Booking Through Thursday

I’ve never answered one of the Booking Through Thursday questions, but today the question caught my eye, so maybe today is a good day to start. Here’s the question:

Okay, so the other day, a friend was commenting on my monthly reading list and asked when I found the time to read. In the ensuing discussion, she described herself as a “goldilocks” when it comes to reading–she needs to have everything juuuuuust right to be able to focus. This caught my attention because, first, I thought that was a charming way of describing the condition, but, two, while we’ve talked about our reading habits, this is an interesting wrinkle. I’d never really thought about it that way.

So, this is my question to you–are you a Goldilocks kind of reader?

Do you need the light just right, the background noise just so loud but not too loud, the chair just right, the distractions at a minimum?

Or can you open a book at any time and dip right in, whether it’s for twenty seconds, while waiting for the kettle to boil, or indefinitely, like while waiting interminably at the hospital–as long as the book is open in front of your nose, you’re happy to read?

I’m too much like a “goldilocks” reader for my own comfort. I don’t require perfect conditions, but I require very good ones. I can read when there are distractions around, but I read very slowly when there are — even more slowly than usual. I wish I were the kind of person who could focus well, but I’m not.

It’s rare, actually, that I’m completely absorbed in what I’m reading. I often look up from my book, sometimes to think about a passage, sometimes to notice something about my surroundings, and then my thoughts will wander and I’ll have to drag myself back to the book once again. I’m particularly bad about this when there are people around. I love to watch people, and I can’t help but notice social dynamics, so reading in airports or doctor’s offices is hard (although I do it). I’ll notice if someone starts a conversation, and once that happens, I can’t help but listen in. If people are having an argument, my book becomes useful only as something to hide the fact that I’m eavesdropping.

And I find it hard to quiet my mind to settle into reading. I suspect I’d benefit greatly from meditating regularly — I need to teach myself not to let my thoughts distract me from my book or whatever else. This is particularly hard when the semester is underway and I’ve got lots to think about. I’ll read for a few minutes and then notice that I’m not reading anymore and am thinking instead about how class went that day. Over the course of an evening’s reading, this gets better; by the evening’s end, I’m able to pay closer attention.

6 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading

6 responses to “Booking Through Thursday

  1. While I love to read under ideal conditions, they seem so rare that being much of a Goldilocks reader would leave me not reading much at all. I’m able to block out most distractions most of the time which is lucky for me that I can do that.

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  2. SFP

    See, that’s why I think reading is so wonderful. You can stop, daydream, then resume reading where you left off (or backtrack a bit if need be). If your mind wanders midway through a song, or during a movie or a book on tape, it’s much harder to carry on without a bit of effort or a willingness just to have missed something that might have been important.

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  3. Ah, if you’re something of a Goldilocks reader, then I am too.

    I get what you mean about how the mind just wanders sometimes when you’re reading. That’s one of the reasons I tend to read slowly when I’m in public. I get distracted – a lot.

    I eavesdrop – a lot, and I like to watch people do what they do. And sometimes the book says something interesting, and you just look up and you ponder.

    Ironically I also read to shut out the world sometimes.

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  4. For me it depends on the book. Some books I lose myself in so well that it doesn’t matter. Usually though I need quiet (no music or tv) to really enjoy my book. I do tend to pick up a book and read while waiting for something else to happen, but if there are too many distractions I end up having to read that part over again. Still, I’d rather have to reread than stand around bored.

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  5. I bring a book with me practically everywhere I go, and I can read quite contentedly during my son’s martial arts class or in the doctor’s waiting room. But I can’t read at home if the radio is on. So I guess I’m a mix. Great question.

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  6. Stefanie — you’re right that being a true “Goldilocks” reader would mean not reading much at all. Thankfully I can manage to read in poor conditions, although I don’t do it very well.

    Susan — you’re right, and that’s why I sometimes have trouble with audio books, although, actually, I find my thoughts wandering with audio books and then I rewind a bit to catch up. Thank goodness I can do that, or I’d miss important parts of the story!

    Orpheus — yes, we seem to be quite alike in the way we read!🙂 It’s really quite a pleasure to read slowly sometimes, and ponder what I’m reading.

    Danielle — I thoroughly agree with you — better to have to re-read the same paragraph 3 times because there are so many distractions, than not to have any book at all!

    Julie — it’s interesting the things we can tune out and the things we can’t. I’d think the martial arts class might be more distracting, but maybe not.

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