the opposite of speed reading

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“Everywhere there are doors leading to new spaces and new stories and new secrets to be discovered and everywhere there are books.”
~from The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

There are days when I wonder if Carl knew what he was subjecting himself to when we married.

There are the days when a casual walk through our home is marked by a trail, a gathering of books I am currently reading. Each book blending into the landscape until I scarcely realize the sum.


However, over the last year when my life felt tangled and out of sync from aging, mounting stresses at work and dealing with chronic pain, I reaffirmed my shift to living more simply and slowly. My affection for books didn’t diminish but I grew weary of seeing books scattered everywhere. The physical clutter caused me to feel anxious by the vast quantity of literature surrounding me at all times.


Those who live with me, understand this is a slow process. I am not perfect but I am trying to rein in this habit and retrain my ways. It’s a delicate balance to keep order among the books I own and those retrieved from the library.


Two months ago, I lassoed every stray book and took the weighty assortment to my downstairs workspace. Once assembled, I sorted those books into two piles. One pile represented library books that no longer interested me or were not the right timing and would be returned. The second pile was comprised of books I wanted to read, either my own or library owned. I cleared out a section on one of the shelves above my work table and separated library books from owned books. I attached small post-it notes with due dates along their spines.


Any book entering our home will first be placed on this shelf. From this collection, my reading material will come.


I hadn’t realized the weight I felt from having books, even those I was enjoying, spread throughout my spaces. All these unfinished books seemed akin to feeling indecisive and overwhelmed. My reading attention had become scattered and splintered. I was highly distractible. My digital habit of keeping my computer or phone tabs open morphed into countless bookmark usage. After all, I am surely capable enough to read a book, catch up on Netflix with Carl and text a friend simultaneously.


This year, I am endeavoring to read one book at a time. Well, to be honest, one fiction and one non-fiction book at a time. I have also decided to no longer set goals related to the number of books read in a year. My personality drives me towards speed reading instead of savoring the experience of a great book.

Maybe you haven’t read a book in years and have no concept of my issue.

Have you let magazines spill over the coffee table?


Surely you meant to take out a pen to complete the Sunday crosswords but watching each week’s edition cover the previous one leaves you discouraged.


It could be too many clothes to fit in your closet, so they “decorate” other areas of your home?

Are you afraid to open your inbox because the number of emails, unread or otherwise has reached staggering numbers?

Putting my overflow of books in their place and beyond my line of sight brought freedom. No longer am I letting my books manage me.

A small newly created habit where I scan the shelf, assess which books are due soon, which ones cannot be renewed for extra days and the books which have lost their luster for now. Then weed out books and decide which ones might be next in line. I leave the books in their appointed place unless it is time to bring one upstairs.

Since I am a mood reader with a capital M. My previous routine was to gather an armload of books when deciding on my next read, peruse the first few sentences or pages and whichever one captured my attention was the winner. Now I use the same method, but I don’t sit in my living room chair but before my work table. Nothing comes upstairs unless it is my chosen book, not a hopeful contender.


Like keeping a tidy home, tasks need to be done regularly.

To keep my mind tidy, I must be vigilant to not create piles of any sort.
Tidy up, my friends.

Once you finish, why not take 15 minutes and read a good book?


I am off to practice what I preach as I see a few stray books attempting to create a book stack. But here’s a peek at what I am reading now:

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The Next Right Thing
This book is about making decisions. I preordered it before I knew a big job-related decision was looming. I was completely undone with indecision and didn’t have the attention span to read this book. However, one of the bonuses for preordering was a video and workbook course called Discern and Decide. I spent most of one day and completed the course. A different medium helped connect the dots. Months later I was ready to make the decision to leave my job. There will always be decisions to make, large or small. I am hopeful reading this book will aid me to make my next decisions regarding work. The course is still available for a fee, it was immeasurably helpful to me.

The Starless Sea
I have been waiting for Erin Morgenstern to release a new book after loving The Night Circus more than eight years ago. Her newest book is beautiful inside and out and required restraint to delay reading until I had sufficient time to fully immerse in the richness of her storytelling. I have read the first 25 pages and by the time this post is published, I hope to have spent the weekend between the cover of a captivating book.

*****

I love this quote from James Clear’s most recent 3-2-1 newsletter:

Reading is like a software update for your brain.

Whenever you learn a new concept or idea, the “software” improves. You download new features and fix old bugs.

In this way, reading a good book can give you a new way to view your life experiences. Your past is fixed, but your interpretation of it can change depending on the software you use to analyze it.

This post is a part of the slow collection. Never miss future posts by subscribing to this blog. Email subscribers are always the first to read new posts and updates. Find details on the sidebar. I appreciate your readership.

three books

DR SEUSS

During a recent visit, I asked my mother how she would describe me as a reader while growing up. She immediately responded by saying I always was reading a book. To further emphasize the point, she said during frequent trips to visit grandparents, my brother would know the route as his face was turned towards the window and the scenery, mine was envisioning the scenery on the page.

Reading relaxes me.
Reading centers me.
Reading informs me.
Reading transports me.
Reading is what makes me…me.

My last post was about the first year back to work. I mentioned not having
a lot of time to read. But how like God to have me assist a fellow book lover to and have book chats all during the week. We speak the same language.

Several friends have told me how much they enjoy posts about books. I thought it might be fun to from time to time to share three books in these three categories:

  • Books I love
  • Books I have recently read
  • Books I am reading

These are not reviews, simply an appetizer to whet your reading appetite.

As you see from the stack, I am already cheating. I can’t help myself.

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Books I love

The Night Circus: Books read during the summer, I tend to remember the most.
If a book can draw you away from running around in the sunshine, it’s a good book.
I read this during the summer of 2011 and it captivated and transported me.

