Friday, January 29, 2016

The Cozy Book Corner #1: The 'Lost' Art of Reading

Welcome to my new Friday feature!

In each bi-weekly post, I will be 
exploring my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.  

This is the first of several posts about that wonderful activity we bookworms take for granted -- the reading process itself. 

I recently came across a 2009 article archived on the Los Angeles Times website; its author states that reading is a lost art.  David L. Ulin, Book Editor of the Times, begins his article with the sad observation that he is actually finding it difficult to sit down to read.  Reading is an act of focusing the mind; as he puts it, "...the ability to still my mind long enough to inhabit someone else's world, and to let that someone else inhabit mine."  He then goes on to write something so beautiful it takes my breath away: "Reading is an act of contemplation..."  He expands on this, of course, but this part of the sentence strikes me as an exquisitely beautiful thought.  Reading is, indeed, an act of contemplation.  We contemplate other realities, thus transcending our own.  We enter other worlds, seduced by the magic of language, or we explore and perhaps embrace new philosophical, psychological, or religious thoughts. 

How very sad indeed, that most likely due to the pressures and sheer "busyness" of our lives, as well as our technological world, we could possibly find it nearly impossible to immerse ourselves in a book...  According to Ulin, reading is an act of slowing down, and I definitely agree.  Paradoxically, however, I think it's also an act of speeding up, for the mind makes pictures and connections as it reads.  Sudden insights might come to a reader, as a previously difficult passage suddenly makes sense.  Beautiful fantasy landscapes full of magical wonders beckon, and one can almost touch them.  When a reader is really "into" a book,  and the act of reading is suddenly interrupted, s/he can feel a real shock on being returned to "the real world".  This is true whether one is reading fiction or nonfiction.

I don't quite agree with Ulin when he says that reading is a 'lost' art, however.   There are, after all, millions of books in print all over the world.  Furthermore, Kindles and Nooks are selling very well, although I will certainly never buy either one, since I do prefer to hold a real, printed book in my hands.  The point remains that the act of reading is alive and well.  In spite of all the activities taking up our time, we ardent book lovers will always make some time to read, even if it's on the morning and evening commute (I'm referring, of course, to those who take trains or buses to and from work).  Ulin says he reads primarily at night, when the household has quieted down, but even then, his mind wanders. 

Ulin wistfully recalls his childhood experiences with reading, and how easy it was for him to become totally lost in a book back then.  Now, as an adult, he has to make a conscious effort to get into the proper frame of mind, but he hasn't stopped reading.  To a person who loves reading, it's an activity as necessary as eating or even breathing. 

I do my best reading late at night, too, often staying up until 3:00 AM.  Everything is so quiet...and I am then able to really dive into whatever book I'm reading at the moment.  Sometimes, when I happen to glance at the clock, while stifling a yawn, I am surprised to see that it's way past 3:00 AM!

To a die-hard bookworm like me, it's simply unthinkable not to make time to read at least an hour every single day. In fact, I can get pretty irritable if I don't manage to read my minimum daily quota. However, I can relate to what Ulin is saying in his article; there have been times when I have not been able to concentrate on the book in front of me as much as I'd like to. Sometimes, this is because the book I'm reading has failed to hold my interest. If it's a novel, then the author has not succeeded in persuading me to suspend my disbelief. If the book is nonfiction, then it might be that the author is not skillful enough in presenting his/her topic in an engaging manner, at least for me. There might be statements in  the book that I feel are totally ridiculous, for example, and not backed up with sufficient data. 

Unfortunately, there are those times when I know that some real-life worry, which had been hiding in  the back of my mind all day, suddenly surfaces, and just at the point that I want to forget reality in order to immerse myself in the book. So these are the times that, no matter how enticing the book, I simply cannot let go and make the plunge. Still, I persevere. I would never dream of giving up reading! So I would say that, far from being a 'lost' art, it's simply one that has to be cultivated, even 'courted', at certain times, as one might do with a reluctant romantic prospect.  

Now I'd like to throw some questions out to you, my readers.  How easy is it for you to get lost in a book?  Are you able to find enough time to read?  What advice would you offer to other readers who are having difficulty finding the time to read, and being able to focus on a book?  How would you compare your ability to immerse yourself in a book when you were a child, as opposed to now? 

You can access Ulin's article

What's your opinion on this topic?
Please leave a link to your blog
so I can come over and comment on one of your posts!


Brian Joseph said...

This is a brilliant post Maria.

I also do not think that reading is a lost art. Not only are so many people reading, but so many people are talking about it, blogging about it, etc. on social media.

Being so busy that there is no time to read is a big issue for me. I have given up a lot of other interests just so that I have time to do so. I watch almost no television except for public affairs shows and Book TV while I am eating breakfast.

I also found it easier to become immersed in a book when I was younger. I find that not allowing social media to become a distraction is important.

Maria Behar said...

Hey, Brian!

Thanks so much for the kind words! :)

I don't know why this writer stated that reading was a lost art. Absolutely not! It might not be as easy to get totally immersed in a book now, as opposed to when one was younger (I've noticed this very same thing myself), but that doesn't mean that people are not reading anymore.

I'm not as busy as I used to be, since I no longer have a day job. I'm only working 20 hours a week now. But, of course, I do tend to my two blogs (mostly A NIGHT'S DREAM OF BOOKS).

I don't watch much TV, either. It helps that I work at night -- I don't see any prime time shoes. I don't think I'm missing much! Lol. As for news, I NEVER watch that! I can't stand to see tragedies unfolding right in my living room.

BTW, we went out to dinner tonight, and then hubby dropped me off at Barnes & Noble for a while. I bought THREE more books!! "And the beat goes on....." Lol.

Thanks for the great comment!! : )