We've discussed here and in the magazine how challenging it is to get people to read books—and to buy them—in this millennium. Everyone seems to crave more time, and old media must compete with new media for the little free time we have. The commercials for Bing, Microsoft's new search engine, are ingenious at capturing the information overload of the Internet age.
David L. Ulin, the book editor for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a wonderful piece, "The lost art of reading," earlier this week. In it, he discusses the challenges that we all face in making time to read and why reading books is still important. Here he recounts his own struggle to sit down to read after a day of being plugged in:
After spending hours reading e-mails and fielding phone calls in the office, tracking stories across countless websites, I find it difficult to quiet down. I pick up a book and read a paragraph, then my mind wanders and I check my e-mail, drift onto the Internet, pace the house before returning to the page. Or I want to do these things but don't. I force myself to remain still, to follow whatever I'm reading until the inevitable moment I give myself over to the flow. Eventually I get there, but some nights it takes 20 pages to settle down. What I'm struggling with is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there is something out there that merits my attention, when in fact it's mostly just a series of disconnected riffs and fragments that add up to the anxiety of the age.
As for why books remain relevant, he writes:
Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being. We possess the books we read, animating the waiting stillness of their language, but they possess us also, filling us with thoughts and observations, asking us to make them part of ourselves. … Books enlarge us by giving direct access to experiences not our own. In order for this to work, however, we need a certain type of silence, an ability to filter out the noise.
What an elegant argument for pushing through the din and curling up with a good old-fashioned book. Do make the time to read the full article, and let us know if you have any tricks for quieting down to read, write and reflect.
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