Do you read?
I’m not talking about this column and newspaper, or the Facebook news feed some of you probably scrolled through to get here. Yes, that is reading, but it’s a different type of reading than I’m talking about.
Really, my question should be: Do you read books?
For me, the answer is … kinda. Let me explain …
To preface, you must understand that most of my days are spent looking at words. These are words written mostly by our reporters and editors. There’s also quite a bit of scrounging through other words found in numerous emails, websites and on social media services. Ultimately, those words lead to more words being written by our reporters and editors for me to read. And the process repeats itself. Every now and then, I afford myself time to write some of those words simply to get a break from the tedium. (This column is a good example of that.)
But, because I spend most of the workday digesting words with my eyes either on paper or a screen, I’m typically not inclined to spend my free time looking at more words.
That said, I love to read books. Always have. I started early with the “Berenstain Bears” and became one of those kids who ran roughshod over the Pizza Hut Book It program in elementary school.
If I would have grown up a decade earlier, I probably would have read several more books. But I’m a child of the 90s and came of age during an explosion of cable TV. There was just so much more there than my books could offer: WWF and WCW wrestling, sports available anytime and on multiple channels, HBO, MTV, “South Park,” “The Simpsons.” I could go on and on. And, of course, the Internet came along. But that’s another story for another time.
All of it, however, meant books took a backseat. Then entered journalism, and most of my reading centered around it as I tried to improve my craft by reading the works of journalists I admired.
Lately though, I’ve begun getting back into books. But I’m not doing so the old-fashioned way.
To fulfill my need for books, I’ve turned to audiobooks.
My great aunt Mildred — who’s still kickin’ it at 101 years old — spent decades getting books on tape from the North Dakota State Library. She’d get a book, spend a week or so listening to it while milling around her home and then send it back for the next book on her list. Today, we can get audiobooks at the click of a button on our cellphones or tablets.
My wife, Sarah, was the catalyst for my audiobook exploration. It was Sarah who wanted to listen to something other than the radio while we were on road trips to Montana to see her family or Minneapolis to see my brother and his family. So, she downloaded “The Help.” Though it wasn’t exactly my ideal choice, I ended up enjoying it. We’ve also listened to “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” (Yes, the extra-British version.)
A few months ago, I decided that, even though I thoroughly enjoy the TV show, I’m probably never going to sit down and actually read “A Game of Thrones.” So, I bought the audiobook and listened to the whole thing — all 33 hours and 46 minutes of it.
I’m currently in the middle of “The Martian,” a science fiction novel about an astronaut stranded on Mars. I’ll move on to “A Clash of Kings,” the sequel to “A Game of Thrones” after I’m done with “The Martian.”
Mostly, I listen to my books at night. In bed. With headphones on. It seems weird, but it was a good deal I struck with Sarah, who no longer lets me watch TV as I drift off to sleep like I did as a single man.
Books have taught us many things in our history. Lately, they’ve helped me understand the age-old adage that marriage is all about compromise. Sarah gets a pitch black room to sleep in. I get the minor sensory indulgence my brain needs to help me fall asleep. Plus, studies have shown that reading before bed — even listening to audiobooks — helps improve overall memory.
So, am I really reading? No. But that’s OK. I’m still fulfilling my innate need to read books — even if someone is technically reading that book to me.