On rediscovering the lost art of reading - Around a pretty big island - CycleBlaze

December 21, 2017

On rediscovering the lost art of reading

Now that I'm retired, one of the ways I've been filling my extra hours is by posting rides Rachael and I have taken in the past that I've never published before.  In revisiting some of these old stories, I've been reminded of what an important role literature played in our lives.  We both loved to read.  Compiling a library of paperback novels to take on the upcoming tour was an important part of trip preparation.  We were space and weight bound, and we always enjoyed going through candidate reads, looking for ones that we thought we would both enjoy.  And reading on the road was a prized activity - typically we would spend time reading each evening, or while waiting for the dinner hour.

Rachael is still an avid reader, but it saddens me to say that I've gradually lost the habit over the last decade; and I'm embarrassed to admit that I probably only read a few books per year now.  My reading is mostly topical - tour research, political news, magazine articles, bike journals - but I seldom pick up an actual book.  When I do, it's generally a page-turner by a favorite author (LeCarre, Camilleri, Alan Furst are reliable favorites), or short stories. 

So what happened?  Why don't I read any more?  And can I get it back?

There are several reasons I don't read any more - some that I can do something about, some not.   One important cause is age and memory.  My memory for detail and narrative thread has always been suspect, and gets worse as I age.  I tend to forget what I've read, just as I tend to forget the plots of films I see.  This makes reading a complex novel a challenge - I'll forget all about characters that appeared earlier in the story and suddenly show up out of the blue, and end up flipping back through trying to pick up the thread again.  This is especially an issue put together with my reading style - I'll pick up a book, read it for awhile, and then put it down to come back to later.  I'm constantly starting over.

I don't have any illusions about my memory improving at this point in life, but there are other barriers too.  I think though that by far the biggest one is distraction - and specifically, digital distraction.  We don't read dead-tree books any more.  We use Kindle, and read our books on the iPad.  There are plusses and minuses about this, but one large minus is how easy it is to break off from what I'm reading to check the mail, or check the news, or check the weather, or compete the crossword puzzle, or work through some chess exercises, or whatever.  Once I've lost the thread, it's difficult to pick it up again.  I'm sure more disciplined or less compulsive personalities could cope with this better, but that's not me.  I don't really seem to be able to stop myself.

I think another issue is the e-reader itself.  On the one hand, it's so much easier - you can have the book of your choice in hand instantly, and you can carry an infinite supply of reading material in your pannier or rucksack - a great plus for the weight conscious cycle-tourist.  On the other hand, I don't really enjoy the experience as much.  I was born in the stone age, and love paper; and I love the look and feel of a book.  I take a lot of satisfaction in looking at and pulling off the shelf books I loved in the past.  Even if I don't remember what's inside them, the physical object invokes a memory, and the joy I felt at reading it the first time.

So I'm an optimist, and I'm going to try to get it back.   I have a plan, and it involves you, my imagined audience.  I'm going to go public with my reading activities, making them a part of my journals.  My thinking here is to learn from my experience with journaling itself - by writing for an audience, I've been able to keep up with journaling rather than losing discipline part way through a tour.  I've had a 100% success with that - I've got a complete journal of every tour Rachael and I have taken since I first started publishing our journals, which pleases me no end.  I think the same thing could happen with writing.

So here's my plan: I'll include a list of the books I'm reading while on tour, and periodically during the tour I'll discuss what I'm reading - how far along into the book I am, how I'm enjoying it, and so on.   Also, I'm going back to paper.  It's an added weight on a tour, but we'll start small - I'll just take along a few titles and see how it goes.  Among other good things, this means I can include pictures of what I'm reading in the journal.   Most importantly, I hope this will help on the distraction front - you can't go anywhere else in a paperback book but to somewhere else in the book.  To help me stay there, I have  a pair of resolutions: on our flights, I'll pack my iPad with my checked luggage; and for at least two days each week, I'll leave it at home when I go out for coffee in the morning and take a book instead. 

Wish me luck!  Here's what I plan to take to Hawaii with us, if I don't compete one of them first: 

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Bob DistelbergScott, thanks for all the work posting your journals here. I'm very much enjoying them all. Being at about the same point in my life (recently retired), as well as from a similar career background (software development and IT), I definitely feel a connection. Of course, I'm just starting to get into touring... So, your journals are a real inspiration. Keep it up!
Bob
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2 years ago
Scott AndersonTo Bob DistelbergThanks for following along, Bob. I’m glad you’re getting something out of us. If you’re new to touring, good luck! I hope it works for you. I can’t imagine a better way to pass away your retirement years.

Scott
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2 years ago