Author Topic: Getting back into reading  (Read 1950 times)

Getting back into reading
« on: October 09, 2017, 12:46:59 PM »
Has anyone ever had long bouts of being unable to knuckle down and actually get some reading done? I’ve been stuck in that mindset for a couple of years now and it’s properly frustrating. A big factor is that my workplace doesn’t really have anywhere quiet or private where I can settle down with a book. Unless it’s nice out (which it very rarely is), my options are to stay at my desk during lunch (which I hate, as it’s a noisy open plan office and nobody respects your privacy or free time even if you have fucking headphones on) or sequester myself in the tiny kitchen area which has a little chair and a table in one corner. The end result is that I find it impossible to concentrate on anything more demanding than a comic book during my lunch break (and we all know they don’t really count).

Meanwhile, I’ve got a huge stack of books piling up at home which I just can’t seem to find the energy to dig into. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a slow reader, but there was a time when I was at least slow but enthusiastic. I just had a whole weekend to myself and I didn’t read a fucking thing. What a waste.

So yeah, anyone else been in a similar slump? Any ideas on how to get out of one?

Glebe

  • I sure did that thing!
Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2017, 12:56:05 PM »
This is me, Hemulen. My nerves and my head have been such a mess this past while, I find it hard to just relax and finish a book. I still have the last chapter of John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Old Dreams Die to read after putting it down a while ago (it's a short story collection, so I don't have to restart it at least!), and I've had two tries at Alan Partridge: Nomad since I bought it some months back. I've The Silence of the Lambs - a 25th anniversary edition, bought new - sitting on the shelf for several years too. And if we're allowed comics/graphic novels, I've Batman: Hush sitting in my bedside locker feeling all lonesome, too. I know, I should start reading more intellectual works... I should start just actually reading, actually. Although mind you, that's not really true, I have reread/dipped into various old books lying around, and I buy the odd magazine natch (usually Empire, alas).

Captain Crunch

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Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2017, 01:14:46 PM »
I know what you mean, I get into fits and starts too and there’s nothing more miserable than lugging a book around all week and barely managing five pages. 

You could try short books (typical clickbait lists aplenty and I’d support the recommendation of Ethan Frome there).  Or short stories.  Or, if you like that sort of thing, YA books?  It might be easier to get into it if you can into the habit of finishing books.

Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2017, 01:24:02 PM »
I have a particularly over-active and restless mind - I tried to get diagnosed for ADD Inattentive a few years ago, to no avail, which was actually kind of devastating. Quite obviously, this has all been made worse over the years by technology and the variety of endless stimulation it affords. When I was about 16 I got an Amiga, and that opened up the world of multi-tasking, where I could flit about hither and thither. Tabbed browsing followed, then this place, and eventually social networking, with content packaged in easily digestible chunks.

I've got 40 tabs open on my phone's browser as I write this - I can't physically open any more. Reading books is more of a commitment than it ever was, no doubt.

As a kid, I was an absolutely voracious reader, but even then I'd find my mind wandering all the time, and would have to reread sentences or whole paragraphs because I'd realise I'd taken none of it in. I'd slipped into a day-dream, or would be counting the words in each sentence or something.

I am trying to get better though, and trying to stop the endless displacement activities.

It actually concerns me that whole generations of kids are now going to grow up just like me. Worse, even.

Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2017, 04:17:37 PM »
I was finding it harder and harder to read recently, then I was rescued by a kindle which I inherited from my father. It's had quite a dramatic effect. I can read for much longer without a break now, and faster. I think it's that the print is just the right size and there is plenty of space between the lines. Also because each 'page' is much shorter it feels less intimidating. I can't imagine going back to a paper book now.

Brundle-Fly

  • I'm so Avant-garden variety
Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2017, 04:45:06 PM »
Reading is a skill. My mind wanders so much that I have to keep going back a page because none of it has gone in. I generally go for audiobooks now so I can get a bit of healthy walking in. I couldn't just sit down with an audiobook though, have to be on the move.

Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2017, 04:49:56 PM »
I have had trouble concentrating, in general but also especially during a period of high stress when I'd march round my house raving and swearing in the evening and couldn't even listen to music with English lyrics.  So I got into classical music and visited the public library during the day, maybe you could try that if your work is near a library - even one in a college.  My local library now is impossibly noisy, but maybe try asking the staff if there is a quiet area you could use, sometimes they have unused meeting rooms.  The good thing is you're in the perfect place then to discover new authors.  If you can't make it during the day maybe there's one night a week it opens late you could make a regular reading night.  Alternatively you could have lunch in a coffee shop with a quiet upstairs room or a pub or even more likely a hotel bar that isn't doing roaring trade.  Really though, if you're on the internet a lot you should try to break the habit, go online an hour or two later than you normally would in the evening so you can read a couple of chapters.  Turn off your phone and just put it on for short breaks when you get some refreshments or a breath of air.  To get back into reading or when I'm feeling a bit mentally tired I go for some modern love story, not exactly Mills and Boon but something I know won't take too long or be a challenging read and will cheer me up.

Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2017, 04:59:27 PM »
That - and this thread - touches on a topic I've wondered about before, namely the preferred environment people have for reading. Silence, or some instrumental music? The latter does seem to help, I think. I was reading Clive James on Miles Davis and Duke Ellington the other night - thank you very much to whoever sent me that, I'm afraid I can't remember who it was - but anyway, In A Silent Way went on in the background, and then Money Jungle and other Duke Ellington music.

Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2017, 05:01:37 PM »
I have realised that if I have the telly or music on in the background, I struggle to read. I find myself almost nodding off. I have to have quiet.

This only applies to sitting at home. If I'm on a bus, or at the launderette, or having a dump, it's not a problem. In the latter's case, thank god.

The Masked Unit

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Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2017, 08:44:08 PM »
The only way I can really give it my full attention is to meditate first.

Serge

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Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2017, 09:52:52 PM »
That - and this thread - touches on a topic I've wondered about before, namely the preferred environment people have for reading. Silence, or some instrumental music? The latter does seem to help, I think. I was reading Clive James on Miles Davis and Duke Ellington the other night - thank you very much to whoever sent me that, I'm afraid I can't remember who it was - but anyway, In A Silent Way went on in the background, and then Money Jungle and other Duke Ellington music.

When I was younger, I used to be able to listen to music at the same time as I was reading with no problem whatsoever, and it didn't even have to be instrumental, and I have no idea how I managed that. For the two decades I was in London, I did a lot of reading on my commute to and from work, and became very good at blocking out most external noise and just concentrating on whatever I was reading.

But these days, I don't know if I could even have instrumental music on at the same time, I have to focus on one thing at a time. And toward the end of my time in London, I struggled to read on public transport - this was partly down to the fact that part of the route I took to work was on a train which had almost constant announcements, and I just couldn't block them out at all.

But at home, I always make time to read, so I can sit for an hour or two doing nothing but. And I'm lucky that the staff room at work is pretty quiet, so I can get quite a bit read there.

I do seem to be lucky that I've never had a run of bad books that's put me off, which happened to a friend of mine last year. She'd read too many which maybe weren't bad exactly so much as mediocre, and she began to worry that she would never find something else that would grip her. Finally, she found Francis Spufford's 'Golden Hill', which reignited her passion. I should mention that I fucking hated that book. But even with a bad book, I can find it so annoying that I still get some reaction out of it. And, as I say, I've never read many duffers in a row - or an alternative explanation is that I have no standards whatsoever.

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2017, 10:01:53 PM »
That - and this thread - touches on a topic I've wondered about before, namely the preferred environment people have for reading. Silence, or some instrumental music? The latter does seem to help, I think. I was reading Clive James on Miles Davis and Duke Ellington the other night - thank you very much to whoever sent me that, I'm afraid I can't remember who it was - but anyway, In A Silent Way went on in the background, and then Money Jungle and other Duke Ellington music.