“The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and 
billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply
there, when yesterday it was not.”

It’s the story of Marco and Celia, two young illusionist who have been trained by two masters to compete in a “game”. That is all I will say. It is on my re-read list as I recently learned it is being made into a movie, which excites and scares me. I am not sure I want what I envisioned to be cast on a screen instead in the mind.

Girl Meets God: I adore memoirs. This is one of my favorites. Lauren Winner tells the story of her conversion from Judaism to Christianity. It is written in sections according to the Christian church calendar and is intermixed with her grief in missing her Orthodox Jewish traditions. Lauren writes with such intelligence, humor and honesty.

“Easter, it seems to me, is the most profoundly Jewish of all Christian holidays. For a Jew becoming a Christian, bodily resurrection is no surprise. It is what we had been expecting all along.”
Books I recently read:

Coming Clean (not pictured): I had the pleasure of being in a writers’ workshop lead by Seth Haines last year. I was anxious to read his first book. Coming Clean is a recounting of the first 90 days of Seth’s sobriety. It’s a journal about cravings and being unable to pray in life’s harshest moments. We all crave something don’t we? What are we using to cover our pain, our fears, our doubts?
Coming Clean is brilliantly honest and candid.

Books I am reading: 

My books are toppling over at the moment. The only way to decide what to read next is based on library due dates and which books cannot be renewed. Sigh.

Four Seasons in Rome:  Once upon a time, I spent 10 days in Italy. It was part of a 3 1/2  week holiday during my semester abroad. As wonderful as that sounds right now, it pales in comparison to being given the opportunity to write in Rome for a year. Within those 365 days, Anthony Doerr created All The Light We Cannot See.

When Breath Becomes Air: This book doesn’t need much introduction as it seems to be everywhere. As of last week, I was #322 on the library hold list. My sweet neighbor and friend Stephanie surprised me by knocking on my door to give me her library copy and share her personal connection with Paul Kalanithi. Paul Kalanithi was a brilliant neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. I have a rare evening to myself and anticipate finishing it tonight. I know it won’t be an easy completion but when we read or listen to each other’s stories, we honor their footsteps.

The Better Life: Don’t you love the cover? I’ve had this book for a while. I read some of it and then it got buried under a pile of books, no doubt. It is simply a tiny book of short chapters about small things that can be done right this very instant to make your life better.

 

I would love to know what you are reading OR what books you love?

*****

Want more book ideas?
My favorite Tuesday morning ride to work routine is to listen to Anne Bogel’s
podcast What Should I Read Next?

You can find it here. A new episode every Tuesday.

 

 

 

reading…

The days between Christmas and New Years Day have always

had a particularly nice shine to them.

I like to plan time for reading books,

watching movies and playing

games.

Oh and watching dozens of college bowl games as well.

I try to ignore the approaching arduous task of putting ornaments back in their

protective boxes.

Here is a line-up of books I am reading this week and in the days to come.

Some are writing books and meant to be savored in small doses.

Others are a ticket to be transported from curled up couch

position to another place and time.

One is simply practical.

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Whenever I finish a book, I want to start a new one immediately.

Yet I can’t.

My mind and heart still belong to the completed book.

It usually takes a day or two to begin reading again.

Saying goodbye to a year feels the same.

As much as I am ready to start fresh once again,

I know that I will still write 2014 for weeks until

I am fully ready to begin again.

Tomorrow I will be sharing about what I learned

in 2014.

Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky shared her

list today here and invited others to link their thoughts

tomorrow.

So until tomorrow…

may you find moments to

read,

watch movies

and play games.

P.S.The movie Into the Woods is fabulous!

 

**********

All The Light We Cannot Seethis book was on my Christmas list and I see it
on all the year-end best book lists. I am looking forward to some uninterrupted
time to experience the buzz about this book.
(Courtney, thank you for all the effort that went in to wrapping this gift for me.
I am so glad you didn’t have to wrestle anyone for this precious last copy.)

The Crack in the KingdomDespite the cover of this book and the one
preceding it (A Corner of White), it’s not about the cover but yet it is!
Personally I don’t love the covers of either. But no one consulted me 😉
I read a series of interview with famous authors sharing the authors they love.
Liane Moriarty said she loved her sister’s books and that Jaclyn was a better
writer than she. I found this so endearing.
I finished A Corner of White the afternoon of Christmas. I flew through this
book. If you haven’t, give Young Adult (YA) literature a chance.

The Sacred Year-it’s about slowing down, intention, spiritual practices,
paying attention and lessons from monks. Need I say more, I am all in.
I have had this book for several months and I am reading it slowly.

Chasing Francis-I kept seeing this title pop up in different places
and found it on a trip to Powell’s. This is a novel about a pastor of a
mega-church losing his church and his way, traveling to Italy and
learning lessons from a saint who lived 800 years ago, St. Francis
of Assisi.

On Writing-I can’t tell you how many times I have checked this out
of the library and risked fines because it is always on hold. Thankful
for a well-timed Christmas gift. (Thanks Carl.)

On Being a Writer- Ann Kroeker’s blog was one of the first I read
regularly when I began blogging. Those were days before having a
“following” was as big a deal as it is now. It was way before social
media, but Ann most definitely had a following. What I remember most was that
no matter how insignificant any comment I made on her blog, she would
always respond. There is a special kindness in Ann and I was overjoyed
to learn she had co-written a book about sustaining a writing life.

Still Writing-I am enjoying reading small chunks each day of this book
on the perils and pleasures of the creative life.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up-I am tired of the treadmill
of tidying up and never seeing any lasting change. I am so hopeful
there is another way. I will let you know 🙂