How Do You Read Books? – Thoughts On Extended Reading Sessions In A Short-Attention Span Era

information overload
exposure to or provision of too much information or data.

Attention span – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Attention span is the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted. Most educators and psychologists agree that the ability to focus attention on a task is crucial for the achievement of one’s goals.


in the "alone zone," reading...
in the “alone zone,” reading…

At least three times a month, every month, I have to read a book carefully enough to present a synopsis of that book. That means I highlight, make notes, and prepare multipage handouts. That means I clear my schedule for a greater chunk of time, get into the “alone zone” (that’s a phrase from Jason Fried), and immerse myself fully into the particular book I am preparing.

I love it when I am in this mode…

For the rest of the time, I do what I suspect all of us do – I fight information overload constantly. I read other books – lots of books. Not quite as carefully or thoroughly. Many with a fast reading approach. And, I read reviews of books, interviews with authors…

And, of course, the usual web sites, blogs, tweets, magazines, e-mails.

So much information!

Here’s a thought for a Saturday. It was prompted by just how fully I felt immersed in the wonderful, substantive book Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan. (I presented that synopsis yesterday). I think we should all do at least one deep dive a month (a week?) in a book.

Sure, there are better books than others. But taking a deeper dive kind of helps you focus, and the process raises all sorts or more substantive – deeper — issues to think about, and then act upon.

And, in my opinion, a book is best for this kind of reading chunk. Yes, some essays can provide the same level of deep dive. (I will ponder The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates, an essay he wrote for The Atlantic, every bit as long as I will ponder Willful Blindness).  But, usually, a book helps me in a way that other, shorter readings can’t.

(I’ve never gone into deep think-about-this mode after reading a Tweet.  Though, I have discovered a new book or two after reading a Tweet).

My suggestion – do this kind of reading in a different chair. Away from your computer. Keep distractions to a minimum. I do most of my reading now on my iPad (with the Kindle app), so if I need to look something up, I can. But when I am in this mode, I ignore e-mail, web sites. I read, and think about what I am reading.

The deeper dive helps me think about, focus on some “bigger issues” in a way that Tweets and Blogs simply can’t.

I think we all could benefit from such a deep dive, or two or three, every month. Don’t you?

Just a thought for a Saturday.


Here’s a great Pinterest page:  Average People Reading Awesome Books.  And, here are a couple of images from that page:

Dustin Hoffman reading







and this one is great!

Clark Gable reading


One thought on “How Do You Read Books? – Thoughts On Extended Reading Sessions In A Short-Attention Span Era

  1. I agree 100%! The books I enjoy most and remember the longest are those that I’ve read in the fewest, most intense reading sessions. Can’t wait to get on a plane later today…uninterrupted reading time!

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