No News? No Problem. It’s Time to Read Books!
How am I spending the extra time I have now that I am not reading news on the Internet until Christmas?
Today’s answer: I am reading more books.
This is the second day of my Christmas practice, and I am happy to report that I took not a single glance at the newspapers or news sites I normally frequent. I had to do some podcast-related work on Twitter, but I did not stray down any rabbit holes of political news.
I cannot tell you who was named to Trump’s Cabinet today. I did see an alert on my iPhone that the Fed is raising interest rates. The weather here in Cambridge was partly sunny, high of 38 degrees.
While working out in the basement this morning, I read Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron. It’s a terrific novel about a successful evangelical minister in New England, of all places, who loses his way and finds it again by making a pilgrimage to Assisi.
Chasing Francis is on my various Kindle devices, including the Fire HD 8, which I perched on the cross trainer in horizontal mode. With the motion of the machine, I find it difficult to highlight passages or look up words, but it’s doable.
This Christmas practice today made me realize how I sip news throughout the day, filling little distraction breaks with Twitter, HuffPo, the real newspapers, and all the rest. Today I began filling those gaps by reading a few pages in Chasing Francis.
It’s an entirely different, more satisfying rhythm. Dipping my beak in the endless river of news throughout the day does not diminish the amount of news that remains to consume. It keeps flowing by. But when I read a book, I see progress. I am only 8 percent into Cron’s novel, but when I began reading it at 2 a.m. I was at just past zero.
I also made progress in some of these other books in my Currently Reading Kindle collection, with my percentage completions noted in parentheses:
Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World by Naomi S. Baron (41%). I am usually arguing with this author as I read her book, because she does not share my enthusiasm for reading eBooks. But her research is impressive, and I plan to invite her on the Kindle Chronicles when I finish reading it. By then I plan to have an open mind about her book.
Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by Amanda E. Lewis and John B. Diamond (31%). My daughter Sarah, who is a literacy coach in the Cambridge Public Schools, gave me this book during the summer. It’s pretty dry, but the topic is an important one that gives me insight into Sarah’s work challenges.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (47%). This comic masterpiece was published in 1980, 11 years after the author’s suicide. Toole’s mother and the writer Walker Percy championed the manuscript, which earned Toole a posthumous Pulitzer Price for fiction in 1980. It is a wild story set in New Orleans, just right for the news I am not following in New York and Washington for the next 11 days.
The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly (11%). A Kindle Chronicles listener recommended this book and urged me to invite Kelly on the show for an interview, which I plan to do when I finish it. Kelly’s technology experience and clear writing make him a trustworthy guide to the future.
I hope I will not be awake at 2 a.m. tonight, down by the Christmas tree, unable to get back to sleep. It happens a couple of times a week. Before my Christmas practice, I would sometimes sneak a sip of just a few Tweets, and that never turned out well. I would be up for an hour or more, agitated and inspired, not ready for sleep at all.
Reading a book in the middle of the night is much more fulfilling than reading during the day, I find.
When no one else is up and there is no traffic on our busy street, the author’s words seem closer, more personal. I sometimes accompany my late-night reading on the Fire HD 8 with Amazon Music’s excellent 29-song “Classical for Reading” playlist. The first piece is performed by Yo Yo Ma, a Cambridge legend who sometimes attends my parents’ neighborhood Christmas party.
When I hear the rich, clear vibrations of Yo Yo’s cello, I settle in for the pure pleasure of reading. Something in me smiles and settles. Soon enough I am ready to return to sleep. Sweet.