I Resolve…

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I resolve to read more.

There, that wasn’t hard. And I mean it, I do. I do. I resolve to read more.

Following through on that resolution shouldn’t be hard either, since I have loved to read all my life. And reading makes for better writing.

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But lately, what’s been happening? I pick up a book, I read five or ten pages, then I remember I had some charity donations to complete, I have some thank-you’s to write, I need to sweep the kitchen floor, I need to clean out the fridge. So I put down the book. Later, when the donations are made, thank-you’s written, floor swept, fridge cleaned, I pick the book up again.

Then I remember I told my sister I would call her, I put the book down. I make the call, I make dinner, I print out a list of TV shows nominated for Golden Globes, I watch too many episodes of one of those. The next day, I pick up the book again. Another ten pages in, I remember I missed the cold open on Saturday Night Live, decide to watch it on YouTube, put the book down. After YouTube (and a few Seth Meyer “Closer Looks”) I pick up the book, but I remember I haven’t read the Sunday NY Times Book Review yet, so I put the book down,

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I spend a long time reading reviews of books, probably more than is healthy. I put the books that sound intriguing on hold at our wonderful library. I have a long list of holds. But the book I’m (supposedly) reading right now is from the library and tomorrow it’s due, so I take the book back and pick up the new ones that have come in. My husband says I’m personally increasing the circulation of the library by a hefty percentage. But am I reading the books I check out? Bits of them. Pieces of them. But basically, no.

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Good thing I’m a member of a book discussion group, or I might never feel any pressure to finish a book. Just finished this month’s book, but it’s taken me six weeks to do it. So many books, so little…no…there isn’t so little time. I’m retired, and I have plenty of time, but I’m not reading. I’m nibbling.

Right now I have six great books out from the library:  Living in the Weather of the World by Richard Bausch, Flights by Olga Tarkaczuk, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley (it must have been hard growing up with that name), The Overstory by Richard Powers, The Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli, and A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventures of Liberalism by Adam Gopnik (love every book he’s ever written – both content and style.) Each one of those books has gotten great reviews and piqued my interest.

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Maybe my problem is too many books at once? I tell myself I like having a lot of books to choose from, depending on my mood-  am I needing information (that weather book) or needing stories? But maybe too many at once contributes to the Nibbling Syndrome. Do I hear the siren call of other books (“Read me instead….”) as I’m trying to read just one?

No, that’s not it. And, Reader, I’m sorry to say that I don’t know the answer to my original question, “What’s been happening?” (Better said, I don’t know the why behind what’s happening.) Can books be like some desserts – eat too much and you don’t feel good?

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When I thought about taking my turn here at Books Around the Table, I planned on recommending a good book for writers of childrens’ books to read. The title is A Velocity of Being : Letters to a Young Reader. It’s a collection of letters written by some very interesting people (musicians, anthropologists, physicists, Yo-Yo Ma and Jane Goodall among them) encouraging young readers to read, to love books, to engage their imaginations with the possibilities and the people they find in books. Each letter is illustrated by an artist (BATT’s own Julie Paschkis among them.) And the drawings in this post are all from the book. Published in 2018, A Velocity of Being was put together by the amazing Maria Popova of Brainpickings, and her friend, the publisher of Enchanted Lion Books, Claudia Bedrick. It’s inspirational, and I deeply believe in its premise: that the great benefit of falling in love with books when you’re young is the development of empathy. Without empathy, we’re doomed.

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But after reading through the book to pick out a few inspirational passages to share with you here, I realized that I needed to be honest enough to say that maybe once in awhile, at least for adults, or at least for writers, or at least for me, one needs to go through some kind of deep cleansing process and forego reading temporarily…

Wait. I didn’t just write that, did I? Forego reading? After I’ve just resolved to read more books? Have I just set a record for how fast I can break a New Year’s Resolution?

Maybe I should make myself distraction-proof. Procrastination-proof? Maybe I should resolve to read fewer reviews? Check out fewer books at one time? Stop nibbling? Persist and persevere?

I don’t know the answer. There are many choices and life is complicated. What can I say? (Well, I could say Happy New Year! )

What say you? – finished any good books lately?

 

9 responses to “I Resolve…

  1. Me too, but apparently it’s not entirely our “fault.” A USC-led study finds that seniors’ attention shortfall is associated with the locus coeruleus, a tiny region of the brainstem that connects to many other parts of the brain. The locus coeruleus helps focus brain activity.
    Increased distractibility is a sign of cognitive aging, said senior author Mara Mather, an expert on memory and professor at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

  2. Like you, I love to read. All my life my favorite reading time has been before bed, all tucked in and cozy, with few distractions. The trouble is, as I have aged, my ability to stay awake while reading before bed has decreased substantially. Twenty minutes in and I’m dozing. Books would take months to get through (and I am a one book at a time reader). My solution was a dedicated reading time of a half hour to 45 minutes daily, with a cup of tea or coffee, tucked up in bed away from any screens or other distractions. Usually it is around 10AM when I am fully awake (I’m not an early morning person) so that I am unlikely to drift off to sleep. It has been a real blessing and has basically saved my reading. So, to you I would suggest making a dedicated time to read each day. Give it a few weeks for it to become a habit and soon, like any other habit, you won’t be able to do without it. Good luck.

  3. I get it. I’m supposed to slow down. My muscles are supposed to give on me unexpectedly, it’s my nose that now runs and not so much my feet. I get all that. But I honestly never expected that aging would slow my reading down. Well, I didn’t know about the locus coeruleus either, truth be told, so it’s humbling to find out this stuff. My sympathies, Julie, but you are not alone, and I must say it’s comforting to read your post and laugh along–at the distracted reader I see myself becoming.

  4. At almost 60, I may be more distractable, but there are so many distractions these days. I always read before bed for an hour or two. I always have, so it’s not a hard ritual. I don’t have a TV or computer in my bedroom. I have a kindle, but only use it for reading, Mostly anyway. I used to be able to read anything, but now if it doesn’t grab me in the first 50 pages, I put it aside. So many books, so little time. I take a book and a notebook with me where ever I go. Little bits of reading or drawing time add up. And when I feel like I’m overwhelmed by life, I reread a book. I do that more often now than I used to. Something comforting about that, something sure and safe, a story waiting for my return to it. I look forward to reading the Velocity of Being.

    • Thanks for your comments, Joy. I don’t have that 2-hour stamina to read in bed. But I’m finding that audiobooks work out pretty well in terms of getting through a book by stops and starts, bits and pieces, and it doesn’t have to be for a long road trip – it’s enjoyable even as I run around town on errands.

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