Trying (Desperately) To Live A Well Read Life

Highly recommend this gem of a book.

Before the internet became so encompassing I was a voracious reader of books.

Physical books. You know the kind: with paper, glue and binding.

I always had two and sometimes three books going at the same time—to fit different moods or different geographies in my house and car. There was always a nightstand book to fall asleep with, a book for the den and sometimes a book for the car so I could read a few pages if I got to a meeting early (and I’m always early).

Then the smart phone arrived and my reading habits changed. Now instead of reading at night, I find myself catching up on email, surfing the web or trying to beat Scott Porten in Words with Friends. And instead of reading in my car waiting for a meeting to begin, I find myself returning calls or sending texts.

Oh, I never stopped reading books but now it seems like it takes forever to get through them. I think my attention span has been shortened; retrained by internet videos and memes for the short hit and not the long term commitment a great book demands.

But I still love to read and I know it’s good for me, so I am determined to absorb as many good books as I can. And I am talking the physical kind, not the Kindle versions. I want to make notes, fold pages, underline passages and carry them with me on trips. I want to hold on to the physical experience—too much of our lives are digital these days.

Still, it’s a challenge to balance the demands of the constant barrage of emails, texts, notifications, beeps, buzzes and birthday notices.

So somewhere along the line you have to prioritize and you have to come up with a strategy.

I was reminded of a good one over the holidays when I ran into Steve Leveen, an old friend, fellow book lover and co-founder of Levenger, a company dedicated to serving the needs of readers.

Years ago, Steve wrote his own book, “The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life” and in that book he let us  in on a secret. It’s OK to put down a book you are not enjoying in order to make room for one you might enjoy.

Now that’s a pretty simple concept. But for me it was profound, because typically once I’ve made the investment of time and money, I’m going finish the book even if…well even if the book was boring me to tears.

I’ve slogged through tomes as a result. And guess what, it’s not a badge of honor and it’s not smart either.

It just means I will never get to a book I will love which means that I might miss that insight that could help me or someone else in my life.

So Steve Leveen liberated me. Because if he—a true book lover—can put down a book that doesn’t resonate— well then so could I.

Seeing him over the holidays reminded me of that wonderful lesson. And so I quit a book I was laboring over and opened a great new book which I can’t put down.

I read recently (in the Harvard Business Review no less) that the independent bookstore is making a comeback after years of being devastated by chains and Amazon.

That’s good news. Because there’s a whole world to discover in books and a whole world outside of our phones.

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