I seem to mostly read in silence these days - unless I'm in a public place where there are distracting noises.

It's funny you should mention In a Silent Way, because that was a reading music staple for me. Depending on my mood or the content of what I'm reading, it was either that, minimalist stuff like Steve Reich, Eno's ambient stuff or unobtrusive electronicky stuff such as 76:14 by Global Communication, or Coracle by Walls.

Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2017, 11:32:34 PM »
I usually have dub reggae on when I read, because it helps keep my mind open and seems to supplement reading very well without intruding.

Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2017, 12:00:15 AM »
It's funny you should mention In a Silent Way, because that was a reading music staple for me. Depending on my mood or the content of what I'm reading, it was either that, minimalist stuff like Steve Reich, Eno's ambient stuff or unobtrusive electronicky stuff such as 76:14 by Global Communication, or Coracle by Walls.

I always have it with me on my phone mate, always, now that I've got one again that is new enough that it can play music without puking. Could really do with clearing space and getting Jack Johnson and On The Corner on there to be honest.

In A Silent Way makes every activity better, great walking music, and it's just flat-out brilliant in general. Ditto Money Jungle.

hewantstolurkatad

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Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2017, 12:06:06 AM »
I usually find it easiest to get back into it by reading something that's either a ridiculously good shot story collection or actually mildly challenging (or rather, extremely rewarding to focus heavily on). Flannery O'Connor is pretty much my perfect gateway drug into resuming regular reading in this respect.

These days I can only read listening to either the Disintegration Loops, The Caretaker or a ticking clock sound.



Non fiction is a lot easier generally provided it's not too light. If it reads like a somewhat unusually deep podcast transcript then I'm just gonna audiobook the fucker.

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2017, 12:45:06 AM »
I always have it with me on my phone mate, always, now that I've got one again that is new enough that it can play music without puking. Could really do with clearing space and getting Jack Johnson and On The Corner on there to be honest.

In A Silent Way makes every activity better, great walking music, and it's just flat-out brilliant in general. Ditto Money Jungle.

Three great albums there!

Come to think of it, I've tried to read to Bitches Brew before and some parts of it worked, but much of it was just too 'busy'.

Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2017, 09:43:00 AM »
Some very sensible advice here, thanks everyone! I think starting small and trying to get back into the habit is a good way to go. Might dig up some Wodehouse and branch out from there.

Talulah, really!

  • O, belike it is the Bishop of Carlisle
Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #17 on: October 13, 2017, 07:44:06 PM »
Some tips from own practices.

Purpose, plan and pledge: Decide what book you are going to read, think about why you are going to read it, for pleasure or to learn about a subject. Make a suitable plan of the time it will take you based on your own reading habits and ability and time you will have available. Break that down into individual chunks of pages or chapters per day then work out how long it would take to complete the book and pledge to yourself to do it by that date.

So for example, the CaB bookclub thread is looking to read Middlemarch a notorious doorstop of a great novel like War and Peace, Moby Dick or Don Quixote.

It has 87 chapters each approximately 10 pages long, so you might need to find 10 or 20 minutes per day to read a chapter a day and then in 3 months you would have read one of the world’s greatest novels.

There are websites available where you can work out your own reading rate and see an estimate of how long it would take you to read some of the classics.

Once you have decided on your target rate/time frame, look for a point in the day where you can make that time available, preferably at a recurring time each day to build it into a habit. If you can get it to 25 minutes or half and hour a day then you could be reading anything between 20 to 50 books a year.

Where possible create an ideal space for reading, comfortable and well lit and if possible not too many distractions. In my small flat, read propped up on the sofa as it gets the sunlight (ha!) during the day and at night switch on a small table lamp that sits on a shelf. My phone is put out of the way in the kitchen.

Regarding music, on the whole it is probably better not to have any on, though low volume instrumental music can blanket background noise. Another effect it can have is to trigger the brain that it is now reading time if you chose to have a familiar piece on as your background, it becomes another part of the reading environment.

