Potential Energy

Photo Credit: Michael Fang

In physics, potential energy is the energy possessed by an object because of its position relative to other objects, stresses within itself, or other factors. In the example of a book on a shelf, gravitational forces working on the book would make it fall to the floor if the shelf were removed.

Bending this concept a little, books on a bookshelf have another form of potential energy — the potential to be read. Even books that we have read don’t stay in our memories very long. I recently read a Facebook readers group post asking if anyone had ever read “UR” by Stephen King. I remember that I had read it, but I couldn’t remember the characters, plot, or the ending until I finished reading the brief summary in the post. I was amazed that even though this was a book I very much enjoyed, it was not available in my readily accessible memory.

The books on my bookshelf that I haven’t even read yet are nowhere near my accessible memory, therefore the information, and inspiration they contain is stored as potential energy until I start reading. As a working father with young kids, I have limited time to read for pleasure. If you find yourself too tired or tempted by Netflix, YouTube, or any other of the bevy of distractions that can impede the limited time you have during the course of a day, you have to include audiobooks in your daily routine. Depending on how much you drive, run, exercise, wash dishes, or simply go for a walk, leveraging the convenience of audiobooks can help you read more books in less time. I found audiobooks by accident and never had an interest in them before I had to commute to work. I mistakenly assumed they were for the elderly or those who have impaired vision.

To dip your toe in the ocean of audiobooks, go to your public library and open an account. You can check out books on CD through your library card for free, or you can access mobile applications like Hoopla and Over Drive that let you stream audiobooks through your library account on your smartphone, also for free. This is a minimal amount of work to have a mobile audiobook library in your pocket.
Depending on the genre you like, some good audiobook suggestions to start with would be short stories or novellas so you don’t have to invest much time before determining whether this medium is for you. 
You might try:​

  • “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  • “Calico Joe” by John Grisham
  • “​Ford County” by John Grisham
  • “Dear Ijeawele” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • ​”UR” by Stephen King

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