November 29, 2006

Reading List - For Mental Health

I used to read so much - both fiction and nonfiction. It was fun, fulfilling and relaxing. Now I don’t and somehow I wonder why life is not as relaxing as it used to be. Sure, life is busier. It takes weeks to set up a simple get-together with friends because there is no such thing as casual hanging out anymore. But I didn’t just stop reading because I got busier. It was a change of habit thing. On the plus side, boredom is nonexistent, but maybe I’ve been applying too low a threshold on what counts as entertaining.

I had switched to reading more internet and magazines. And, hey, that has its place. The internet is about connectedness and I obviously have a personal need to stay connected to people and events. Magazines — especially high-quality ones like “Make” and “Fine Cooking” — are like the best stuff on the internet, but distilled down by editors to save you time.

I guess what I’m saying is that when I give up on my reading list, my quality of life starts to slide. The “to read” pile of books grows… then stops growing as I decide I’m not add any more books. And suddenly, something is missing from life.

So I’ve resolved recently to spend about an hour a day on non-work-related reading. Entertainment reading is either fiction I’ve been wishing to read, or nonfiction that is mostly for fun. (Less time with Digg, YouTube and the boob tube, more time with actual paper)

Here’s a list of books I’ve been waiting to read, so they’ve been sitting on my “to read” list either for a while or briefly.

  • The latest Tony Hillerman Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn mystery.
  • The Blind Watchmaker (Dawkins) [Read 20 pages into it one summer day]
  • The Ancestor’s Tale (Dawkins)
  • From Beirut to Jerusalem (Freidman) [I’m about 1/4 into it already]
  • The Mind Map Book
  • Sharpe’s Rifles (and subsequent books, which I picked up at a used book store)
  • Whichever Patrick O’Brien book I left off on
  • A few early Kay Scarpetta mysteries I picked up at the used book store.
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

That’s just the list I could put together off the top of my head. There are lots more.

Instead of having these books haunt me, I think what I need to do is start to read a book and then early on decide whether I’m going to continue or not. I already do this with TV shows (which I am quick to dismiss after a fair chance has been given). Not every book is for everybody and I need to move on if I hit one that is not for me.

I know many of you have been avid readers and still are; many of my friends are more voracious than I was even at my apex when I quickly ploughed through the entire Dune series.

What are your reading habits now, folks? And what books are on your waiting list, if you have one? How much tine a day do you devote to books?

Posted by James at November 29, 2006 8:52 AM
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I hardly read paper at all any more. The time I used to spend reading (bedtime), I now spend doing sudokus or kakuros. I've already planned to quit both of those when I finish the sudoku/kakuro book I'm working on now, and go back to reading. If for no other reason than to finish (and possibly dispose of) some of the items on my very large backlog of books.

I've also got a ton videos to watch. No idea when that will get done either. Gotta get through the kakuros first...

Posted by: Julie at November 29, 2006 9:32 AM

Like most people I have a stack of books I want to read but I don't have much time to start one. Once in a while I'll start a book that I can't put down and I'll carve all sorts of time out of my day until I finish it. So time management seems to be the problem, not my busy schedule. I've successfully reduced the amount of random channel surfing I do on television so I need to do the same thing with web surfing to free up a few hours.

Ironically when my commute to work was longer I had more time to read because I spent that time reading on a train. My outdoor reading season is drawing to a close due to earlier sunsets and inclement weather and that's just as well because I'm tired of walking into barrels and trees while my head is buried in a novel.

Posted by: Mike at November 29, 2006 9:50 AM

I read a daily newspaper, two weekly newspapers, a weekly news mag, a weekly science mag, a monthly mag, and on top of this, I've always got a book going (I have not mentioned the various pubs sent to me by the charities to which we donate).

I have to let one of the weekly mags go. I can't keep up. I'm torn over which one to ditch,though, because they're both good (Science News vs. The Economist).

Anyhow...lately, I've been running thorough mysteries. A few months ago, NPR ran a story on Scandinavian mystery writers, and I've read a few by the authors mentioned:

Karin Fossim's "He Who Fears the Wolf"(ISBN 0156030497)
--She's a reat storyteller with a good voice; I'll pick up other books by her when I see them. Many have been translated (from Norwegian, I believe).

Two from Arnaldur Indridason:

"Jar City: A Reykjavik Thriller (ISBN 0312426380)

"Silence of the Grave" (ISBN 0312340710)

--I really like his voice a lot. Sadly, only two of his books have been translated (from Icelandic).

Right now, I'm reading "Catch-22."

Posted by: Patti M. at November 29, 2006 9:55 AM

I got this strange image of Mike actually coming out of a reading-fugue and somehow finding himself literally up in a tree.

Posted by: James at November 29, 2006 9:55 AM

Ah, to be in a tree with a good book instead of at work. What a nice thought.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 29, 2006 10:03 AM

I have also run into things while reading. reading while walking = not good. I try to read every day. I generally read during lunch at work. I find a nice quiet place and spend a half hour with whatever I'm reading at the time. Then I tend to read at least for some period of time before I go to sleep. Maybe 10 minutes maybe 2 hours. On average I'd say a half hour.

