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Reading with a Singular Focus

On Saturday morning I was reading an article by Ian Brown in The Globe and Mail that, while it primarily reviews a series of books by Karl Ove Knausgaard, also speaks to Brown’s belief in the importance of reading books. Brown says in his article:

We read more and more these days, faster and faster, using multiple technologies to fill our brains with an ever-widening array of subjects. What we do less and less is read one long, long thing and one thing only, pondering its depths for weeks on end without interruption or flicking away.

I thought of my typical work day: I get up, turn on the radio, check my email, go through my Twitter feed, review articles on various apps and sites and head to work where I read more emails and often access articles and Twitter links online. While I do enjoy the vast array of information at a quick pace, one of my favourite times is settling in to read two or three pages, sometimes a chapter, of a book before falling asleep.

Then I thought of my holiday time. I have always measured whether or not I have been able to relax on holiday by how many books I have read and how engrossed I have become either in the characters and stories of fiction, or in the concepts and perspectives in non-fiction. What I adore is getting ‘away’ from the day to day and delving deeply into books (yes- the real handheld ones) to read about new ideas, characters and places. I return from these breaks feeling refreshed and relaxed.

In his article, Brown writes:

There is an alternative to spending one’s day digitally skimming and streaming across multiple platforms and multiple subjects, an alternative to keeping up to and responding to everything and everyone that comes at you from every electronic direction…this alternative- dousing yourself daily in the discipline of a single, extended difficult and deeply private work of art for weeks on end- might actually be more rewarding.

While I recognize the benefits of being able to access vast and diverse information quickly through technology, I am ever thankful for focused singular opportunities to be swept away by a book.

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