sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

What Happened to Your Reading Life?

By Renee Langmuir April 27, 2024 Lifestyle

My husband and I were a Match.com pair made in heaven. Twenty years ago, when we met, I was a public school reading specialist, and he was a rare book dealer. We clicked immediately at our first rendezvous, and we’ve been going strong ever since! Our home is full of books. My shelves hold life-changing fiction, the spiritual, and the esoteric. His collection emphasizes history, personal redemption stories, and antiquarian books.

The iPad Took Over Our Reading Life

A few weeks ago, I noticed that we had stopped regularly reading books. We both have iPads, due to the discontinuation of newspaper delivery in our semi-rural area. As anyone living in the modern age knows, those devices are like “crack,” luring us in with the news, connections to friends and family, and a quick source for research of anything our Magic 8 Ball brains can conjure.

According to a July 2021 Thinkwithgoogle.com post, a majority of seniors spend 6 hours each day online, mainly using devices to stay in touch with others, to organize finances, and to improve health and wellness.

I must admit our purposes for using the iPads don’t match our demographic, but those devices still get a workout! We are Never-Social-Media-Seniors. But I am following trusted news sites all through the day, and my husband is completing business-related tasks, such as researching and buying photos and ephemera.

What Do the Statistics Say About Reading Books?

The statistics vary, but here is a sampling. In an effort not to be a book snob, all formats of book reading are considered equal: physical books, e-books, and audio books.

In 2023, according to an Economist/YouGov poll, out of 1500 respondents, 46% read zero books and 5% read 1 book. The news is a bit rosier for boomers. According to a July 2022 Wordsrated.com survey, our demographic read, on average, 9.54 books per year. I know my husband and I are easily in that cohort, but as two people who earned their livings as literary cheerleaders, we were hanging our heads in shame, because our iPads superseded books daily.

How Is Internet Reading Different Than Book Reading?

As someone who has spent the greater part of her adult life teaching people to skim and scan, it is no surprise that internet reading is quick, but shallow. It is more of a searching process topped off with a layer of evaluation. It is somewhat like browsing in an enormous store, but with unending distractions: pop-up adds, I’m talking to you!

Book reading is a much deeper process. The reader is engaging with the text in a thoughtful manner. There is critical reflection, the drawing of inferences, implicit meanings to discover, and personal connections to make. It is a slow journey, rather than a quick romp.

What Is the Value of Reading Books?

No doubt anyone who has ever fallen in love with a book has noticed its “immersive” quality. Immersion is that feeling which transports the reader into the story and makes them feel as if they are there!

How is this done? Books have a full menu of sensory detail and provide strong connections to character and setting. They poke the reader’s emotions and encourage movie-like visualizations. The good ones are unpredictable and pique our curiosity!

What Type of Reader Are You?

Kaelyn Barron on tckpublishing.com describes 15 types of readers. Can you find yourself in this grouping? The Serial Binge Reader is like her counterpart bingeing Netflix offerings each evening. Once she gets her hands on an author or genre, she can’t hold back!

The Highbrow eschews mass market books and those intended for beach reading. Ms. Fickle tires easily, and jumps from book to book without finishing most. The Nonfiction Nerd doesn’t want to waste time reading fiction, because there is never enough time to learn something new. The Catharsis Seeker is always looking for her elusive self in other characters.

Other reading types include: the E-book Denier, the Film Buff, the Repeat Reader, the Book Clubber, the Vacation Reader and the Hopeless Romantic.

The Case Is Made, But Where Is the Road Back?

A regular habit of leisurely reading books is an enduring lifestyle. It implies intellect, curiosity, patience, and commitment. The signs in a home are unmistakable: cozy chairs, warm throws, the right lighting, and of course the ubiquitous bookshelves, maybe in most rooms of the house!

If book reading is not happening in this stage of your life, oddly enough, suggestions abound online!

