Time to Just Read Already

Twelve years ago, I was reading voraciously, getting in around 35 novels a year, reading on my morning commute and lunch break. It comes as a perpetual shock — to me, anyway — but Times Change. My commute changed to driving and motorcycling, and my lunch break changed from an enforced hour break and dedicated space to unscheduled interruptions and eating at my desk. As career changes pushed reading out the window, eyesight changes also made themselves noticed in my mid-40s when I had to start wearing my first sets of glasses. Boy, what an adjustment that was.

The Glasses Apostle by Conrad von Soest (1403)
I wish I looked this good when reading.
Public Domain, via Wikipedia.

Having shifted my career and work arrangements further, I’m back in a position where not only can I make time to read, but I need to. Using my computer glasses for reading a book or academic text is a recipe for a headache, especially if I try to use my fixed focal length reading glasses from a few years ago (more accurately, an eye ache — it feels like I’m being stabbed through the eye socket). Thus, I visited the optometrist this week and signed up to get new lenses. No more single focal length, it’s time to adjust to a combined reading/computer lens. It’s going to be weird!

Of course, you might point me at audiobooks as an obvious alternative. Audiobook sales have been increasing steadily over the years, and having listened to a few recently there are some amazing narrators out there. Indeed, I listened to a discussion recently in which authors talked about writing novels for audio first. No surprise perhaps, but this raises a red flag for me. Might fiction increasingly become a type of radio play, driven by snappy dialog and short, invisible narration, but at the expense of time spent buried in a character’s thoughts, a narrator’s expansive description of their world, or philosophical contemplation of events? While I do love a good page-turning thriller, I also love to be able to stop and contemplate the page I’m on, or laugh at a clever reference to what went before, or flip back a couple of pages to finally comprehend something I missed. It’s this random access I miss most in an audiobooks and find clunky even with e-books. Having said that, there is still something magical about hearing a story well told; it is how stories have been told for thousands of years after all, regardless of genre or category or pace. Ah, to have it all!

Still, there’s a stack of books I want to read. I fear the eyesight’s only going to be the first challenge, of course. Responsibilities have changed a lot in twelve years, as has lifestyle. Making the time to read, committing to it, rediscovering its joy, those are all going to be additional bridges to cross.

I feel a little like Arthur Dent…

Arthur started to say something, then stopped. He started again, and stopped. He then stopped starting and started…

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
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