Sunday Salon: On short attention spans

This week, I finished reading the Promethea series and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (review up tomorrow). I have been reading The Name of the Rose rather sparsely and will devote some time to it today as well as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. As for the rest of the week, I expect I will finish TNotR, more Holmes, and probably start Alain de Botton’s Essays in Love.

Yesterday, I went through several guidebooks for this trip I am going to be taking. While I did not read the books cover to cover (and thus not included in my official reading list), it took up most of my day reading bits here and there. It was quite time consuming, and I still have other books to go through next week. I find that I read quite a bit, but sometimes it goes unrecorded because I really do not consider books read if I have not read, say 95-98% of it at least. When I read for school, I often did not consider the textbook read unless I read most of it. I do not think I have considered a school book read since high school since most academia is journal articles. Though I did quite a bit of it. 

The Guardian has an article on reader’s block: readers and their unfinished books which quotes Francis Bacon:

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

The article discusses how many people in Britain (and probably in general) try to read more challenging books (classics) and end up not finishing them. The novels least likely to be finished by Britons can be found here (amusingly, I have read and finished five of them and own six of them). Some parts of this article are rather sad. I mean how can one not know how to turn pages? In the end, it is as I and the article have said, just read something you like. If the book makes you enjoy reading, then all the better. I must admit that even I get reader’s block with my TBR piles because I often do not have time to read if it isn’t summer or a holiday nor do I am I always in the mood for classics. The reader’s block pandemic seems to be wholly human and our propensity for short attention spans at times.

On a related note, The Times has an article called “Stoooopid …. why the Google generation isn’t as smart as it thinks” about how the current young generation is being stupified by the digitalization resulting in many people not having a long enough attention span to a book. The article has a rather dismal outlook for the young people right now, and I am of this bracket. Objectively, a lot of it has truth. All this information does not make us smarter necessarily, and Facebook and Myspace are creating odd little social relationships and interactions. On the other hand, I am rather optimistic of my own personal future because I do read lots of long books by dead guys and enjoy it. I do not live off “peer attention”, and I am someone who likes older things from books to movies to letter writing. I also am on the internet quite a bit, and while I do skim or glaze over certain sections of books, it does not mean I would not be able to read War and Peace. I think for long books, a little bit of skimming is alright and wholly human, not part of the internet age. We have short attention spans even without the internet, and we foster that by being addicted to things in the digital age.

That concludes this week’s Sunday Salon. Have a good last week of July.

Literary Link:

GoodReads’s Best Utopia, Dystopia, and other world fiction

3 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: On short attention spans

  • Anni


    although I’m a classic literature fan, I have to admit, from the unfinished fiction top ten in the article I can’t finished the War and Peace and the Ulysses
    but Crime an Punishment I have read 2 times!

    Interesting article,
    happy reading;)

  • Wendy

    Great minds think alike, Athena! I also posted about the reading block article on my Sunday Salon today! I agree, it is a bit sad that apparently many people never seem to finish a book. Sometimes, I wonder if some of these statistics are a bit exaggerated or delivered out of context. My forays into the blogosphere reveal people reading a tremendous number of books!

  • John

    OMG these are classified as demanding!!!!

    1 Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre- first person so put back on the TBR mountain
    2 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling- Read over two days
    3 Ulysses, James Joyce- One day
    4 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis De Bernieres- Easy read but lousy film
    5 Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell- Brilliant read
    6 The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie- Brought for me but thought it was over rip rubblish
    7 The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho- sheer new age rubbish
    8 War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy- Brillant read , and read several time over the year
    9 The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy- strange prose style but enjoyable read
    10 Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky- not read for years but enjoyable

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