  1. Keep a book bucket list.
  2. Carry a book with you during auspicious occasions such as a long commute or a visit to a doctor’s office.
  3. Don’t feel pressure to finish a bad book.
  4. Carve out a regular no-screen time of day for reading.
  5. Read a variety of genres at the same time; some genres require a smaller time commitment.
  6. Get comfy – the right chair, the right lighting, a cozy wrap.
  7. Set a personal goal of how many pages or a specific amount of time you will read at the beginning of each session.
  8. Try different formats – audiobooks, e-books, physical books.

We’ve all been alive for decades before the internet and screens were invented. No doubt there is a glorious pool of memories of the many book experiences we’ve had as children and adults. Do you remember bringing home the maximum number of books allowed from the library on a lazy summer day? Are there a few pivotal books that still remain in your heart? Can you remember moments of unexplained serendipity in a bookstore? It just may be time to revive your literary life!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you still consider yourself a “reader?” Is that term current for you? What obstacles make reading books more difficult? When was the last time you browsed the bookstore or library and ended up with a stack you wanted to buy/check out?

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

31 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ellen

Oh!! I can remember being sooo excited in kindergarten and first grade when it was time to order books! Heaven!
In the military, while my friends went out to clubs to decompress, I couldn’t wait to get to the library!
I’m a strictly paper book reader, to include newspapers.
I’m retired, and my schedule is still full, so I carve out at least 20 minutes every day to enjoy my love of reading.
I truly believe it increases your vocabulary also!
I’m more of a fickle reader though….

Linda

Now that I’m retired it’s so much easier to be a reader, and I love all ways to read, physical, ebooks, and audible books. I’ve learned there’s no shame in not finishing a book I don’t like. A hopeful sign for young readers is the number of TikTok-ers who are avid readers and discuss their favorite and not-so-favorite books. Their love for Colleen Hoover made her a very popular author–although I couldn’t get through any of her books. But hopefully the popularity of Book Tok will create a whole new generation of avid readers.

Linda

I could not finish George Elliott’s Middlemarch 35 years ago. The bookmark is still in there at page 120! I recently revisited the BBC adaptation and it was as marvellous as first time round.

Tanis Day

I love books! And I love the act of reading. Unfortunately with age, my eyesight has some severe limitations that make reading much more difficult. I still can read, but for shorter periods of time and with more brain fatigue. So I find myself twiddling my digital thumbs, truly wasting time on computer games, Facebook, news, etc. I have to accept it as a part of aging that my reading days are more behind me than ahead. But today you have inspired me! Maybe I will try audio-books. :)

Last edited 24 days ago by Tanis Day
Janice

Definitely try them! If you have a library card, there are plenty of audiobooks available without having to buy them. 😊

Louise

How old are you? I’m just curious because I am 81 now and mostly don’t feel anywhere near that age even though my back aches and my eyes don’t see as well. I just wonder how other people my age feel about that.

Deborah

Audio books!!

Diana Everett

Would cataract surgery help or have you had that procedure already? It really improved my eyesight.

Toni

I love reading! I am a book person. I like the feel of a book in my hands. I am not an audio book person. My sister is dyslexic and loves audio books. I am a serial book reader! I also read mostly fantasy books. Currently reading a ghost series. Reading takes me away from life stress. I tried kindle but prefer books.

Susan Kolb

Joining the Goodreads annual reading challenge keeps me on my toes. My goal is to read my age in books each year and their daily ticker shows me where I am. It’s fun and I find myself reading a bit of everything to keep my numbers up.

Lili Anderson

Hello, Susan! That idea about number of books per year by age is great. I will try it. Thank you for the great idea!

Eileen

How does one join the Goodreads challenge?

1 2 3 5

Tags

The Author

Renee Langmuir was an educator for 34 years in public schools and at the university level. After an unplanned retirement, Renee chronicled her transition in a series of personal essays on the website, https://www.therookieretiree.com/. Her writing has appeared on the websites Agebuzz, Next Avenue, Forbes and in The AARP Ethel Newsletter.

You Might Also Like