How To Read A Book

it's not what it used to be

Ah, summer reading.

It used to mean grabbing a thick cover off the shelf, tossing it in my beach bag and spending the day on the sand getting lost (and incredibly sunburned) in a story.

It used to mean swapping books with my friends, falling asleep with it in my hands and dog-earring the page I last left off until my book is filled with bent corners.

It used to mean staring at the cover design, smelling the print and rejoicing in the accomplishment when I've finished that last page.

It used to mean escape.

Not anymore. At least not for me. But, let me back up.

First, I should explain that I'm often the last person to read the book that everyone is talking about.

Last to read Judy Blume's Forever, last to read Oprah's book club choices. Hell, I never even cracked open the bible until college and that was only because in all my writing classes at some point the professor made a reference to a story in the bible and while every other student nodded, understanding, I hid under the table cursing my half Jewish/half Catholic/ believe in nothing upbringing.

So, is it any surprise that I am the last to read 50 Shades of Grey? No.

And, for the record, I'm not done reading it. And why? Because unlike the old days of grabbing the damn book off a shelf and losing myself in another world, now it's about downloading it on a Kindle and trying to find time to read in-between my daughter's summer camp, my work and still hand feeding our recovering bearded dragon from last month's stroke.

Not to mention hoping I remembered to charge the Kindle before I left home so I can actually have the choice to read if I want to.

And, yes, I know these are high class problems. Not even worth griping about.

It's just that reading has become way more complicated and far less satisfying for me than it used to be. The days of holding the book in my hands, falling asleep with it on my chest, placing it on my bookshelf when I'm done are over.

Now, it's "Oh, crap, I touched the screen and it sent me back to the first page and now I don't know where I was" or "Shoot, I just changed the size of the font by accident and don't know how to get it back" or "Great, it turned on in my bag and instead of reading 50 Shades of Grey I'm suddenly reading my daughter's school book, How to Steal a Dog.

And before I know it my brief window of reading time is spent trying to get back to where I was, charging the Kindle and hoping one of those advertisements for a weekend in Santa Barbara doesn't suddenly pop up.

I have read the first five pages of 50 Shades of Grey six times because from the time I first read it to the time I had a chance to read again I completely forgot what I read, where I am, who these people are and why everyone is talking about this stupid book.

Maybe I should get it on iTunes and listen to it in my car.

But that's not reading a book. That's having a book read to you. It takes away your imagination and forces you to experience a story the way another person has chosen to tell it.

No, dammit! I will read this book and I will be able to say YES at the next social gathering when, again, someone says, "Oh, have you read 50 Shades of Grey?" Yes, yes, yes I have! It took me two years but yes!

Then again... maybe I'll just wait for the movie.

Kelly Lester (EasyLunchboxes) July 09, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I have a Kindle too! I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I love the feel of it, the size of it, the immediacy of the downloads and how instantly I can access my entire "bookshelf", anywhere I am. Have I done much reading on it? LOL. NO! But I never had time to read "real" books either anymore :( I hope that changes soon. 50 Shades of Grey is on my Kindle too. I might get to it in 2013.
Richard Camp July 09, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Still think there's nothing like holding a book in your hands while sitting in a chair or lounging on the beach. And for the latter, no worries about sand or sunblock glitching the electronics... And speaking of summer reads... have you read "Freeze Frame," by fellow Patch writer Ilona Saari? Terrific summer read... spectacular reviews on Amazon... including one by a shrink who says it's "better than Sue Grafton." Check it out: www.amazon.com/dp/1466392150
John Emerson July 10, 2012 at 06:20 AM
I'm still recovering from "Women aren't funny" column. What a dumb sexist thing to say. On "How To Read A Book" I agree with you on the feel of a natural pulp paper book. It is a dependable pleasure always ready to let you escape. Sometimes technology is too pushy! - Semi Luddite John
Susan McMartin July 12, 2012 at 03:05 AM
kelly, we should start a kindle club maybe?
Susan McMartin July 12, 2012 at 03:06 AM
thanks, richard. i will check out "freeze frame"!
Susan McMartin July 12, 2012 at 03:06 AM
john, you always make me smile! thank you for that!
Mike Szymanski June 10, 2013 at 09:45 AM
You can SUBSCRIBE to Susan McMartin's STUDIO CITY MOM posts by clicking her Subscribe button here: http://studiocity.patch.com/blogs/susan-mcmartins-blog so you'll get it every time she posts!


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