Book Count

I’ve recently noticed that many people see the number of books read in single year as a badge of honor.  Instead of reading to enjoy the act, they rack up books how Michael Myers accumulates a body count.  When I’m reading a book, I feel this urge to rush through it to add it to my yearly list.

But I realized I hate this idea.  I am a slow reader and I was late to reading in general.  For years, I saw reading as a chore.  I rarely found pleasure in it.  Grad school made the idea of ever reading for pleasure again seem impossible.

It took many months before I read a book for fun after I graduated.  I’ve been allowing myself to read whatever interests me in the moment.  I’m avoiding a long list of books “To Read” nagging at me.  That would put me back in the mindset of being forced to read a book out of some unknown obligation to some imagined idea that a book list matters.

I find bragging about book counts to be misguided.  It isn’t’ quantity but quality that matters.  I feel the same way about other media like shows, movies, etc.  It needs to stop. Who care that you read 100 books in one year if you didn’t learn or grow from the experience?  Even academic reading should achieve some level of pleasure, of expanding one’s mind.

So I’m going to continue to read at my usual slow pace, allowing myself to savor a book like a fine wine instead of a cheap beer.

My Disenchantment with Technology

You can blame this blog post of Cal Newport.

After reading his book Deep Work [Amazon], I became interested in his ideas and ordered a hardcover copy of his newest book, Digital Minimalism [Amazon].  While not dismissing the benefits that technology has created in our lives, Newport goes on to examine the habits that have led to phone addiction.  I am guilty of such an addiction.  Over a year ago, with extremely important deadlines pressing in on me, I deleted the social media apps from my iPhone.  However, once those deadlines had passed, I added them back onto my phone and carried on scrolling for hours on end.  If I was bored, I found myself scrolling Facebook or Twitter mindlessly.

However, a few days ago, I deleted Facebook again from my phone.  I also limited the amount of time I could use the remaining social media apps to thirty minutes a day.  In these last few days, I have found myself calmer and more focuses.  I don’t check my phone nearly as often.  I don’t feel the desire to scroll while watching television.  I have been reading regularly again, despite thinking before that I didn’t have the time in my day.

images.jpg

Newport’s Defintion of Digital Minimalism

I still have bad tech habits.  I watch too much YouTube daily.  I constantly check my calendar because I forget my schedule for the day.  But I am working on these habits as well.

iphone8-plus-select-2017.jpg

This brings me to another point that I’ve recently realized.  I usually jump when a new iPhone is released.  I always think the new product is an improvement on the older model I have in my possession.  But lately, I noticed that I didn’t get the new model when I came out.  I almost didn’t notice it and I couldn’t tell you the name of the newer version.  I own an iPhone 8 Plus, which has 256 GB of storage, more than enough for me.  The screen is fine, although I need to replace the chipped screen protector.  I think I had my current phone for almost two years, and I don’t plan on upgrading in the near future.  Honestly, I have no desire to do so.  I even recently looked at purchasing a Google phone, but it lacked the storage capacity I require.  The only reason I have stuck with Apple is because I became enamored with their products in college.  I am typing on a MacBook Pro, I own an iPad Pro, and an Apple Watch.  But as I come to rethink my relationship with technology and, frankly, its effects on my mental health, I have become more mindful of the devices around me.  I would like to phase out my Apple Watch, but I value its fitness features, although I’m beginning to weigh those against the constant nagging on my wrist.  The only reason I wouldn’t switch to a conventional watch is that I have to keep track of my steps and other data throughout the day.  Aspects I once found appealing—the notifications, the Siri voice feature, etc.—now annoy me.  I’d rather wait to look at my phone, in my own leisurely time.

Rethinking my use of technology has led me to understand that the constant bombardment of messages, notifications, and data has been causing me unneeded anxiety.  I already have generalized anxiety; I don’t need my devices added to it.  So if you message me, I may not respond quickly, a quality that used to frustrate me with other people.  I am taking a lesson from Newport’s book and being mindful of the tech around me.  I am even experimenting with analog habits like paper journaling.  Oh, what a brave new world.

You Are Not Alone

perks_love we think we deserve

Perks quote

It is hard to describe how a few select books make me feel. They touch something in me and somehow make me feel everything. It is not that the books in question are lofty literature or anything like that. The actual writing—the words—can be very simple. I think it might have more to do with the voice and tone. In the two books I am thinking of, the voice happens to be male: Craig in Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Charlie from Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Both books/characters talk about things I understand, no matter the gender.

I really wish I had read both of these books at a critical point in my life—my mid-teens. I know this could have happened with Perks because it was printed in 1999. Funny Story was printed in 2006, when I was about 18 years old, so it would have been too late, maybe.

Funny_Story_frontBoth of these characters reflect something deep in me, something I think has to do with being bipolar, or at least knowing what depression—deep down blue depression—feels like. These books speak truths that no one told me about during those scary years. I wish someone had pressed a copy of Perks into my 15-year-old hands and said, “You are not alone.” Because, simply put, that’s what these books do; they each say, in bold letters: “You Are Not Alone.”

It’s that feeling when you’re all alone in a crowded room and your eyes meet someone and you know they know. You feel linked. And the moment may be brief but the fact of it is something you remember.

I know I’m not the only one to feel it because both Funny Story and Perks have been made into movies, in 2010 and 2012, respectively. I’m not the only one who wants a brain map from Craig or a mixtape from Charlie with the Smiths’ song “Asleep” on it (twice). These stories crack your chest open, reach in, and grab ahold of your heart.

All these words are only a glimpse of my true meaning. It is something you can only talk around but never name. And like only a few other books—The Giver, the Harry Potter series—these books will probably stay with me forever.