On Life and Love

When Reading Drags

I may have caved to an Online Reading Syndrome. I’m finding it increasingly hard to read some books, while I have no trouble reading various articles, blagoposts, stories, and graphical matter on the internet.

Now, in my defense, I’m reading non-fiction, and that’s never been my strong suit, no matter how much the concept of the subject matter appeals.

But still.

I find myself feeling the flaws of books more acutely than I would in an online piece. For instance, Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence. Excellent concept for a book:

Amartya Sen proposes that the murderous violence that has riven our society is driven as much by confusion as by inescapable hatred. Challenging the reductionist division of people by race, religion, and class, Sen presents an inspiring vision of a world that can be made to move toward peace as firmly as it has spiraled in recent years toward brutality and war.

I’m halfway through the book, and while I still like the premise very much–and have had some shifts in my own tendencies to be reductionist in identity–the repetition within the book without significant meat added in each go-round is leaving me a little frustrated.

Republic, Lost is going better, but I still have some of the “Okay, you don’t have to hammer every point home; get there” issue. It’s truly a good, relevant read, though, even when I disagree with his points. Which, you know, happens when he puts pen to paper about teachers and why our education system is broken. He didn’t convince me that teacher tenure is the problem.

I’m rapidly developing a psychosis with regards to The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Fer skerious. First, I had a nice and free version of the unabridged edition on my phone via Kindle. Bad formatting, as these Gutenberg-esque books tend to, but readable. (The writing itself is another matter.)

I was chugging along, maybe a whole 4% into the book, when I realized that, hold on one damn minute, I’m only 4% into the first of six volumes. And I was swimming in a confusing array of Antonines, lifestyles of Roman soldiers, and cabbage caravan routes.

I knew there were six volumes going in, don’t get me wrong. But my phone’s Kindle screen trimmed the lengthy title to something like, “The History of the Decline…”, meaning I didn’t explicitly catch the “, Vol 1” on the end. I guess I’d thought all six volumes were combined. Oops.

So I switched to the abridged version (because really, cabbage caravans), which I already owned in paperback form. But I let a couple of weeks go by before switching over, and now I have a strange sense of déja vu–should I be further along? Did I already read about that fellow’s adoption and how he leeched power from the Senate? I know I knew about him already from classes/other reading… Even flipping through both versions to match them up doesn’t help much; there’s so little text per page on the phone, versus the 6 pt font in the paper book, that its preferable to just reread.

Surely, there’s a better way for me to learn my Roman history without going to Gibbon for it. I can’t tell if the people who fawn over this book in their reviews are doing so just to seem smart, or if they actually like his prose.

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess and Buddhism without Beliefs are treating me much better (especially when I find Alphabet, wherever it ended up…), but my foot-dragging on Identity, Republic, and (*twitch*) Decline makes me worry that I’m losing my ability to just be in the moment with a book, and will soon only find brief enjoyment from consuming RSS feeds with a frightening lack of recall for the details of posts by authors I so “lovingly” follow.


  • Imani

    When I have this problem, I read a bunch of urban fantasy. I’ll find myself demolishing 1000 pages in a week or less. Really cleans out the old brain pan for something a little deeper and slower.

  • Luke

    I run in cycles. For a few months at a time I’ll find that reading a book takes far more concentration than I can possibly provide while I can consume RSS feeds like nothing. And then I’ll switch to reading book and just hitting the “mark all as read” in Reader.

    And I have to remember to find something enjoyable…just because I think something sounds cool doesn’t really mean I’ll enjoy reading about it – I have 4 paperbacks sitting on my bedside table that I haven’t read in the last 2 years because I just don’t care for them but all are topics I want to learn about.