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Reading The Old Fashioned Way

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I belong to a book club with a lovely bunch of ladies who meet once a month. I have missed all their meetings over the summer because I was busy getting married, or watching other people get married. Or we were going to festivals or fairs or just generally rushing around like nuts. Summers in Portland are short and sweet. And the whole city and the state of Oregon rushes to fill every spare second of beautiful weather with festivals, events and beer drinking. There’s even a festival for sauerkraut. I’m not kidding.

As the summer was flying by, I was regretful not to be able to make the time to curl up with a “fun” book. Almost everything I read is informational or instructional. Books that are not always engaging, and most often, not immersive and escapey. Yes, I just made up two words in one sentence.

But even a book that I’m reading for the “data” feels good to read. It means the computer is off, and I’m giving my whole attention to one thing. I’m not buzzing between browser windows, checking emails while pages load, lazily scanning headlines out of boredom. A book in my hands means I’m focusing on one thing.

All the more so when I get to read for my book club. Books with stories and plots and characters. Those are “fun” reading. The type of reading that puts you in another place for a little while, and in some cases, causes a little disorientation when re entering the real world. Even the books I don’t really like make my brain a little bigger.

Likewise, reading books, as opposed to blogs, news, and magazines, helps me to be a better writer. I can admire the subtleties and craftiness an author has with their words. Or I can sniff out thin description, lack of depth or an overbearing “voice.” I read along and take note of all these observations for my own writing. There’s plenty to read out there, and I’ll probably continue to spend 10 hours a day on the internet, but I feel like I get more “ideas” from reading books than I do from other media. “Ideas.” Quotation marks are ominous, aren’t they?

I have been agonizing over parting with the books I’ve been carrying around for years, but I’m reading more than I have in a long time. And borrowing from the library instead of buying. Out with the old, in with the new.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t wait until the absolutely last minute to finish reading for my book club. Surely not! Yesterday I read for five hours straight, into the wee hours, to be ready for tonight’s meeting. I guess it adds a little excitement when I’m working with a looming deadline. Just like college. I like coming in for the screaming finish just at the last second. It helps me feel heroic.

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