One technique is to use a specific piece of music as a bridge to your reading time as a kind of decompression activity, to disengage your mind from the frenetic swirl of 21st century life. When reading War and Peace years ago, each time would start with playing one of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, partly to get in the right mood, partly to also work through them and finally as suggested it acts as a trigger that now it is reading War and Peace time.

Many of us find reading a difficult activity as we have become accustomed to constantly splitting our attention through online activities and having multiple options for stimulus, dozens of competing channels on TV and Radio, the ability to click on music/videos on line one after another, interruptions from texts and emails, etc.

Online activity also creates its own tempo of scan and skim, incessant chasing of stimuli and emotional response.
It can be difficult at times to step back from the overload, slow down the flashing light chasing part of the brain and simply concentrate in the way reading demands. Like many other things it is a skill which can wither if neglected. So take a few moments to clear the head before beginning to read. Close your eyes and do a few gentle breathing exercises perhaps. Settle yourself to what you are planning to enjoy reading, recall and recap if required.

Then take the first page or so at a gentle pace, savour the sentences until you fall into the right regular pace the book requires. Perhaps you can turn on an imaginary narrating voice or even lightly read aloud until you feel yourself engaging properly.

It helps to have a notebook or other method of catching thoughts or making observations nearby. Personal preference is index cards, using them as book marks. Across the top write the name of the book, date started and then as sentences catch my eye which just jot down the page number and the symbol ˄ - ˅ to signify top, middle or bottom of page and then the first keyword of the sentence or a brief note if it is an idea.

Then when getting to a suitable point to stop like a chapter end, go back and fill out the note in full. Similarly you can catch intruding thoughts without losing your concentration too much, often the mere act of making a note of something reassures the part of the brain that is anxiously putting forward the issue enough to make it drop the shrill reminders.

At the finish, will make a note or two to remind me of what have just read, ready to review the next time the book is picked up.

Start a programme of small treats and rewards. At the start of every year each finished book goes to the top left of my bookcase so I can enjoy watching the row expand along the shelf/shelves over the course of the year. Also have folders of notes of years of reading to look back on which is often surprisingly satisfying.

There are always times and books you will struggle with and take ages to trudge through, when that happens either pickup an old favourite you know you can race through or a particular genre that you know you'll work through quickly, in my case it is vintage detective stories or popular political issue books like All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman which went through in about two days. Good book by the way.


Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2017, 10:59:46 AM »
I would  maybe just write off the books in your  'to read' pile and browse around for something that really  grabs you.

Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2019, 02:36:29 PM »
I'm finally back on the ol' books, by the way. Turns out the solution was to have a baby and need something to do with my evenings that didn't involve making a racket, as is my wont.

Twit 2

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Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #20 on: June 05, 2019, 09:15:41 PM »
Some tips from own practices.

Purpose, plan and pledge: Decide what book you are going to read, think about why you are going to read it, for pleasure or to learn about a subject. Make a suitable plan of the time it will take you based on your own reading habits and ability and time you will have available. Break that down into individual chunks of pages or chapters per day then work out how long it would take to complete the book and pledge to yourself to do it by that date.

So for example, the CaB bookclub thread is looking to read Middlemarch a notorious doorstop of a great novel like War and Peace, Moby Dick or Don Quixote.

It has 87 chapters each approximately 10 pages long, so you might need to find 10 or 20 minutes per day to read a chapter a day and then in 3 months you would have read one of the world’s greatest novels.

There are websites available where you can work out your own reading rate and see an estimate of how long it would take you to read some of the classics.

Once you have decided on your target rate/time frame, look for a point in the day where you can make that time available, preferably at a recurring time each day to build it into a habit. If you can get it to 25 minutes or half and hour a day then you could be reading anything between 20 to 50 books a year.

Where possible create an ideal space for reading, comfortable and well lit and if possible not too many distractions. In my small flat, read propped up on the sofa as it gets the sunlight (ha!) during the day and at night switch on a small table lamp that sits on a shelf. My phone is put out of the way in the kitchen.

