What was going to be a brilliant cohesive post about hope turned into an incoherent ramble

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.

5 thoughts on “What was going to be a brilliant cohesive post about hope turned into an incoherent ramble

  1. One of the reasons I go infrequently to book group lately—and I used to be religious about going—is because I want to read the books I already have, and it’s so hard to even get to them. I kind of admire your deliberately taking a year off in search of your love of reading.

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    1. Thanks, IB. I know what you mean about reading the books I already have. I started reading a book today that I’ve been meaning to read since I was in the 6th grade and the author came to our class. I was too young in 6th grade for the material and have never seemed to get around to reading the book. I like it so far. (What I’m Going to Do, I Think by Larry Woiwode. (his sister was our student teacher)

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  2. When I read in the Jacobs article that some people lose their love of reading, I didn’t believe it. But now that you’re saying the same thing, I do, though I cannot for the life of me imagine how that can happen. Does this mean that you can walk into a bookstore and not start salivating immediately? That you can read a book review without right away coveting the book? Or hear a friend talk about a book she enjoyed and remain indifferent? I’ve said this before, but I bet your love of reading comes back.

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    1. No, Lali — I still salivate in bookstores and covet interesting sounding books. I just cannot seem to actually read, or keep on reading. Too many screens in our house. (in fact as I type this at my desk I’ve got 4 staring back at me. Laptop, desktop (I use two monitors for work), 7 inch TV and smartphone. Yesterday I had my Nook up here too which made 5.

      It’s the damn screens!

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  3. Maybe it is the screens, and the radio, and I don’t know what else. Another factor, for me at least, is that there are so many books out there that are really NOT worth reading ! Books are marketed vigorously, reviewed as brilliant on NPR and the book section of the Post, and then turn out to be so much less than “advertised”. And being one of the cheapest people I know when it comes to spending money on things I can’t eat, drink, or talk to, I feel ripped off and angry, and don’t want to read anything that’s not a bonafide classic or something a trusted friend has SWORN is a great read. UNBROKEN, for instance, sworn to by yerself! Loved it, and may even buy it so I can lend it friends and loved ones. R u home yet?

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