I have a confession. I used to be a bookworm. The kind that would be deaf to the world when a book found its way into my hands. A person who’d lose all sense of place or communication once the book had ensnared me with its words, sentences, paragraphs.

Until the internet, social media and blogging happened.

And I don’t blame anyone for it. I don’t blame the tech giants for creating social media, not anymore. Because when it comes down to the crunch, the only person responsible for the slowed reading was me. However there does appear to be a lot of truth to the statement that online reading HAS impacted attention spans to a large extent. A piece from 4 years ago in the Washington Post seems to bear this out.

Before we proceed, let me clarify a few things:

  1. This is not an attack on tech or social media. I use/work with social media so it would be erroneous to state that all my problems with reading are linked to social media or technology.
  2. If you’re not impacted by this and have a fabulous reading habit, trust me, I am happy for you. This post largely applies to the kind of reading I am going to talk about in the next few paragraphs.
  3. This is not an attack on YOUR use of social media or tech, either. We all use it for our own purposes: work, leisure, connection, staying in touch with family, a hobby. I am not going to sit in judgment upon how you choose to use technology or social media.

What I am going to do however is ask you to take a good, long, hard look at your own reading habit, if you have one. Then, assess how it has changed or not over the last few years. Ask yourself why.

In my specific case, let me be very honest. I put reading and by that I mean deep, intense, distraction-free reading on the back burner because I fell in love with blogging. Blogging being a community exercise (at least initially) meant that I spent most of my days/nights writing posts, visiting blogs, commenting on them and sharing them.

Now all of this takes up a lot of time, granted. But what I didn’t realise was that I was not just doing these things. In addition, I would hang around on social media, posting updates, waiting for notifications and then stay there until that came through.

Result: Reading time took a hit.

Then, I realised that when I actually started to read a book, my mind would wander. I’d find my eyes straying from the book and looking towards the phone, even when it wasn’t ringing or vibrating with notifications. I’d find myself unable to read beyond simple, short sentences. Anything effectively descriptive and eloquently gorgeous would be skimmed! This is coming from someone who would read Shakespeare. For pleasure! I found myself favouring articles on the internet over a novel.

Result: I stopped reading intensely.

Work then reared its head and the one challenge of working from home sometimes means that we blur the line between working and leisure. Not having a schedule means that we are the bosses of our own time. Only problem is that we are never in control of these things.

Result: I sacrificed reading in favour of work.

You know how it is with shortcomings and flaws. You know they exist and you know you need to do something about them. But the move from thinking to doing is a bit of a quantum leap.

Also read Why Multi Tasking is bad for you and why you should stop it

Then, I sprained my wrist in July this year. A sprained wrist teaches you a lot of things but mostly it brought home to me the fact that I couldn’t type or write on the phone or laptop. By default, I switched back to my favourite hobby-reading. Fortunately I could still read holding a book or the Kindle in my left hand, else I may have driven myself mad in the last two months.

Around a month before that I finished reading Cal Newport’s ‘Deep Work’ and it brought back to me the relevance of intense, focused work. This was the kind of work (and the kind of reading) that I had grown up doing. It was what gave me my edge in an otherwise competitive space.

Of course, habits don’t change magically overnight. Life isn’t a fairy tale. But a bad habit can be changed by replacing it with a good one. So, that’s what I did.

If I had to read more I had to surround myself with things that would help me read and not be swayed by the distraction of notifications.

I kept books and my Kindle handy and close by whereas I started leaving my laptop and my phone in fixed locations.

My aim, on a personal level, is not a certain number of books to read. I know that works for a lot of people and more power to them, truly.

No, my aim, today and for the discernible future, is to get back to reading the way I used to read. To lose myself in words, sentences, paragraphs in such a way that I forget the concept of time, space, routines and duties.

At the end of a week, month or year, I should be able to recall why I loved a book, what I could learn from it and how it shapes my view of life, as we know it.

The good news is it has begun. I already have begun to read the way I used to. The important thing is to ensure I stay in this space and don’t forget the commitment I have made to myself.

*If you are a reader I welcome your thoughts on this piece and also look forward to any suggestions for titles or books in any genre. My reading list is one that I don’t mind growing infinitely. πŸ™‚

Why we must make time to read

Click here to pin this post for later

21 thoughts on “Why we must make time to read

  1. Oh ugh. Yes! Cannot finish badly written books. I dropped 3 books last month after starting them and no regrets.id much rather re read old favourites than plodding through a book for the sake of it.