Regarding music, on the whole it is probably better not to have any on, though low volume instrumental music can blanket background noise. Another effect it can have is to trigger the brain that it is now reading time if you chose to have a familiar piece on as your background, it becomes another part of the reading environment.

One technique is to use a specific piece of music as a bridge to your reading time as a kind of decompression activity, to disengage your mind from the frenetic swirl of 21st century life. When reading War and Peace years ago, each time would start with playing one of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, partly to get in the right mood, partly to also work through them and finally as suggested it acts as a trigger that now it is reading War and Peace time.

Many of us find reading a difficult activity as we have become accustomed to constantly splitting our attention through online activities and having multiple options for stimulus, dozens of competing channels on TV and Radio, the ability to click on music/videos on line one after another, interruptions from texts and emails, etc.

Online activity also creates its own tempo of scan and skim, incessant chasing of stimuli and emotional response.
It can be difficult at times to step back from the overload, slow down the flashing light chasing part of the brain and simply concentrate in the way reading demands. Like many other things it is a skill which can wither if neglected. So take a few moments to clear the head before beginning to read. Close your eyes and do a few gentle breathing exercises perhaps. Settle yourself to what you are planning to enjoy reading, recall and recap if required.

Then take the first page or so at a gentle pace, savour the sentences until you fall into the right regular pace the book requires. Perhaps you can turn on an imaginary narrating voice or even lightly read aloud until you feel yourself engaging properly.

It helps to have a notebook or other method of catching thoughts or making observations nearby. Personal preference is index cards, using them as book marks. Across the top write the name of the book, date started and then as sentences catch my eye which just jot down the page number and the symbol ˄ - ˅ to signify top, middle or bottom of page and then the first keyword of the sentence or a brief note if it is an idea.

Then when getting to a suitable point to stop like a chapter end, go back and fill out the note in full. Similarly you can catch intruding thoughts without losing your concentration too much, often the mere act of making a note of something reassures the part of the brain that is anxiously putting forward the issue enough to make it drop the shrill reminders.

At the finish, will make a note or two to remind me of what have just read, ready to review the next time the book is picked up.

Start a programme of small treats and rewards. At the start of every year each finished book goes to the top left of my bookcase so I can enjoy watching the row expand along the shelf/shelves over the course of the year. Also have folders of notes of years of reading to look back on which is often surprisingly satisfying.

There are always times and books you will struggle with and take ages to trudge through, when that happens either pickup an old favourite you know you can race through or a particular genre that you know you'll work through quickly, in my case it is vintage detective stories or popular political issue books like All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman which went through in about two days. Good book by the way.

Pick a book and read it.

Good advice though :)

Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #21 on: June 12, 2019, 08:29:07 AM »
Managed to get back into reading this year after being flakey for ages.

Noise-cancelling headphones and ambient music has been an absolute God send for my commute, especially if you car share with people who enjoy listening to Heart Breakfast.

Been breaking up the poncier books with nice, fluffy ones too. Stuff like Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology, Adam Kay's This is Going To Hurt, Sayaka Murata's Convenience Store Woman, all really easy to get through. Or just any David Sedaris book.

I've also been going on big jogs and listening to non-fiction audiobooks, which is great if you want to feel self-important. For some reason fiction audio-books are a bit tougher to get into, the narrator obviously has a much bigger impact when they're doing different voices for each character.

Been slowly increasing the speed at which I listen to too. Would be interested to know what the highest speed people go for is? 1.3x or 1.35x is as fast as I'm comfortable with.



Cloud

  • Elon who?
Re: Getting back into reading
« Reply #22 on: June 12, 2019, 04:12:47 PM »
I'm terrible for it, my poor neglected Kindle...

Just had the same thought the other day and so started on the old classic 1984 which is currently 80p in Kindle format - never actually read it before (I saw the film ages ago) and I know it's depressing as fuck but figured it's worth a punt for the price.  I thought it'd be one of those "hard to read" books but is quite accessible.