I'm currently reading The City of Fallen Angels by John Berentr (same guy who wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) and jsut finished Nathaniel Philbeck's Mayflower which was excellent.

My stack of unread books is getting out of control but an author I've discovered recently include Boris Akunin (a Russian myster/suspense writter). Only has 4 books translated so far but they've all been good reads and have gotten better as the series has progressed.

Of the books on your list I've read a few (all of the O'Brien and Sharpe books, Kavalier and Clay. I have to say if you feel like you are forcing yourself to read go with the Sharpe books because they'll drag you into the action an you won't want to put the book down. I also love his recent series focusing on Britain in the time of Alfred the great (Norse, Anlgeo-Saxons) as well as his Grail Quest series.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at November 29, 2006 10:58 AM

some day I'm going to learn to read posts before submitting (spelling/grammar problems too numerous to get into)

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at November 29, 2006 11:00 AM

Walking while reading is perfectly fine. I do it all the time, and I haven't been killed yet (note that I work in Cambridge where traffic isn't exactly rare or slow).

Posted by: Patti M. at November 29, 2006 1:24 PM

I was always an avid reader - mostly fantasy and sci-fi as a kid, and then once I hit college mostly nonfiction. In the last several years I've almost completely stopped reading, though. I got sick of reading a lot of nonfiction, most of which covers the same ground over and over again. Also, most of which is boring. I found it hard to start reading much fiction because so much of it is garbage. But the biggest problem has probably been that I work too damn much, and even when I'm not working I tend to either waste time on the internet, play video games, or watch movies. My wife is a insists on having a tv in the bedroom - which I never had before we moved in together - and wants to spend most of our time together watching tv or movies... so reading in bed is pretty much out of the question.

Posted by: DG at November 29, 2006 1:25 PM

I remember a time when my wife and I used to either read together in bed to relax, or even read aloud to each other with a snack.

I think the Olympics were in Japan the last time we did that. About 12 years ago. I can't blame the kids, because our oldest is 11.

My wife works at night now and we're both exhausted by the time she's done working.

Posted by: James at November 29, 2006 1:39 PM

DG, next time your wife is watching TV in bed, go to the living room and read your book.

Watching TV in bed is a no-no as it stimulates the brain and can make it hard for you to fall asleep.

Besides, what's on TV that's so compelling that you're willing to relinquish your scarce free time to it? Nothing. Go read that book!

Posted by: Patti M. at November 29, 2006 2:04 PM

There's "House."

Posted by: James at November 29, 2006 2:13 PM

Yes. We tape that and watch it, sans commercials, the next day.

Reading _always_ trumps TV.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 29, 2006 2:16 PM

Reading a book doesn't stimulate the brain?? It stimulates mine more than TV!

Posted by: Julie at November 29, 2006 2:28 PM

I read about a book a day now. It used to be three a day, but the more I write the less I read. I try to blog about the books I read on my reading and writing blogs, but I am several behind!

Posted by: leslie at November 29, 2006 2:34 PM

I'm not suggesting "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire." Since I'm always reading, I'll usually read the book I'm into at the time. Sometimes, however, if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, I'll pick up something light like comics or a funny book. "Order of the Stick" anthologies or other strips are good for quelling the brain b/c they don't involve much thought.

It has been reported in jorunals and elsewhere that watching TV in bed is not a good idea.

I give you but one of several references:

"Reserve your bed for sleeping. To preserve the association between bed and slumber, don't watch television or do work in bed."

Tossing and Turning No More:
How to Get a Good Night's Sleep
http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/1998/498_sleep.html

Who does work in bed? Several articles I've read advise against paying bills in bed. What? Who does this, and perhaps more importantly, why?

Posted by: Patti M. at November 29, 2006 2:38 PM

They actually recommend against doing ANYTHING but sleep and have sex in bed if you have trouble sleeping. I've always found that reading tends to relax me and make me forget about whatever is preventing me from sleeping. I actually find TV to be helpful in falling asleep but then a loud commercial comes along and jars me awake.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at November 29, 2006 2:59 PM

TV can keep me awake, but not for too long.

I will fall asleep no matter what's on or how interested I am if I am really tired.

So while I don't doubt the study, I think you have to consider that to apply that information on individuals, you have to consider their sleeping habits.

I think if someone is actually having trouble sleeping, you might suggest not having the TV on. But I bet that there are a lot of people who sleep fine with the TV.

Posted by: James at November 29, 2006 3:04 PM

I read about 8-9 daily newspapers everyday -- a plethora of blogs and other information sources -- plus all kinds of crazy reports and other stuff from a wide variety of politicians and hacks. Plus I try to keep up with all the books that are sent to me -- although I usually fail. If you've seen my office it's wall to wall crappy books written by people who should have their hands cut off to prevent them from writing anything ever again.

I am still trying to get through Barak Obama's book -- "The Audacity of Hope" and usually the books I read are politically based -- or at least current events based.

I do love biographies and autobiographies though -- especially those of the British monarchy. Don't ask me why.

Nowadays I don't have alot of time for "fun" reading ...

Posted by: Keri at November 29, 2006 7:09 PM

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