  2. He he I know what you mean. And it’s okay, really. We do what works for us. Thanks to binge watching shows my reading time has been dropping too. Cutting back on that these days as much as possible but not beating myself up about it either. I’m just glad to find my reading bearings again. πŸ˜€

  3. So true. I don’t hate social media. I just think we should handle it better. And yes you and Shantala are pretty good when it comes to reading and reviewing. Always admired that about you both. πŸ™‚

  4. Oh I love book recommendations! Thanks, Sanch. I’ll add these to my TBR right away. And don’t worry. We’re all part of this generation that has to grapple with tech distraction. I’m sure we’ll be back to reading as we knew it very soon. πŸ™‚

  5. I know it seems challenging but really you do have time to read. Just put 15 minutes aside. No compromise. You’ll see the difference πŸ™‚

  6. Thanks, Roman! I agree. You don’t have to be a bookworm to read with intention. And yes you can read anywhere too as long as you aren’t distracted πŸ™‚

  7. Great post!
    As for me, I am not a bookworm. But I like to read very special books, that are close to my hobbies.
    And it does not matter where to read texts. On my notebook, smartphone, book reader etc.
    I am very interested in reading life stories of the successful and famous people.

  8. I get off my reading once in a while but somehow I push myself to return. But I have to read more of non fiction too, and that is my new goal.

  9. I totally agree. I used to read and get drenched in it without knowing what is happening around. Now, I could hardly sit down and read a page in peace. Yes, truly it’s something that I created for myself. The immediately reply thought process has killed enough of my attention span. Even as I am typing this, I remembered about one more response I had to make to a friend in WhatsApp, but No I didn’t do it. I decided to type what I came to and then go there. See, a live example. Thanks to Kindle, I am finding that intensity again slowly, even though it happens a little late in the night, I am glad to spend that time reading. I like your book recommendations and I love reading your updated list every time.

    My father’s collection will take me a lifetime to finish. So as and when I come, I pick up a couple of titles and also spend time reading here. I must thank my parents for encouraging us to devour a book as much as any gathering outside. As kids we read more than we spent time roaming with friends. They have truly been our companion from the very beginning. Though the realization happens now, honestly books were the only friends I had during one of the toughest times of my life.

  10. My reading style changes with the type of writing. Some books demand all your attention, they are written so brilliantly that you don’t want to skip a line. But off late, I am guilty of skipping lines and even paragraphs of the books I have read. Life is too short to read badly written books 😊 I keep books handy, be it on phone or bedside, so that I can read whenever I get a chance.

  11. I have been an avid reader my entire life except for the last one year. Except sporadic books, I haven’t really felt like reading anything. It is not about distraction or the attention span wavering but it is more to do with all the online shows I watch. I know, terrible! But I get only a little spare time in the evening and that is how I unwind these days. I am sure I will get back to the magic of books soon. πŸ™‚

  12. You know already I love to read and I do manage to read enough to keep myself happy. It is my absolute escape, my refuge. Of late I haven’t been in too happy a space and when that happens all I do is read – which is why while I haven’t been able to write at obsessivemom.in, the other blog is chugging along happily :-). Blogging (and so social media) isn’t and never shall be a profession for me which leaves me with more time for reading and other interests. I love all the points you made. I hate it when people blame social media for all the ills in their lives when actually it is in our own hands to use or not use it.

  13. I must admit I don’t read as much as I used to either because reading has become one of those activities that I do either in bed, during lunch, on public transport or at the beach. Unless the book is a fantastic one that grabs me from the get-go, I find it hard to just sit on the couch and read. I’m hoping to change that at some point.

    In terms of book recommendations, I have reviewed a few on the blog this week. I recommend Breath by Tim Winton, Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein, and most definitely, Tin Man by Sarah Winman.

  14. This is so much my story. First reading took a hit when I became a mother. The boy would stay up the whole night and I was fatigued during the day. Once I started writing, it was a crazy schedule. I could write only when he slept, so I utilized every minute for blogging/writing my book. I miss intense reading and still struggling with my schedule to fit that in.

  15. Love this post about your tryst with reading. It’s true how work and social media took a toll on us affecting our reading. While I keep reading between one or two books a month, it’s also true it’s very in comparison to the book nerd I was devoring books. I also lost this art of reading at night and slowly, trying in getting back to it by keeping Kindle and a book or magazine by the bedside. Such a honest post on reading.

  16. Oh this speaks to me and how! Ever since I started reading, I have been an avid reader. I used to devour books like there was no tomorrow. This went on until I was to get married. Most of my time was spent with the man I love and this left me with hardly any time to read. After I got married, household chores caught up and there was no room for books in my life at all. But, I still kept buying them and piling them on my shelf. Throughout the time, I felt like something vital was missing from my life. This gave me major existential crisis, honestly!

    One fine day, I decided that I had had enough and opened a book. That’s when I realized how tough it was to get back to reading. My pace was terrible and I was easily distracted. It took me more than a month to finish a book and the process did not make me enjoy it at all. I thought I was done with reading. But somewhere, a voice inside asked me to persist. I did, and here we are today πŸ™‚

    We should always make time to read. It is like being born again and again.

Comments are closed.