Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Need to Read

Happy New Year everyone! After a very hectic month, I'm looking forward to returning to this blog with renewed vigor and creativity.

I've been on vacation from work for the past 9 days, and while those days have been packed with holiday and family celebrations, I'm disappointed in myself for only managing to finish one book (and several magazines). What's worse, the book wasn't even a very good one- The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch- or at least, it was neither good enough nor bad enough to blog about. When I'm on vacation during the summer, I can easily read 2-3 books per week, not counting the audiobook that's always on in my car. So what's the problem now?

I blame two things:
1. Christmas music and
2. Television.

Christmas music prevents me from listening to audiobooks, because while it lasts, I can't get enough of it. As a music teacher, you'd think I'd be sick of any form of holiday tune by December 1, but you'd be wrong. I'll still have my car radio, my iTunes playlist, and Pandora synced to Bing Crosby, Michael Buble and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra all the way through the twelve days of Christmas. Audiobooks can wait.

Television is the big culprit, and will continue to be blamed for any lack of reading throughout the winter and spring. Over the summer, we all read more- why? Because there's nothing but reruns on TV. We also read more in the summer because books are more portable than television, or at least they used to be. Pretty soon we may all be watching episodes of 30 Rock on the beach instead of reading Tina Fey's bio, Bossypants. Certainly many of us with smart phones have that capability now, though wireless networks may not have completely covered the beach zones.

Television vs. reading is not a new topic. Experts say that television is mind-numbing and time-wasting; that the decline of reading is wasting away our brains; and that the couch-potato syndrome is making us fat and unhealthy. I'm not an expert, but I do think there's value to some television. I like shows that make me think and make me laugh. I like shows that make me think more about the writers than the actors, the witty and creative men and women behind the scenes. I don't think those shows are time-wasters, but I do think it's tough sometimes to decide which programs are important to watch and which are the ones that drain you of time and energy. I know that my ability to focus on a book for a long period of time is less than my ability to focus on the TV screen, at least during the winter, and that makes me sad. I'd like to try to build up that stamina again in myself, and to promote that desire in others.

I also have to remind myself that I didn't have this blog last summer, at least not until the very end. I was able to read freely and without critical voice, and that lack of pressure made it easier to breeze through novel after novel. Now that I'm conscious that what I'm reading is feeding my writing, I need to be more choosy about what I'm reading and also be more critically aware while reading it. I'm glad of this because it helps me become a more discriminating reader and a more understanding writer, but it also makes the reading itself more challenging.

With my return to work, I need to try harder to make time for reading, rather than simply find the time. I always read before bed, but if I'm already tired, that doesn't add up to much. I know that, in the evenings, I need to turn off the television or move to a room that the television is not on. Sometimes that's difficult- if I want to spend time with my husband, and he's watching TV, for example- but I'll need to try harder to make that choice. Winter is a time for staying indoors and cozying up to a good book. In 2012, I'll make it my resolution to spend more time doing just that.

Anyone want to join me?


  1. I answer your last question with a resounding YES. I don't want to call it a "resolution." But while reflecting, as people do this time of year, I have decided I need to do a lot less tv-watching and a lot more of other stuff- including reading, with my spare time!

  2. That was my New Year's resolution! Less tv.