Why Can’t We Read Anymore?

This post by Hugh McGuire originally appeared on Medium on 4/22/15.

Or, can books save us from what digital does to our brains?

Last year, I read four books.

The reasons for that low number are, I guess, the same as your reasons for reading fewer books than you think you should have read last year: I’ve been finding it harder and harder to concentrate on words, sentences, paragraphs. Let alone chapters. Chapters often have page after page of paragraphs. It just seems such an awful lot of words to concentrate on, on their own, without something else happening. And once you’ve finished one chapter, you have to get through the another one. And usually a whole bunch more, before you can say finished, and get to the next. The next book. The next thing. The next possibility. Next next next.

I am an optimist

Still, I am an optimist. Most nights last year, I got into bed with a book — paper or e — and started. Reading. Read. Ing. One word after the next. A sentence. Two sentences.

Maybe three.

And then … I needed just a little something else. Something to tide me over. Something to scratch that little itch at the back of my mind— just a quick look at email on my iPhone; to write, and erase, a response to a funny Tweet from William Gibson; to find, and follow, a link to a good, really good, article in the New Yorker, or, better, the New York Review of Books (which I might even read most of, if it is that good). Email again, just to be sure.

I’d read another sentence. That’s four sentences.

Smokers who are the most optimistic about their ability to resist temptation are the most likely to relapse four months later, and overoptimistic dieters are the least likely to lose weight. (Kelly McGonigal: The Willpower Instinct)

It takes a long time to read a book at four sentences per day.

And it’s exhausting. I was usually asleep halfway through sentence number five.

 

Read the full post on Medium.

 

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