A very terrible thing happened this year. Maybe it won’t seem bad to most people, but for a librarian or avid reader it might as well have been a catastrophe. I quit reading. I just couldn’t. Or more likely wouldn’t. I wish I could say it was for a good reason----a family crisis----job forced me to work long hard hours, but it wasn’t. The truth is I was exceptionally busy watching marathon after marathon session of “Arrested Development,” or “Felicity,” or “24.”
I had subscribed to Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus on my ereader and it was a big mistake. My face would be pressed up against my Kindle Fire late into the night, my fingers unconsciously hitting “Next Episode” over and over and over again. Anyway, it was a very dark period in my life for no reason other than the fact that it featured the absence of books. I suspect that decades of old TV shows on NetFlix and Amazon Prime have done more to destroy reading than just about anything else.
A while ago, I was discussing with another person the benefits of having an ereader with internet options—fun apps, games, movies and tv shows. The person explained that he was getting the ereader for his kids and he wanted them to read, so he was determined to get just a basic reader with none of the other fancy stuff. I was quietly jealous that those kids would be able to read in peace without the temptation of thousands of episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras and Law & Order: SVU.
And then one night, I didn’t really see anything I wanted to watch, but needed the quiet murmur of a background story to lull me to sleep. So I downloaded an audio eBook—“Defending Jacob” by William Landay and it was magnificent. And I remembered how awesome books were, so I downloaded an ebook and I read. And read and read and read. My brain slightly hurt at first. I was a little confused about where to put my eyes and how to set the rhythm of moving them across the page. But it all came back to me.
The really nice thing was that I was reading “good” books—--literary fiction—books that were making me think.
“The Dinner”by Herman Koch (amazing book—slightly strange).
“The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes (very short and well written).
“Tell the Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt (nostalgic and sad).
“Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker (double super amazing-just a hint of sci fi, kind of Atwood-like).
So what your teachers and librarians always said is true. Your brain is a muscle. And when you let it go it gets flabby and out of shape and it makes you feel blah and yucky.
Luckily, it is easy to snap it back into shape. If you haven’t read in a while—take it slow—start off with something short or, like I did, start off with an audio book. You will quickly get back into the swing of things.
Now here, I should stress that if you stop reading because you are consistently having trouble concentrating, or words on the page are blurry or you aren’t enjoying the activities you used to enjoy, then consider mentioning this to your doctor. But, if you’ve just gotten out of the habit, are watching too much TV, etc., then stop by the library or give us a call. We’ll be glad to help you get back onto a reading regimen.