Right off the bat, I’ll say that I’m not kidding. I’ve really read a whopping number of books. However, it’s not the number that matters. It’s the content. And no, achieving this is nowhere near as impossible as finding the majestic Koh-i-Noor, a well-known (and well-hidden) diamond from Agatha Christie’s detective novel The Secret of Chimneys. You can do this, too.
This is a response to Reading is the Perfect Escape from Reality. Now if I Could Pick Up the Book and Read.
The article was nearing to its end, and I screeched to a halt right after reading the last sentence. I really wanted to offer some words of encouragement in terms of mastering our own focus and habits. Here’s a story of my own, involving Harry Potter, a goldfish, and an occasional digression or two. Or more. Either way, I hope that you’ll find the following valuable. Maybe this will help and/or motivate you on your own reading journey (and won’t end up collecting *digital* dust), so strap in – we’re taking off!
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of the School System
My teacher gave me an incredulous look. I had just taken a tome of 700 pages or so out of my backpack. When the bell rang for the break, that was our cue to get up from our chairs and hastily make a beeline for the door. I was the only one who chose to stay in the classroom, while my teacher tried not to comment on me carrying a book twice my size. I was 8 years old back then, and this is how it all started.
The book I made an effort to carry was one from the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. However, I would always remember the first part of the series, because I felt like a prisoner myself. I was relentlessly bullied, our teachers couldn’t care less, and the school’s defectologist once threatened how he’d ram the speaker into one child’s ear if he didn’t behave properly. By the way, that defectologist prided himself on his “DJ skills“. His “music“ about belly dancers gathered many views from children in our school. Awful, I know. That’s another long story for a different day.
My point being, I figured that I was left on my own devices, when it came to learning. Doing anything scholarly in Serbia, at least in my immediate surroundings, would be (and still is) laughed at. I was alone, and I wanted to find (or possibly create) my own safe space. More than a few years have passed, and now I’m happier than ever. Who knows whether or not I’d pick up the habit of reading if I didn’t go through this baptism of fire.
Flipping Pages, Not Fins
What about the goldfish? It’s said that these species have a mere 3-second recall. How many times have you heard someone saying “I have a memory of a goldfish“? Well, I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s start off with the bad ones.
Firstly, we should call a spade a spade - The idiom is based on the misconception that goldfish have a very short memory span, but in reality, goldfish can remember things for months and even up to several years. So, the idiom is actually not accurate in describing goldfish, but it's still commonly used in everyday language to describe human memory and our own attention span.
In that case, are we even worse memory-wise compared to an average goldfish?
The good news is that focus can be improved with practice. Reading has significantly improved my ability to concentrate on a single task for hours on end.
Now, if books haven’t been your cup of tea before and this interest was sparked a while ago, it might be a good idea to find a shorter audiobook in a genre you prefer. You can listen to it while doing less demanding chores, when you decide to go for a walk, or right before you go to sleep. You may find that listening to an audiobook while multitasking allows the content to effectively stay in your ears.
Another piece of advice is to try reading books in a noisy environment. It may sound counterintuitive, but being in a quiet room with a book can sometimes make it easier to give in to distractions like mindlessly scrolling through social media. By exposing yourself to a different set of external stimuli outside of your usual surroundings, you may be less likely to get carried away by your phone and more able to focus on the book in front of you. Give it a try and see if it works for you!
The Lost Art of Binge-Listening: From Lincoln-Douglas Debates to Netflix
Long before Netflix binging became a thing, there was a different kind of marathon people willingly signed up for. Take the famous debates between Lincoln and Douglas, for example. Picture this: it's a crisp autumn day in 1854, and two towering figures of American politics are about to engage in an epic debate. When Douglas delivered a three-hour address, Lincoln was up next to respond. But instead of diving straight into his rebuttal, Lincoln looked at the clock and reminded the audience that it was already 5pm. He proposed that they go home, have dinner, and return for four more hours of talk. And the audience, without hesitation, agreed! That's right, they were so invested in the discussion that they willingly sat through hours of debate, proving that even without streaming services, people knew how to binge-watch, er, binge-listen to compelling content.
This is why you’re capable of achieving your reading goal. You’re capable of mastering your overall focus when it comes to everything else in between, as well. Douglas, Lincoln, and the audience did it. So can you!
What Cowboy Bebop Can Teach You About Natural Reading Habits
In the episode 2 of the series, Spike and Jet are hired to track down a rare and valuable data dog. In the course of their search, they run into a thug who has stolen the dog, and Spike engages him in a fight. During the fight, the thug tries to overpower Spike, but Spike manages to turn the tables and get the upper hand. That's when he delivers this famous line:
"I'm not tensing up anywhere. I'm just using your excessive force. I control the flow of power."
Similar to how Spike controlled the flow of power in his fight, the same can be said about reading. It's not about excessively adding books to your TBR list or worrying about how many books you've read. As I mentioned earlier, it's not the streak that matters, but rather your enjoyment of the reading experience. If you find yourself unable to put the book down and your eyes are glued to the material, then the reading process is flowing naturally. This is exactly what Spike meant all along - going with what's natural. Read what feels natural to you and go with the flow. Allow yourself to get lost in the story, and don't force yourself to read just for the sake of reaching a goal. Remember, it's the experience that counts, not the numbers.
So Why Not Dive into a Good Book and Become a Literary Wizard Yourself?
In conclusion, reading proved to be a great way of scaling up my focus and concentration. Whether you prefer the physical pages of a book or the convenience of an audiobook, there are many ways to incorporate reading into your daily routine. And if you ever find yourself struggling to stay focused, just remember that even goldfish can remember things for months - so there's hope for us yet! So go ahead and pick up that book, and who knows - you might just discover your own Hogwarts or Middle Earth along the way. As the great writer Stephen King once said, "Books are a uniquely portable magic."