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On Reading

I started off this year by reading five books in the first month. It was an impressive feat for me, something I haven’t done in a very long time. I figured I’d keep this pace throughout the year, but that did not happen. Instead, I found myself distracted by too many books. I’d start one and then another and bounce between the two before finally giving them both up. I’d start a book on some technical topic and I’d get halfway through before I realized that I had truly learned all that I possibly would from the book.

I’ve been reading regularly, but I haven’t been finishing anything and now that we are six months into the year, I’m a bit frustrated that I haven’t made more progress. So, I spent some time trying to figure out what is holding me back. Here is what I came up with:

1. My Attention Span is Not What It Used To Be I’ve known this for years. In my early twenties, a six or seven hundred page book didn’t concern me. I’d read through it in a week or two, but now if its over 300 pages I start questioning if I want to make that sort of commitment to the book. Blame it on cell phones, the internet, or getting older, but I struggle sticking with a long story these days.

2. Picking Too Technical of Books I’m a fan of reading for fun, but also for knowledge. For the past ten years, I’ve primarily read non-fiction offerings usually in the self-improvement or history genres. I’ve discovered that a lot of time was committed to these books and I got very little out of it, especially when it comes to self-improvement. Recently, I discovered online book synopsis that work as modern day Cliff’s Notes, which I prefer to read in lieu of wasting eight or ten hours on a self-help book that would have made a better blog entry.

Recently, I started reading Batman and Psychology. I really enjoy the book, but after a while it starts getting very technical. Way too many big words are dropped in sequence and I find myself zoning out. I made it about 30% through before I realized that I would prefer to just jump around the remainder of the book and pick what I want to read vs. trodging through the rest.

I have two other books that I also hit a wall with because they became repetitive or just felt overwritten. Again, this could just be my lack of attention span flaring up but I feel like sometimes I find the subject more exciting than the actual content within.

3. Having Too Many Options My MoonReader app is full of books. I have so many books, I keep a large majority of them on a cloud server instead of on my phone, but even with that there are over twenty books on my phone right now. Its just too convenient to start something else, or to refer back to another book and then start it back up. The convenience of having so many books at my fingertips is actually a disservice. It’s similar to how I feel at times with Netflix and other streaming services. I have so many options, I have no reason to stick with anything should I find it a bit boring at the beginning. It’s one of those things that is both a blessing and a curse.

4. Not Regulating My Own Fandom I have a lot of interests and I’m one of those people who likes to be as close to an expert on anything I’m interested in as I can be. So, when I think of something that I like, I almost always search to find out what books have been written on the topic. I think it’s a great way to expand your knowledge base, but I think it’s also something that can get out of control if you are a little obsessive like me.

A good example is Star Trek. I love Star Trek and I loved getting in on the ground floor with Discovery. Several tie-in novels were produced and I decided I would read them all with gusto. I made it through the first two, but I struggled. I lost interest, didn’t find them nearly as compelling as the series, and I just wasn’t enjoying myself. That’s when I decided it was time to give up on this dream of keeping up with all the quasi-canon Discovery tie-ins and just enjoy the show. If a particular book plot spoke to me, then I’d search it out. If not, there is no reason for me to force myself to read something to prove to myself that I’m a real fan or whatever other nonsense was fueling that desire.

5. Not Reading Different Things A few years ago, I stumbled upon this little sub-genre of neo-noir crime fiction. Neo-Noir involves stories about good people who made bad choices and live in violent ways. Its not something at first glance I thought I’d like, but I ended up loving it. I poured through dozens of self-published novels and short stories compilations and while I don’t think I gained anything intellectually, I enjoyed myself immensely.

I think sometimes I don’t step out enough of my comfort zone in reading. I get so focused on what I think I like or what I think I should read, that I end up missing other stuff. I think I also spend too much time taking reading recommendations from people online, which end up being bunk. I don’t like a lot of media that the masses enjoy, why would I think books would be any different? Just this week, I started a short story collection that is highly regarded in the sci-fi community and ya know, it just isn’t for me. I should focus on finding those stories that are for me and enjoy them.

I’m not sure what book I’m going to dive into next, but I plan on picking something I will hopefully enjoy. Maybe a sequel of an old series or maybe something completely new. I just would like to get back on track with finishing books and I’m hoping by doing a bit of a reset I’ll make that happen.

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