The danger of overeading

No, not a typo, gentle reader, if you but read on…

After a rare pause for an actual current event, we’re back to random babblings about topics which may or not be of any interest, but, as this blog is nothing but an endless stream of randomness, one way or the other, that certainly can be of no surprise to the regular reader.

And it’s of reading we’ll talk about today.

Reading is something I have always enjoyed.   A bald understatement.  I adore reading.  From the colorful, somewhat mindless early days of comic books to my explorations in fiction to my constant love of newspapers, reading is a passion.

In the matter of books, I have always preferred fiction over non-, though I will readily welcome non-fiction as it deals with my great love of baseball.  Occasionally, by choice or by recommendation, a non-fiction book not related to sports will cross my reading list and the experience may be enriching, but not to the point where it markedly changes my reading habits.  If this is viewed as a fault by some, I do not fight the claim.

I have no genre-specific requirements to my reading, though my leanings are towards science fiction and fantasy.  Still, whether suspense, western, mystery or thriller, I enjoy a good book to a degree that borders on gluttony.

I am, in all other aspects of my life, a reasonable and moderate man, able to refrain from excesses or deprivations to lead a relatively balanced life.  In the matter of reading, my mind is a greedy thing, often to the expense of other healthy habits.

For instance, I enjoy eating while I’m reading.  I mentioned this once to a friend and she found it surprising (to the extent that she had never heard of it before).  I didn’t think it that strange, but perhaps, outside of movie husbands reading newspapers while their movie wives or kids try to get their attention, most people don’t like to eat and read.  In any case, I do like to read and eat.  Sometimes, I like to read and eat too much — as in too much of both.  I can occasionally find myself looking for more things to eat if I’m reading a particularly riveting book…a bad thing no matter the food choice.  It doesn’t help that the eating area just happens to have the best reading light.

Another symptom of my reading obsession rises in direct proportion to the quality of the book.  As I get more involved in a particularly good book, the phrase “can’t put it down” becomes literal for me.  I will read and read and read.  My posture may be bad, resulting in pain in my neck, but I cannot be bothered to move.  My light may begin to dim and I may be too involved to turn on lights.  My eyes may begin to ache and I may stubbornly continue to read.  I may even get to that inevitable point where I’m reading the same paragraph repeatedly because my mind is just so darn tired, but still I don’t stop (until, obviously, I do).  And I won’t even get to my glasses…we’ll do that talk in another post.

Conversely, if the book is not particularly good, I don’t put it down either, but I start “skimming”.  I read faster and faster hoping to find some moment in the story that begins to grab me.  A part of me recognizes reading in that manner likely reduces my chances of finding that very “aha” spot, but I am caught betwixt not wanting to leave the book unfinished (ever the optimist) and wanting to get it over with so I can get onto something more enjoyable.

At my reading peak, I had subscriptions to several magazines (all non-fiction; ranging from general about the world to business to sports) and a couple newspapers to go along with several book clubs and library cards.  I spent less and less time on TV and movies and more and more time in print.  Oh, I still got out for my fun in the sun, you can’t live here and not enjoy that, but almost all other time was spent reading.

During the latter stages of my purgatory (commonly known as “Corporate America”), I “lost” my ability to read.  No, not the desire, as you might think, but the actual ability to read.  My brain could not stay focused on the material long enough.  My mind’s eye could not conjure up that special window to see characters, places and events so intrinsic to the voyage of reading.  It was as if a part of me had been short-circuited somehow.

As things have changed for me over the last couple years, I’ve been pleased by the return of that seductive joy of reading.  The avariciousness is not back yet, perhaps that’s for the best, but the scrabblings of hunger are beginning to crawl back into my head and I think it will not be too long before my passion returns full force.

My only trepidation is that, after a long and mostly successful journey of turning my half-century old body into some form of fitness, I notice that the best place to read in my home is, disturbingly, the dining room table.

My imagination may not be the only thing that expands should I return to my former habit of overeading.

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