In a world of online media, it is all too easy to get distracted from deep, thoughtful reading. However, you should always make time for a good book!
Reading books anytime, anywhere.
I love reading, and I like to think that I can read pretty much anywhere, barring perhaps underwater or upside down situations. I can’t leave the house without at least two good books stuffed in my bag, and therefore benign parts of my day are often blended disorientingly with fiction. I have in the past solved a murder whilst waiting for my toastie to cool in Starbucks and have conspired companionably a person constructed out of words whilst plonked at a dreary office desk. Only truly prolific public readers will know the pain and frustration of being wrenched out of a brilliant book at a pinnacle moment with a dreary “what’s that you’re reading?” or a “Mind if I sit here?”. A good book can make a prickly hermit out of us in the midst of a crowd. I love that when you are scrunched up against the window of a horribly busy tram, it’s possibly to sink your eyes through paper and into another world, another life. Actually, as a seasoned public reader my advice to you would be to not read anything too gripping on public transport as you will miss your stop, and you probably won’t even care.
Sadly, us Prolific Public Readers are becoming a rarity. The rapid rise of the smartphone means that there are numerous digital sources that you can now use to avert your eyes from the drunk on the bus. And none of us are immune. Until round about two years ago, I was a regular Luddite. For a while, I even determinedly had a phone that didn’t have a camera or internet, but did have the original snake game that some of you will recall. I had a Facebook, reluctantly, but I didn’t really use it as such and probably checked it around once a week.
I saw my free time as precious and viewed the amount of information that my mind could process to be sadly limited. I didnt want to use up all my time and mental capacity on reading endless Buzzfeed lists about cats and memes. I felt that books were a way of taking ownership over my own mind and shaping my thoughts as an individual. I thought that spending too much time on social media was a fast track to becoming a narcissistic bore who says things like “lol” out loud during face to face reaction. I used to feel incredibly sad/smug at the sight of dozens of eyes drilling into their smartphones in Costa Coffee or on the train, as if the apple logo was imprinted into the core of their hive minds.
However, my principles as well as my attention span have diminished somewhat and I am now a fully paid up member of the smartphone generation. To say that I check social media constantly would be an understatement. It has become the weave around how I stay organised, how I keep plugged into the wider world with all its various commitments and acquaintances. I check several news sites religiously, with a weird compulsion that I have developed where I must comb over and over my news sources until all the daily soil has been sifted. I lived in The Netherlands for a little over a year and collating British news sources became something of an obsession to me. Now if I was being honest, I am much more likely to be skim reading short comment pieces or talking pet videos than absorbing myself in a really good, in depth book.
This all too common predicament can have some pretty dramatic long term effects. According to Writer Nicholas Carr, the way in which we are using the internet for such prolonged periods of time is rapidly altering our neural pathways, meaning that we think much differently to previous non internet using generations, and not always in a good way. Some psychological research suggests that frequent use of the internet can lead to difficulties concentrating and a reduced attention span. Even more worryingly, it is widely believed that replacing reading books with internet surfing is destroying those attributes that make us distinctive as human beings: our imaginative capabilities and our ability to think deeply and critically. Carr believes that as a result of this we are fast becoming “scattered and superficial thinkers”, which is a depressing thought for the future of human creativity.
I have therefore been greatly inspired by the Book’s Calling Project, started by twenty one year old Slovakian born Jakub Pavlovsky. This project is a photo based project where Jakub takes photographic portraits of himself in interesting locations. Jakub, who lives in the Czech Republic, was saddened by the rapidly declining number of readers that he would see out in public. Through this project Jakub hopes to encourage more people to lose themselves in a good old fashioned book. Jakub specialises in photography and uses his creative talents to take pictures that draw attention to the fact that a person can read anytime, anywhere. Book’s Calling Project is a project that has been created through social media which deliberately draws upon the notion of spreading traditional ideas through a contemporary medium.
Its weird how we wouldn’t judge somebody for walking along staring at their phone and scrolling through crap life quotes yet somebody reading and walking along would seen to be somewhat eccentric. Jakub plays with this notion by photographing himself reading in non standard locations such as in the middle of a handbag shop, sat on the floor at a supermarket, or even sat on the roof of a church. Jakub’s pictures are funny and thought provoking, and the bemused stares of onlookers only add to the humour. He strikes the same pose in each photograph, sat legs crossed with a book in his hands, with the same serious engrossed expression on his face. This pose is even the same when sat atop a bollard or in a hole in the ground. The fact that he strikes the same pose despite his differing and often humorous locations is deliberate. He explains that this is to give the impression that “the world and environment pivots around this pose throughout the day, every day”.
I love Jakub’s work and would love to see similar projects blossom as a result all across the world. Reading a book help reduce stress and can even help to reduce the risk of serious mental health issues such as alzheimer’s. A book can enrich or even change the course of a person’s life. I thoroughly believe that the act of deep, critical reading is a cause worthy of fighting for. So the question remains, who can think of the strangest public place in Manchester to have a nice sit down and a read?