This is going to be an (almost) honest attempt to pinpoint why my reading intensity and frequency are faltering.

There are still unread and unfinished books by the bed and I have added another one. In an attempt to spark interest in book reading (or indeed in anything at all), I bought a physical book. I haven’t even started reading it yet the very sight of it brings a number of questions regarding my reading habit.

Are you still reading books? By books, I mean any form of books, physical or electronic. And by reading, I mean reading a book from the first page to the last, able to summarise it, recount its points and maybe argue them. Because I find it hard to even spare time to finish one recently. Embarrassingly, I am still half-way through “At Home” by Bill Bryson after I picked it up three years ago. I am a fan of Bill Bryson’s writing and have read most of his books. So I wonder why I have not finished “At Home”.

I also have found it increasingly harder to read one book from the beginning to the end in “one” sitting. All right. Not exactly in one sitting, but reading an average-length book, ie. 500 pages, has taken longer than it used to. The last book I read took about a month, and it was because I deprived myself of gadgets (tablets, smartphones) for two hours on weekends —that means eight to ten sittings— so that the only thing I could have done to kill boredom was reading said book.

Just this morning, I read an article on the internet, of roughly 1000-1500 words, and the links on the article —of related posts or other topics, sometimes unrelated ones with provocative headlines— immediately held my attention. Before long I’ve spent two good hours reading countless articles that minutes later, I’ve forgotten what those were about actually.

Those articles expose me to other books that I would want to read. I would take notes, adding them to my reading list —the latest would be Angus Deaton’s “The Great Escape”, thanks to coverage of the year’s Nobel Prize for Economics. But as soon as I leave the computer, those plan and to-read lists are cast aside.

Not only the question of going through X number of books for a certain period that reveals my declining reading stamina, I also miss the immersion reading used to give me. I really miss the feeling of having taken something out of it to think about and ponder afterwards, sometimes for weeks. It came easily before. Now, I need to pull a full blown solitude —or self-imposed isolation— to get immersed in a book.

This phenomenon may be well explained in many books that examine how the internet may have contributed to the information overload and instigated the anxiety that comes with it. I, for one, feel overwhelmed when I learned the books and articles, in my field of work, that have come out that I haven’t read. Not to mention the “outdated” information that I have to “throw” away or replace. Anxiety, indeed.

So here I am, looking at books I haven’t read, mentally preparing to read them all and actually learn something from them. I am anxious but also excited at once.