Well, the truth is that I am reading five books right now, with three more in the works. I have more books to read than I have free time.
Even a year ago, this would not have been the case. It seems that the academic pursuit of my liberal arts education pushed all fun reading to the wayside; since graduation, I’ve had a hard time picking up anything other than Harry Potter. I’m being serious. I read Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, and as much as I enjoyed it and needed to read its message, I barely made it to the end. I mostly read NYT and BBC articles online. And I am assuming that my Cooking Light subscription doesn’t count as legitimate reading material.
So I don’t take for granted the fact that I am reading five books right now. This state of reading-overload is largely the product of some good influences in my life (in particular, an editor who thinks I am a much faster reader than I actually am). But after reading this interview with Nick Carr, these books have ceased to provide merely entertainment; could it be that they are also preserving my attention span, forcing me to think deeply, and sparing my ability to retain information from an unfortunate death? All that from one of these books?
(By the way, if you decide to read that article with Nick Carr, you might want to start reading at the subheading “Cloud, memory, capitalism, and The Shallows.” Not that I’m trying to cater to your short attention span.)
While writing The Shallows, Carr decided to cut back on his connectivity. He ditched Facebook and Twitter, cut back on internet usage, even moved to a place without a cell phone signal. When those things were absence, he seemed to regain his sanity, came back in touch with a sense of calmness. Says Carr:
I think it really underscored what I had begun to fear, which is that I and a lot of other people are really training our brains to skim and scan all the time, and along the way we’re forgetting how to slow down and read or think deeply and be contemplative.
I did recognize an inability to think deeply and fully express those thoughts earlier this year. Ironically (irony can be so fantastic, and so humbling), while Carr removed technological connectivity from his life, I actually turned toward another form of social media: this blog. My suede journal didn’t demand of me what this blog (and you, dear reader) requires: coherence, thoughtfulness, (generally) complete sentences. There’s an accountability in knowing that you’ll see through my weak arguments, my inconsistencies, and my false assumptions. But I don’t think I would have gotten this far without the Austens, Steinbecks, Wrights, and Robinsons in my life.
Do you have a Fitzgerald in your life? Or a Bronte, an O’Connor, or a Lewis? Maybe it’s time for a skimming and scanning fast. Maybe you should even stop reading my blog. But just for a while. =]