d offered up, but she agreed.
For 30, blissful, quiet minutes, we sat together but apart, each person reading a book of our own choosing.
I want reading back. I want back the focus and joy I found in books, that was with me for the majority of my life, until recently.
I can blame parenthood, sure. Aren’t our kids to blame for all of our woes? Weight gain, stress, sleeplessness. The offspring make good little scapegoats. #Mommybrain
Absolutely, I began to read less after the birth of Bean. There just weren’t enough alone-hours in the day to plow through many novels. But what I’m talking about is something more insidious than just feeling crunched for time.
There’s something about the way we all consume media these days that leaves little energy or focus for weighty tomes or long-form journalism. All the words are flying at us in jazzy little packages, all the time, and we tend to scroll past anything excessively wordy. Hell, every time I draft a post, the WordPress editor tells me to “improve readability” by making my sentences shorter. 20 words or less, please.
Tell the truth. How many times, of late, have you started reading an informative article about climate change, realized how long it would take to get through it, and then clicked away to read a Buzzfeed post entitled, “27 Totally Random Facts About 2000s Pop Culture Things That’ll Make You Do A Double Take.”
Up until a few years ago, I read a bit of a book every single night before I went to sleep. Daytime hours, too, would find me, in my preferred reading position, lying down on a comfy surface, arm crooked around my book. Somehow, over time, this habit shrivelled. The sad, painful truth is that my lifelong reading habits have been ground away by Netflix binges and Facebook updates.
The thing is, I have read a lot of books in my time. So I can still come off to others as a reader, perhaps even as well-read. The reality is that I now struggle to get through the one book a month that is required for my book club meetings.
I want my reading brain back. I want to stop consuming words, like Oliver Jeffers‘ Incredible Book-Eating Boy, and read actual, physical books. Printed on paper.
At the end of November, I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Neil Pasricha. He was there to discuss the ideas in his new book, but my main takeaway were his thoughts on reading and the importance of books. He wrote a fantastic article for Harvard Business Review about how to read more, and now, rather than reading only a few books a year, he manages to read one hundred books a year.
In 2019, I joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I set a modest goal for myself of 24 books. For those of you who are weak in the math department, that’s two books a month. Here’s how I did:
I read a little over one book a month, so I didn’t exactly crush that goal.
For the 2020 Reading Challenge, I’ve set myself a goal of 36 books. Three a month!
In order to get there though, I need to change a few things about how I operate. I’m going to take some of Neil’s advice, and make reading more central in my house.
Here are some other things I’m doing:
I took a social media fast while on holiday for a week. I’m now being very particular about when I look at social media and for how long. Hours in the week freed up!
I bought a teeny book-lamp so that I can read at night without disturbing the husband
I’m getting an old-fashioned newspaper delivered on the weekend. More text, fewer screens.
Other suggestions? How’s your reading brain doing?