This blog post is in response to a YouTube video titled, "BOOKSTORES: How to Read More Books in the Golden Age of Content" and I highly recommend you watch that first before reading. Not only will it provide context but it is just a good video. Trust me.
I have a fear. It is a fear that sometimes feels irrational and other times completely plausible, and I believe both of those things are true. My fear is that I will not get to read all of the books on my reading list before I die. I know you probably expected something more chilling than that. It is something that gives me a lot of day to day anxiety. This anxiety has only fueled by my lack of reading in 2019.
2019 has been a busy year. Between starting a brand new, expansive project to working on creative ideas, to day to day responsibilities, and trying to watch as many great video essays (like the one I am responding to) as I can, I simply have not found the energy to pick up as many books as I have in the past. 2017 was much of the same, though my motivations were very different. In years past I have read quite a bit, with last year being the most when I read over 100 books. Reading is such an important pastime to me and I want to briefly talk about why.
Growing up, I loved books. I wasn't the most avid reader per say in that I didn't go to midnight Harry Potter book releases or read an entire book in one sitting. If I did read a book in one sitting, I called it a favorite, my first being On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As I grew older, my love of books only grew. I longed to read books that touched me deeply and books that made me think about the world in new ways. I loved the craft of writing fiction, and wanted to write a novel myself. In college, my literary pallet expanded to non-fiction and in 2012 I began my journey to try and read 50 books in one year. That is the short explanation.
My room is full of books. Books are stuffed on almost every visible shelf and tucked away on the shelves in my closet. I see them everyday and everyday I am haunted by the reality that there are too many to read, especially at my current pace.
Time has been stretched thin lately. If I'm not working on big projects I am procrastinating or trying to catch up on television shows I've had in my Netflix queue for years. Sometimes I play video games more than I probably should. I love watching YouTube and my Watch Later playlist is filled with over 500 videos, a number that seldom goes down since I am constantly adding new content to the pile. And when I go to bed, I tell myself that I am too tired to pick up the book on my nightstand and instead scroll through social media on my phone. So the cycle continues.
When I saw the video in which I am responding in my recommendations section, I added it to my Watch Later list with some hesitation. I put it at the back of the pack around the 400's and figured I'd get to it one day, along with all of the other videos. I later saw the video recommended by someone on Twitter, hailing it as important and that everyone should watch it. I'm not one to take Twitter recommendations from people I follow lightly. So I moved it up on my list, though did not feel a pull to actually sit down and watch the almost 40 minute short film.
Now here is how neurotic I can get. When I order the videos in my Watch Later playlist, I do that in hopes that I will stick to that order. So I place videos in an attempt to give myself some variety. Maybe the video essay about the Handmaid's Tale followed by a Let's Play video of Spider-man for the PS4 and then a short video on almond milk's production and how it affects climate. Eventually I came to this video and clicked it with a strange dread that I could only really address after watching it.
The video immediately grabbed my attention. The production value was absolutely stunning, the relaxed aesthetic put me at ease, and the narration seemed to perfectly capture my own thoughts as an avid reader. Part of the video is celebrating bookstores and all of the good they can do, as well as celebrating the books within those stores, and more importantly why those books are important. The other part tries to break down how we read, why we read, and how we can read more "in the golden age of content."
Do you know how you can sometimes find something, be it a magazine article or a movie or a YouTube video, and it just wakes you up from this apathetic state that you were in? Yeah, that is what this video did for me.
What I was forced to recognize post video was the somewhat uncomfortably reality that my phone, and social media, have changed the way I function on a day to day basis. This is something I swore would never happen to me. In college when smartphones were becoming a thing, I watched my friends staring at their phones instead of having conversations or paying attention to the movie we were watching. I struggled with my friends wanting to have texting conversations constantly when all I wanted to do was put my phone on silent and read. Eventually I upgraded from my flip phone to a Blackberry, and after that upgraded to an iPhone. Yet even then I wasn't on my phone much, only using it for normal phone functions and to play games.
I never felt particularly attached to my phones. If given a choice, I'd always choose my iPod over my phone. The same can be said today. As I became more accustomed to online discourse, I grew closer to apps like Twitter and Instagram. Twitter was my go to app. I checked it multiple times a day, scrolling through my feed for news or what conversations were prevalent on the internet that day. Even when I found myself seeing familiar tweets from hours before, I'd scroll back up in hopes that there'd be more at the top. Somehow this seemed to be a worthwhile way to spend my time.
I've always taken notice of the people in my life who don't read books. There is something about picking up a book and flipping pages and reading words that differs so greatly from simply watching television. When I try to explain this to non-readers, they don't get it. They seem to think I am pushing my book "agenda" at them, as if this is inherently wrong to encourage people to read books. I love television and movies as much as the next person, but I hesitate to say that they challenge my mind in the same way as the novel. I'd rather read long winded books of essays or elegantly written novels as opposed to social media and news outlet hot takes. And perhaps some think that I am telling them what they can and can't enjoy, and I don't mean to make that implication. But those who read know what I am talking about, and non-readers never seem to understand the same mindset.
Reading is a discipline, and I had fallen out of it.
My fear of watching this video stemmed from the place I was at in my life. My mind was in search of the immediate satisfaction, rather than the thought provoking and slow moving nature of books. I didn't want to grapple with what that said about myself. I didn't want to be called out for the same thing I had called my friends out for in the past. Had I become another shallow social media guru glued to her phone? Somewhat. If I only set that down most of the time in place of reading a book, then the idea of reading all of the books on my list becomes much more plausible and easy to digest.
The thing about being glued to your phone is that you become a hypocrite, saying things like "I don't have time to do that," placing time on your phone above things that matter more. I was checking my phone the moment I woke up and scrolling through Twitter long after I had shut the lights off at night. I was going to bed late and waking up feeling tired, spending so much time procrastinating and looking at the Twitter drama that had become normal for me.
Shortly after watching this video, I removed Twitter from my phone. I have barely checked it since then, and have opted to reading far more in my spare time than picking my phone up. My mindset on my time and where to place it has changed exponentially in a short period.
This video was the thing I needed right now. I have been busy with big projects and have told myself that this is the reason I haven't been reading as much. But I love books, and I never want to become the person who says, "man I haven't read a book in ages." I never want to forget the importance of reading.