Greg Morris

Designer, Pretend Photographer, Dad

Did I Read That?

One of the first sections I added to my new blog is a reading page. I adore reading, and if I’m not reading, I am often pondering over the things I have read. It’s an obsession, but one I happily embrace. The only problem with my need to track these activities is the standard at which I consider something as read.

There’s been debate online about the distinction between reading a book and ‘reading’ an audiobook. I don’t wish to ignite that discussion now, so I’ll steer clear of it due to my aversion to audiobooks. Despite trying them several times and spending considerable money on them (why are they so expensive?), my brain just doesn’t absorb the information as effectively as it does with reading.

My dilemma isn’t with that particular hot topic; it’s more about the quantity of the book consumed. In recent years, I’ve persevered through books I’d rather not have wasted time on (looking at you, Feel Good Productivity) but did so to finish them. Not because of the vain metrics I set for my reading tally, but simply because I feel I need to. Did I really read a book if I only got halfway through it?

If I did read it, is there a threshold for progress I need to reach? I certainly grasped the point of some books long before the halfway mark. My Kindle history is littered with lengthy books that could have been blog posts, and I’m starting to ponder the wasted time. When you’re 40, life definitely is too short for bad books. So, perhaps I should start abandoning them earlier when I’m confident I’ve understood the gist.

This raises the question: Did I read a book if I can summarise it? If I skipped the book entirely and opted for Cliff Notes, does that count as reading? Following my rationale above, it could be the case. I’m not suddenly going to hack my reading and get AI to summarise them for me - but I might consider it for some dull books.

If the end result is the same, there’s no argument, barring the very real benefits of actually reading the book. Reading a book is quite different from knowing what the book is about. There’s something wonderful about understanding the author and the origin of their words. Experiencing the journey in a well-paced process, rather than being bombarded with a brief summary.

However, this only really applies to good books. Enduring bad ones rarely benefits me, except for the occasional headache, so the cycle continues. Other than realising that I should abandon some books sooner, I haven’t really reached a conclusion in this post. Much like the bad books I’m discussing.

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