Friday, March 24, 2017

I Should Read Less

I know everyone's goal is to read more, but I think I should do the opposite. For the past three years, one of my new year's goals is to read 100 books. As a stay-at-home writer and mom of three children, that's an ambitious but achievable goal. After reading Stephen King's invaluable On Writing, I added audiobooks to my daily routine and found that this was the way to achieve my goal almost effortlessly.

About four years ago, our local librarian showed me how to download the Overdrive app that allowed and still allows me to borrow audiobooks from the library. Like my beloved physical hold shelf, I can put books on hold and wait for months while also searching for a book that was "available now." I loved it: I could plan ahead and get instant gratification.

Pretty soon, I was never without words. And that's still the case now. I listen to books while shuttling from drop off to pick up and all the errands in between. I listen to books while I do all those mindless things around the house: cleaning up the kitchen, folding the laundry, picking up the piles of clutter, sweeping the floors. I got headphones and began listening to books while walking my pup. Every now and then, when I was at the very end of a book or listening against the hard deadline of a due date, I would put in my ear bud and listen while others were around. During our summer road trip, I listened to the end of the wonderful The Nightingale while my husband drove through Utah and my kids watched a movie in the back. But mostly it's just me and the audiobook. We were pals.

Then, last week, while listening to the extraordinary Cooked by Michael Pollan, I had a bit of a revelation. In the book, he writes (or, in my case, spoke about--I really love it when authors read their own books, by the way) how chopping onions and garlic and other vegetables as prep for a slowly-cooked meal was a great way to daydream.

Daydream? Huh?

Upon reflection, I realized that audiobooks shaved off my time to daydream. And I think, years ago, that was the point. At the time, my husband and I were slugging through some murky crap because and in addition to the fact that I was personally at a difficult time in my life. As I looked back and saw the point at which I started listening to audiobooks almost compulsively. I think I filled my head with words and stories from somebody else because I didn't trust my own words and thoughts. At this point in my life, the thoughts always spiraled downwards into some dangerous, negative abyss.

Interestingly, it was also at this point in my life when I stopped running long distances--mostly I did that because of an injury to my foot, but the short and intense, group (read: with friends!) Crossfit workouts were a good replacement for long, solitary, thought-filled runs.

Want the good news? I think I'm okay to daydream again. I think I'm okay to let my thoughts drift as they will. I think I'm okay to turn off the audiobook and listen to my own story again, at least some of the time.

P.S. In case you're in the market for a good audiobook, here are some of my absolute favorites:

  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
  • Yes, Please! by Amy Polhar 
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan (middle grade)
  • Gooney Bird Greene series by Lois Lowrey (middle grade)
  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  • Cooked by Michael Pollan
  • Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin


Unknown said...

Love this post! Thanks for sharing and congratulations on reaching the point to daydream again. I know exactly what you mean. Funny, how certain events make us afraid to dream or even let the mind wander. Enjoy your run!

Holly Mueller said...

I can SO relate to this post because I'm an avid audio book "reader" and also use Overdrive. I'm also always listening - in the car, on walks, while gardening, etc. It's interesting that audio books helped you through a difficult time. Thanks for the recommendations! I have lots of favs, too. Night Circus (narrated by the great Jim Dale), The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson, Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan, Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox, Countdown by Deborah Wiles, and so many more! I just finished Amy Schumer's The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo. Oh my - at times my ears hurt because she is raunchy - ha. But it's funny! I agree that audio books are a great way to increase your reading! Maybe I need to do a post on this, too. You've inspired me! (And I, too, love when the author narrates - I recently listened to E.B. White read The Trumpet of the Swan - it was wonderful!)

Aggiekesler said...

I've never done the audiobook thing, but I've been hearing about it a lot recently. I might try it. Glad you were reflective about needing to step away and get lost in your own thoughts. Good luck with that! :)

Unknown said...

Good point to allow time for daydreaming and reflection.

Akilah said...

Yes, reading can totally become a crutch. When I did The Artist Way a couple of years ago, I was amazed at what changed when I did the suggested week-long reading deprivation (no outside words!). It was life-changing.

I'm glad you're in a better place now. :)