All the books I have not read

I seem to have lost the ability to read.

Don’t freak out. I mean I can read words just like normal.

The problem arises when they are placed sequentially in a fancy, literary-type book.

I’ve noticed this little issue for a while and it’s been growing and growing. I can’t be bothered reading award winning literary fiction any more. It does my head in. I have no patience for it. It’s slow. It ponderous. It makes me fall asleep. Is the problem with me or the books?

Most recently I’ve failed to get past the opening pages of The Poisonwood Bible even though I’ve had it on loan from a patient friend for over a year. Meanwhile I’ve re-read all of LM Montgomery (Anne, Emily and the like), every autobiography or memoir of a writer, comedian or actor that’s been release in the last couple of years (Tina Fey, Rob Lowe (x2), Amy Poehler, all of Caitlin Moran’s books, Graham Norton, basically any British comedy with a half-arsed idea for a book – Rob Brydon, David Mitchell, Russell Brand and the like). In the past year or so, I’ve also read all of Freya North’s chick-lit, and everything by Alexander McCall Smith set in Edinburgh. I’ve managed the latest Ian Rankin’s bar two.

So I guess it’s not that I can’t read. I just can’t get my brain to focus on certain kinds of reading. Why?

Well I’ve done a lot of staring into space over the last few days and I’ve come up with the following reasons.

My attention span is short. I do blame social media even though I like it and think it serves a useful purpose most of the time. (a topic for another post)
My attention span for anything more complicated than Frankie magazine or the latest Buzzfeed listicle is also kaput. I blame completing a PhD. My brain had to work very hard for a long time. It got tired.
Some books are really thick and big and look boring. I would rather watch the film/TV series/read the Wikipedia summary. It’s quicker.
Books that win prizes (Booker, Pulitzer, Miles Franklin etc etc) are often more about writing than reading. Just a rash, unsupported statement there. Do with it what you will. See points 1 and 2 for why I’m not expanding on it here.
So this non-reading thing has been coming on for a while. And it’s concerning me because now that I’m bona-fide librarian surely I should be reading “worthy, proper books”. Well we all realise that is a snobby sentence of the highest order and that the high-low culture dichotomy collapsed some decades ago (see cultural studies 101 for further details). But still, surely some of these books I don’t seem to be able to read are lovely?

So with that in mind I’ve set myself a reading challenge. It’s called All the Light We Cannot See. I’ve got the rest of the holidays to read it. I’ve deleted FB from my phone to avoid the endless, mindless scrolling and liking. Twitter will be next. At the moment I’m allowed to keep Instagram.

I’ve read the first few pages. I’d tell you what they were about but I can’t remember so I’m going to have to read them over. To succeed I am going to have to read in the morning, sitting up in a chair with a cup of tea. I may have to take notes.

Wish me luck.

14.04.17 Update

I did it. I finished the book. I read the whole thing. It was great. Sometimes I fell asleep, but not immediately. I read it in the morning, the afternoon and the evening. I even got to the point where I couldn’t wait to get home so I could keep reading! Success. Achievement unlocked. Hurrah for me. etc.

FB is still absent from my phone. Not that I haven’t replaced that mindless scrolling with mindless scrolling through twitter and instagram but I guess it’s one less app to mindlessly scroll through which has to be something right? My current rule is that I can use FB when I am sitting at my computer which is less than 6000 times a day so I think I’m cracking the FB habit.

I”m also on the lookout for my next book that isn’t on my Kindle.



4 thoughts on “All the books I have not read

  1. Hehe. So you are reading a book about writing and reading, amongst other things! And isn’t it beautiful? It’s a book that reminds me that books transport us out of the moment. Perhaps even when they’re prize winning books about the writing rather than reading, we are still being shunted (toot toot) to another place.

    I have considered myself hopeless for having such a short attention span on non-fiction. Have set my own challenges on this—and failed—many times. Then picked up a novel and experienced the high buzz of inner joy that also happens in front of evocative artworks and amidst the sounds of music (that moves me, yet may not move others).

    With all the shit in the world that streams past all our senses – books, art, music are our time-out.

    *bows and genuflects on friend’s strength to delete Faffbook app*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *bows in return although not sure why*
      They definitely are our time-out and much needed at this point in time it seems. A good book can transport us to another time and place. Non-fiction is tricky isn’t hey. The best non-fiction should do the same really. I love London by Peter Ackroyd. An amazing history of the growth of a city.


  2. I have to agree. I haven’t lost the ability or the urge to read, just the time. But then again, I have always ‘found’ time to scroll mindlessly through social media fluff … I think it is because of the ease of reading quick snippets; you can get the gist of things in less than 3mins (although I clicked a link the other day to an article in the NY Times that took me hte best part of the day to read in full). The difference is you actually have to concentrate on a book. It takes longer to begin the journey. But the trip is much more rewarding in the end. Looking for a good fiction book atm. Any recommendations hiding in a little free library somewhere … I’ve got plenty to swap!


    1. I agree totally re the ease of social media vs the challenge of starting a novel or something longer. I def recommend all the light we cannot see (it did take me two goes at starting)
      Shantaram is in the little library at the moment if you’re keen?


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