ast night, a car came around a sharp corner behind our house, travelled 200 feet with perfect visibility, street lights, no rain, and managed to plow right into the back of a parked car. The debris field was scattered another 200 feet down the road and both cars needed to be towed.
I’m willing to suspect, since external factors were nil, that the driver was either drunk, distracted, driving-too-fast, or drifting.
You shouldn’t operate a motor vehicle in any of these states.
Nor should you read a book in this condition.
There are all sorts of books, brilliant books, world-changing books, that end up sitting on toilet lids or bedside tables, gathering dust. These are books that might stay with us for our lifetime, causing us to inwardly reflect and outwardly act on their messages. But too often we give up on books, tossing them aside and going back to our easy books (i.e. Harry Potter) or even easier entertainments (i.e. TV). How do we end up misreading books so badly?
Drunk: Sometimes people only try to read before they go to sleep. Warm and cozy in their beds, they try to muddle through a page or two, their eyelids heavy. In the end, the reader’s conscious understanding of the book is a series of two-three page spurts, with every spurt ending in muddled unconsciousness. Maybe you need a better time to read. Friends don’t let friends read drunk.
Distracted: Nothing sucks more than someone bothering you when you’re lost in a book. Unless the roof is on fire, most of these trivial interruptions can wait until a good stopping point. When Israel Hands is chasing Jim Hawkins up the rigging of the Hispaniola, getting yanked out of the reader-dreamstate for some casual comment is an actually painful experience. There may not be dumb questions, but there are certainly times when it’s dumb to ask a question. Make sure everyone knows when it’s dumb (and worse) to bother you.
Driving-too-fast: With the customer always being right, we expect things our way. Everything is about us, including the contents of our media. But when you read a book from a different culture or a different time (and different times are nothing but different cultures), you might find yourself a little out of sorts. Th humor is odd. The drama is odd. The pacing seems off. The climax takes too long, or it isn’t there at all. But a lot of times, if you stick with it, your reward will be so much greater. Examples of this: A Man Called Ove and The Traveling Cat Chronicles. Books aren’t all about you.
Drifting: Reading requires commitment. If you are going to read, you need to pay attention to the book. If you are expecting the writer to make things easy for you, you’re reading YA. Reading can be tough. Reading can be laborious. And yet it is very often rewarding. If you are just showing up to flip pages and imagine interesting places, maybe you aren’t putting quite enough into your reading. What is the intent of the story? What is the meaning? What is your take-away? What is the lesson learned from the tale? Books, and especially good books, are more than forming words out of letters.
So that’s it. If you are going to read, really read with full attention and total commitment. And always, please, buckle up!