Tag Archives: experiment

An experiment

Way back in the summer of 1995 I came down with strep throat and had a very bad reaction to the antibiotics I was given for the infection. To make matters worse, we were travelling at the time and I was away from my regular doctor. I saw a “doc-in-the-box” who refused to believe that I was having an extremely painful reaction to Erythomician. All-in-all it took me six weeks to finally feel better. One consequence of feeling so poorly was that I lost my appetite and had to make an effort to take even a bite of something I normally liked.

I’m feeling the same way right now about reading. I’ve lost my appetite for books and have tried to make an effort to read. Last night I went to bed early, thinking I would pick out a book I’d been wanting to start, then read in bed for an hour or so. I sat in front of my bookshelf and nothing looked “appetizing”. Books I bought years ago looked dry and boring. It was like I was sitting at a feast and just picking at my food, unable to take the first bite. I ended up playing games on my phone for an hour then going to sleep.

This morning I remembered what I did that summer of strep throat to get myself to eat: I made myself eat something I liked for 5 minutes. After a while my hunger kicked in and I remembered that food was good. This morning I chose the most appetizing-looking book on my shelf, set a timer for 5 minutes and read.

When the timer went off I was already involved in the story and surprised that 5 minutes were already over. That I put the book down and searched for information about the story online doesn’t necessarily prove that the experiment was a failure — it means I was so intrigued with what I read that I wanted to learn more. Tonight I will go to bed early again and see if I can read for an hour or so. Look for the book in in the sidebar to change soon. (FYI: Pale Fire was excruciatingly boring).

12 months of listening

Last year I did a dumb thing. My mom gave me money for Christmas and I wanted a small mp3 player that was not manufactured by Apple so I could download audio books to listen to when I felt like it. I noticed that audible.com was offering $100 off on a number of mp3 players through Amazon (who, I found out recently, owns audible.com) if I signed up for a year of audible.com. I didn’t read the fine print and was dismayed to find out (after making the purchases & agreeing to the legal stuff on audible.com) the subscription was about $15 a month. Hmm, I thought, maybe if I don’t buy any book group books for the year and use my 1 credit a month for the audio version of the books I’ll break even.

So, I went with that plan and downloaded audio books of the books chosen for book group.

That plan might have worked had I commuted a long distance to work. That plan might have worked if I walked or used exercise equipment. That plan might even have worked if I remembered to grab my mp3 player when I did household chores like laundry or cleaning the bathroom.

Unfortunately I did none of the above, but thought that since my work was mainly rote and didn’t really use much brain power, I could listen to my audio books while working. I really believed I could. I told people this was working. I did get through some books this way and thought I was so smart to have thought of it.

I realized last week that I’d been lying to myself and everyone else. I was not really understanding much of what was going on in most of the books I listened to this way and that was probably why I did not like most of the books chosen for book group this year — I didn’t really “get” most of them and didn’t finish several because of it.

What worried me was this: I thought that I’d lost my love of literature. That I didn’t like the audio books because I didn’t like to read anymore. It was a very depressing thought since reading is part of how I define myself: I am a reader and I love to read. Since I realized that it was the listening to the books while working that probably made me not like them I tried to really read again. I finished a book I started in the summer (Naked by David Sedaris) and started a book that Andrew gave me for Christmas (The Little Stranger by Sara Waters) and am happy to say I still love to read. Naked is very funny and The Little Stranger is a gripping Gothic ghost story.  Whew!

Don’t get me wrong, I really do believe that a person can listen to a book and get as much out of it* as someone who reads the same book, but I no longer think that I can listen to books and work on even mindless tasks at the same time.

So I’ve got 4 credits (and a $10 credit for some reason) left on my audible.com account and will download a few books I’d been meaning to read — but won’t listen to them while doing anything more taxing with my brain than chores or walking or driving — and cancel my account with audible.

I guess I can chalk it up as a year long experiment. Albeit one that failed.

*what a person gets out of listening versus reading might be a little different — but can be pretty much the same. Some people just don’t like to listen to books some cannot concentrate on them, but if one does like listening and can concentrate then the experience can be close to the same as reading a book.