I’ve written a lot about reading on this and other blogs. I write about it so much because I care about it so much and I mourn the death of my once voracious appetite for books. It’s not that I cannot get into a book now and then — it is more that I can easily put a book down and not pick it up for days, or even weeks. Even books I love.
A friend once said she envied my love for reading — something she never had. She said she read, but didn’t seem to get the same pleasure out of it that I did. I thought everyone loved to read, but were disciplined enough to not give into the habit.
As a child my mother once told me I “read too much”. I’m not sure if I took that as an insult or a compliment back then. Now I take it as a compliment, but I think she was chastising me for choosing books over people or other activities. When I read Lali’s post, B is for Book, I felt comforted knowing that other people were told to put their books down when they were young.
I think that, because of my 15 or so years of being in a bookgroup, reading books has become a chore. Like housework or homework. Like changing the kitty litter. Also my use of the Internet gets in the way of reading for pleasure — that’s a fact and that’s also something I’m going to be working on reducing. I’ve been watching more TV — films and on-demand cable programs that I got hooked on. That’s going to go too, especially since we’re planning on cutting back our cable to basic to help reduce costs.
Last week, I followed a link on Facebook to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Alan Jacobs, professor of English at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois (although I didn’t realize that until a friend of mine from Illinois pointed it out). The article proposes that only a small fraction of people are “extreme readers”, readers who genuinely love reading and read with “sustained, deep, appreciative attention”. He further theorizes that such readers are not made, but born. While I don’t agree with either statement, I did like this article because it gave me some hope that perhaps I’d be able to get back that love of reading that I once had.
My favorite quote in the article mentioned mentioned Narnia and Susan* Pevensie, my favorite character in the series, and completely illustrated my anguish:
“But then there are the people Nicholas Carr writes about in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, and Carr himself: people who know what it is like to be lost in a book, who value that experience, but who have misplaced it—who can’t get back, as Lucy Pevensie for a time can’t get back to Narnia; what was an opening to another world is now the flat planked back of a wardrobe. They’re the ones who need help, and want it, and are prepared to receive it.”
I mistakenly thought that the book he mentioned by Nicholas Carr would have something to do with Narnia, so I immediately downloaded that onto my Nook. (which I really liked, but hoped it would give me ideas on how to learn to love to read again, but it didn’t.)
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve given up my book groups for a year — perhaps longer — to see if I can rekindle my love for reading. I’ve read a few books so far since my announcement — but two were obligatory reads — one because I got a free copy and promised to write a review on Amazon and the other because someone lent it to me. Nicholas Carr’s book was my first non-obligatory read in a while.
It seems that Jacobs has a book out on this very subject called The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. In fact the article was an excerpt. Maybe that will be on my list of books to read soon.
*Rereading the quote I realize he mentions Lucy, not Susan. I assumed it was Susan because she is shut out of Narnia after Prince Caspian — a fate I still don’t forgive C. S. Lewis for.