Thursday, May 04, 2006

Too bad reading takes up so much time

I used to read a lot of books. Now...not so much (as John Stewart might say.)

There was a time when I'd have several books on the go at any one time. There were usually a couple by my bed. I'd often have a non-fiction tome underway out in the living room. Something more upbeat might be in my book bag and I'd often have some kind of a thriller, or a mystery, sitting around ready to go.

But either I'm getting older (OK, I am getting older) and less able to multi-task, or I'm getting older and doing more multi-tasking. Does that make sense? Either way, I'm reading less books.

And that worries me. Reading books is exercise for the brain. Sure, I spend a lot of time on-line and I read on-line articles and research stuff on the web. I do a lot of reading but its not the same as sitting down with a book, and getting lost in it.

What I do read a lot of are book reviews. I recommend them highly, especially if you're like me and don't have (and don't expect to have) the time to read the books themselves. A well-written review goes a long way to delivering the king of intellectual pleasure that makes books so attractive.

A few weeks ago, Martin Levin, the books editor at the Globe and Mail, had an interesting column about a new book that's come out, called "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die." It seems to be part of a trend towards larger lists that are supposed to help us time-challenged people focus our attempts to improve our lives. Similar titles are aimed at albums and movies.

I haven't got a copy of this book, but I might, just to have it nearby. I know there's no way I'll ever get through all those books, but I'd like to think that I might. But even someone as well-read as Martin had only read about 450 or so of the books on the list.

An interesting tangent that flows from this conversation is wondering whether my not reading as many books as I used to equates to getting less information?

I'd say no. I'm inundated with information these days. It flows in through the Web, podcasts, phone calls, e-mail, meetings (so many meetings!) advertising, radio, television...eek!

But does more information equal "more knowledge?" (doubtful) Or more "Peace of Mind?" (ditto) Or "More clutter?" (bingo!)

What I need to create is my own "information grid." I'd like to list the various ways I get information each day, what I do with it, and how I use it, or pass it along. I struggle with the nagging feeling that the amount coming in is swamping the amount that is going out, or being used. There's too much noise in my day.

To put it another way, my inbox is getting really overloaded and I need a way to get some balance into my information flow.

I'm going to work on this idea and update you as I go along.

In the meantime, what's your information flowchart look like? Maybe you've already got a handle on this problem. If you do, please let the rest of us in on your secret.

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1 comment:

donna papacosta said...

Very thoughtful post, Dave. I don't know if there is any way to ever feel you're getting all the information you want/need from every source. As you say, we have access to SO many media, and there's so much wonderful content out there (lots of drek too, unfortunately).

I too find I am reading fewer books -- or maybe it's just taking me longer to finish reading them.

What I have cut out -- almost entirely -- is TV. I watch maybe four hours a week in the winter and close to zero in the summer. This "frees" up some time... I think!