Getting Back to Reading (Actual Books)
By Anne Wolfe Postic
Let’s be honest: Most people don’t read for pleasure these days. Even those of us who use to sink into a good (or even mediocre) book like it was quicksand are powerless over our phones and infinite streaming options. During the lockdown portion of the pandemic? I could have read a hundred books, but instead I watched all 15 seasons of the original “Dallas.”
On our nightly walks, I regaled my husband with tales of the Ewings and their many dalliances, both personal and business, and all my feelings about them. At one point, my husband politely recommended that I might enjoy writing a thesis about the show and getting a doctorate in…I don’t know what. But I do think the world might enjoy learning all about “The Evolution of Race and Gender on ‘Dallas’.” To be fair, I highly recommend watching the entire show, if only so you’ll enjoy reading my eventual thesis, but I digress.
Books! I used to read all the time. When I was a kid, I used to put a book in a plastic zippered bag so I could read in the shower. When I went to college in a big city, public transportation thrilled me, because I could read on the way to wherever. The longer the trip the better. And magazines. There were so many magazines, and I looked forward to the end of the month, when new issues arrived in my mailbox or on the newsstand. Those printed words have been replaced by screens. But I’m trying to do better.
Reading a magazine online just isn’t the same. First of all, most of them are updated daily, so reading the latest doesn’t require any kind of commitment. Drop in and out, no need to settle into the bath or a comfy chair and consume the whole thing at once. And the ads are often embedded into the content, or worse, they move, which is distracting. Digital books are a little bit better. I usually have one going on my phone, which is probably why I let you go in front of me in the grocery store line the other day. Had to finish that chapter!
Phones, of course, have their own issues – text messages that pop up and remind you your prescription is ready, your friend wants to have dinner on Thursday, your dog needs a couple shots at the vet, and on and on. Or you get sucked into those video reels on Facebook. Why? I don’t know! The first one is mildly entertaining, maybe the fourth one, but ten minutes later? I actually feel stupider.
So, during this season of resolutions, I’m going to read. Actual books, on actual paper. When I read about a new novel on one of those websites I browse out of habit, I’m going to reserve it immediately on my library app, or order it if it seems like a keeper. For 15 minutes a day, I’ll drop everything and read. I suspect, it’ll feel like one of those assignments for school that turns out to be really interesting. You mean to do the bare minimum, but end up diving in. Pretty sure that 15 minutes will turn into a half hour or more.
The trick may be to always have a book ready. Have you ever gone on vacation somewhere relaxing for a week and plowed through a few books because the wi-fi was spotty? But then you get home to your glorious high-speed connection. Before you know it, you’ve made it through two seasons of some show you won’t remember in a month. The problem with digital media is it’s always there. The good, the bad, the ugly – it’s just so easy.
This year, I’m going to make reading easy. I’ll keep a novel in the car. I’ll put away the books on my bedside table I’ve already read and replace them with new ones. There will be a book in the living room to read during commercials. And, yes, I’m bringing back the stack of bathroom magazines. I mean, sometimes you get bored in there. Please wish me the willpower to leave my phone out of reach.
So, what’s the last thing you read? It doesn’t have to be the greatest thing ever. Was it interesting? Did you actually finish it? I need plenty of recommendations because, goshdarnit, I’m doing this. Join me? We don’t even have to talk, just sit quietly and read.