If you are feeling bad about reading fewer books, then read this

I’ve been reading less since the pandemic hit. For many reasons. It started to bother me, since the last few years I have been reading dozens of books each year. I felt I was failing. Then I read this: How to Read Fewer Books, from The School of Life.

I whole piece is good, but this part nailed it for me:

In order to ease and simplify our lives, we might dare to ask a very old-fashioned question: what am I reading for? And this time, rather than answering ‘in order to know everything,’ we might parcel off a much more limited, focused and useful goal. We might – for example – decide that while society as a whole may be on a search for total knowledge, all that we really need and want to do is gather knowledge that is going to be useful to us as we lead our own lives. We might decide on a new mantra to guide our reading henceforth: we want to read in order to learn to be content. Nothing less – and nothing more. With this new, far more targeted ambition in mind, much of the pressure to read constantly, copiously and randomly starts to fade. We suddenly have the same option that was once open to St Jerome; we might have only a dozen books on our shelves – and yet feel in no way intellectually undernourished or deprived.

What am I reading for: it’s a great question. I think there are many answers to that. To be content, as that suggests. Or to become an expert in an area. Or to pass the time. All are good answers, depending on your need for reading. If you are feeling bad about reading fewer books, step back and decide what you are reading for. It may help you read in a new and improved way.

(Photo by matthew Feeney on Unsplash)

2 responses to “If you are feeling bad about reading fewer books, then read this

  1. This definitely made me feel a bit better about not reading as much as “I think I *should.” I do most of my reading online, & it’s usually scholarly articles. Also, while the weather is good, I feel it’s more important to be ACTIVE outside, while I still can ride my bike, or garden, for instance. 🙂

    • smartpeopleiknow

      I’m glad. And I think I am going to tailor some of my reading to what I am working on. So I was reading some books on indoor gardening this year because I was doing that. Normally I wouldn’t think of this as “reading books”, but now I will. There will be times when I want to read a novel or something serious, but it is all reading.

      The other problem is that so much of what I read now is online. It doesn’t feel like reading, the way books and magazine do. But it still is.