Tuesday, March 22, 2016

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Reading While...

In today's post, we're going to talk about multi-tasking. Not just any multi-tasking. We're going to tackle the topic of reading while doing something else. While most readers will find themselves tempted to sit in a chair, lie down in bed or rest in their comfortable nook while doing their reading, some people just can't stand the idea of doing nothing 'practical' at the same time. One of them is me. I find myself going to the bathroom with a book. Does that count for multi-tasking? I don't know. However, it does make me feel better instead of reading all the labels on the soaps, shampoos, and shower gels I have lying around in my powder room. Sometimes, I even forget I'm sitting on the throne and end up reading forty pages in one sitting. Pun intended.

Is multi-tasking possible when reading a book?

That's why I decided to write this short article about the other things we can do while reading. It's no doubt that anyone can think about audiobooks as they're by far the simplest way of completing your Goodreads challenge while doing chores around the house. But staying focused while listening to audiobooks can be quite a daunting task, particularly for a person who's had no prior experience with them.

During the research that I put together for the article, I came across all sorts of sources that recommend reading while performing various exercise routines. The fact of the matter is I've tried myself to read while walking, but I've had the chance to experience this only when I was in France, in Clermont-Ferrand, a relatively remote town in the center of the country, where there was no risk of anyone snatching my e-book reader from my hands. I've had the pleasure of reading Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut while walking towards a Polytechnical Institute where my boyfriend was doing an internship at the time. The streets were so quiet and vacant that I took all the time in the world. I was able to see, from the corner of my eye, whether there was someone else walking down the street or not. Once I returned home, I realized this freedom had gone away. A crowded street can put a reader off, and that's only understandable.

How did reading while walking make me feel? It somehow accentuated my senses. Because I was forced to stop from time to time to see if there was any obstacle in the road that I had to go over somehow, I tended to understand the sentences a lot better. I had the patience to take my time both with my walk and with what I was reading. Suddenly, I realized Kurt Vonnegut's voice had never felt warmer. It was like he was speaking to me through the pages of his book. That's something to experience once in a while, as I've seen that even readers have the tendency to consume books like they would food. I'm not saying that's bad, but it takes a bit of time and effort to grasp the point that a writer is trying to make. Maybe it was the fact that this novel was constructed as the memoir of one Howard W. Campbell, a World War II spy, who was suspected and eventually tried for being a Nazi war criminal. Or maybe it was my admiration for Vonnegut's writing the exact thing that managed to keep me going. I might have been prone to taking it easy seeing how I was taking time off from work and school. Whatever the case, the bottom line is that it was an experience I won't ever forget, and one that I'll be sure to remember for many years to come. I actually realize what it meant to me just now, when I'm writing all this down.

Another source I stumbled upon was an article written by Yardenne Greenspan of Literary Hub, where she emphasizes the importance of reading while pregnant. I couldn't know a thing about being pregnant because I don't have kids, and they somehow don't fit the picture for the moment. However, I'm well-aware of the implications reading might have on fetus development. While it might not be strictly in the sense of intellectual development as it's close to impossible to pass your smartness to your bun, I'm positive that reading calms the mother and allows her to enjoy some precious moments with a good book and her unborn baby. After all, maternity is full of lit, some of which has been uniquely created to explain to future mothers how they're supposed to deal with the new situation in their lives. Books like What to Expect When You're Expecting, Waiting in Wonder, and The Baby's Owner's Manual have made history. Let's not forget The Official Lamaze Guide, which is a must-read for parents all over the world. If you've made it this far, you might be wondering what pregnancy and reading have to do with multi-tasking. Why, you! Did you ever think that pregnancy is a piece of cake? It can't be. With all the constant nausea, mood swings, and other beautiful things that ultimately characterize this unparalleled experience, it's more than a full-time job. It's a non-stop one.

As for proper exercise, Erin Duffin of DoYouToga decided to take reading to a whole new level when she wrote about going through a book while doing your yoga routine. OK, OK, yoga isn't for everyone. Some people just don't have enough patience to stretch and relax. But think about it: what if you were to combine the benefits of yoga with the ones of reading? These seven yoga poses can allow you to do all of this and more. While I'm at it, I should recommend the best workouts to do while reading, a post written by Alicia Fannin.

I'd like to end with a story. It's the unsuccessful story of my going to the gym. I never was a big sports or exercise aficionado, partly because I actually enjoy sitting on my ass all day long either reading or writing. When I hit 29, it suddenly dawned on me that I had gained some pounds since being 26, and there was no one or nothing that could help me get rid of them without some proper exercise. Finally, I got a gym card, and I thought I had everything covered. But it's all so hard when you're a bit overweight, and you exercise in public. You somehow get the feeling that other people, who are obviously more in shape than you'll ever be, are watching you and frowning upon your routine. That's probably not even true, seeing how individuals working out are usually focused on whatever they're doing at the gym instead of gazing at a chubby ass. Whatever the case, I decided I couldn't take the imaginary scrutiny any longer, so I brought with me my old e-book reader, my Nook Simple Touch. I had recently purchased some ebooks from Barnes & Noble, one of which was a collection of short stories by Roald Dahl that goes by the name of Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life. One of these recollections was about the unsuccessful attempt of a farmer to understand the mating ritual of cows and whether they had a higher chance of being mothers to male calves if they were looking towards sunrise while mating. That's all bull (once again, pun intended!) and we, as educated people, know it nowadays, but back in the beginning of the 20th century, anyone used to be a bit too superstitious about pretty much anything. This is just an example of what Dahl's humor turns out to be. I thoroughly enjoyed the stories and did so while on the treadmill and stationary bike.

In the end, do whatever you're comfortable with as long as you do it while reading. If it doesn't feel like it's useful or efficient enough or if it makes you lose focus for one moment, leave it be and go back to your book. After all, the game of reading doesn't have to be played by the same rules all the time.

Sincerely yours,
Books for What

*Image source: The Reader, inspired by Bernhard Schlink's novel, starring Kate Winslet

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