This week on The Living Experiment, we’re talking about Reading — its potential for informing and enriching our lives, and its potential for becoming an escapist habit.
In a world dominated by a non-stop stream of mass media and clickbait, is there still a place in our lives for real, deep, intentional reading?
Is reading a paper book or long-form magazine article the same as reading on screen, or listening to books on tape?
Has the ability to read, and ready deeply, become endangered in our culture?
We address all these questions and more. We also share the role that reading — particularly book reading — plays in our lives, and the reasons we both read as much as we do.
Finally, we offer some guidance on making more discerning reading selections. And we suggest some experiments to help you reflect on how reading can enhance your wellbeing, your thinking, and your quality of life.
“Reading” Episode Highlights
- Motivations for reading — from escapism and entertainment to education and self-evolution
Pilar examines how her upbringing shaped her love for reading
Fiction as a tool for understanding universal human experiences
The difference between reading e-books and paper books
The value of having physical books in our space — and the many reasons we like to keep them around
How “junk food” reading can contribute to feelings of distraction and overwhelm
Using intentional reading as an awareness practice
The benefits of processing and sharing what we’ve read with others
Pilar’s “Ape in the Arcade” metaphor and how it relates to our present-day sense of information overload
Assessing whether you are using reading as an unhealthy escape
Change your reading routine. If you don’t currently read, pick up a book and make some time to read. If you are currently a regular reader, read a different type of book. If you’re currently an e-reader, try a paper or audio medium. If you’re a compulsive reader, take a break from reading.
Imagine yourself in a comfortable reading environment (e.g., reading a book in a pleasant coffee shop, on a beach, or in bed) or imagine reading aloud to someone you love. Do any of these visualizations give you a sense of longing or excitement? If so, make a date with yourself to try some sort of related pleasure reading for just 15 minutes. See how that feels.
If you can’t imagine an environment where any sort of reading experience feels appealing, ask yourself if sitting with no reading material at all, or walking and allowing your thoughts to wander (with no electronics), feels better. Let your instinct be your guide. Give yourself a 15-minute window to enjoy this sort of unplugged, reading-free experience, and notice if you want more.
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“Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain Aren’t the Same Thing” via Public Radio International
- “Random Acts of Reading” via Experience Life Magazine
- “Who Doesn’t Read Books in America” via the Pew Research Center
- “Idleness” episode from The Living Experiment
- 7 Essential Books on the Art and Science of Happiness via Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings
- Carl Sagan on the Power of Books and Reading as a Path to Democracy, also via Brain Pickings
- “Reading Books Can Extend Your Life and Improve Quality of Life” via Signs of the Times
Books mentioned during the episode
- Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky
- Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
- Poet David Whyte
- Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
- Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
- It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig
- Author Haruki Murakami
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