2019: Year of the Book(S)
My 2019 New Year's Resolution to read 50 books in one year was inspired by - what else - a book.
The book, the last book I read in 2018, was Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self by Manoush Zomorodi. It's an exploration of how technology - ever-present at our fingertips - and constant connectivity has slowly chipped away at our idle time, and how the lack of time and space to "be bored" affects our memory, attention, productivity, and ability to process the endless stream of information coming at us from all sides, all day, every day.
Written as a follow-up to a grand experiment Zomorodi conducted with the listeners of her WYNC radio show, Note to Self, Bored and Brilliant is not a call to abstain from technology entirely, but rather to examine our habits through a series of observational challenges, and to change those habits in small ways. As Zomorodi adeptly analogizes, the technology we carry around with us is programmed to elicit responses in us similar to the ones we'd give a screaming two-year-old, ever the center of attention, always at our beck and call. But in order for technology to be an effective tool that can enhance our experience of the world, we can and should be conscientious about not giving technology a place of such sheer power in our lives.
Once an avid reader, I was finding my attention span for linear, long-form narrative (the reading of which, it turns out, requires a totally different skill from the reading of online content, in which our eyeballs are constantly bouncing between various stimuli) had greatly diminished. I would start books and not be able to focus enough to get into them, or simply spend several months at a time not reading at all.
The internet traps us into this false notion that we can become experts in any subject matter we want - because literally there is so much content online that we could learn the history of the world from multiple perspectives and in great depth if we chose to do so. The problem is, any of my own intentions to learn more about a subject usually resulted in giving up about 20 minutes into a broad search, having become simply overwhelmed by the endlessness of content, telling myself I'd return to the subject to learn more, and never doing so.
I felt intellectually unfulfilled and emotionally exhausted when faced with the enormity of stuff I don't know, and I was hardly ever really deeply absorbing information about just one subject.
And this is why I wanted to read more, return to my first great love. I wanted to put my phone down and focus on something some expert spent hours researching, or on a story someone spent years of their life dreaming up. I wanted to be reminded that I too have the capacity to create something in my own artistic pursuits that takes as much time, attention, and detail as writing an entire book. And I wanted to be engaged. I wanted to practice reclaiming my attention in such a way that would make me more present in my conversations, more engaged in my work, and more able to just sit with my thoughts for more than five minutes before reaching for my phone to alleviate the first sign of "boredom."
Bored and Brilliant's thesis is that without boredom and space to process and dream, our ability to create is hampered and damaged and I felt that.
I wanted to read 50 books to get smarter, to gain perspective, and to hear from people who are different from me (though, I am focusing heavily on female authors in this pursuit!).
I thought I'd share this little adventure with the great big internet as a sort of travel diary through my book journey. Follow along online, then get offline and read a damn book.