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Don’t Become a Reading Robot

Don’t Become a Reading Robot post image

Is my poor memory with books related to the fact that I became, at times, a reading robot? Yes, it probably is. Books should be an accomplishment, and when you finish one, you should be proud of it; that’s why we have bookshelves. A book is a bound bundle of mental stimulation and transportation, and when you close it, if you’re reading a really good one, you should feel like you’re coming up for air, waking up from a really good dream. Anything that compromises the possibility of that feeling should be minimized, if not outright eradicated.

If you haven’t read Gabe Habash’s piece about the ups and downs of setting reading goals — “Reading 55 Books in 2011: What I Learned” from Publisher’s Weekly — then you absolutely should. It’s not very long, but offers quite a bit of food for thought.

I like the point the article makes not to be a “reading robot,” just picking up books for the numbers or the pages or to meet some arbitrary reading goal. That isn’t stopping me from setting some goals of my own — too be posted sometime next week — but it has helped me reconsider what role reading goals play in a reading life.

But most of all, I love what he says about books in the paragraph I quoted above. A good book is a transporting experience that immerses the reader in a totally different world. If there’s one thing I hope for every reader in 2012, it’s to have as many of those coming up for air moments as possible.

Photo Credit: Jenn and Tony Bot via Flickr

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Amanda December 31, 2011, 6:50 am

    I felt like I became a reading robot at one point, especially earlier this year, when I was reading just to fill out stats. Then I deleted all the stats that were causing me to behave that way, and since then have enjoyed reading better!

  • Teresa December 31, 2011, 7:15 am

    I really like that quote, and I know it’s easy to get into “robot mode” when reading. I actually think blogging has helped me with that because it forces me to think as I’m reading, so I’ll have something to say in a post. I try to do mental check-ins as I’m reading, in which I ask myself what I might write about, and if I can’t come up with anything, I try to pay more attention or take a break or give up on the book. That doesn’t always work (and some books offer more material than others), but if definitely helps.

    As for the effect of goals, I don’t know–I have goals, but I don’t hold myself to them particularly strictly. I’d rather read well than meet some arbitrary goal.

  • Simon T December 31, 2011, 8:02 am

    I have a terrible memory for the books I’ve read, and I’ve been wandering what this says about me as a reader… this could be one option, but I don’t really set myself challenges, so… I don’t know! I always remember what I felt about a book, but not what happened in it…

  • Tanya Patrice December 31, 2011, 8:06 am

    Absolutely agree – it’s why I will not be setting a goal of reading xx number of books this year. Doing that made me think twice about reading “big” books – and I would forget the details of books read weeks later. Now, I make sure to make notes after I’ve read the book, but more importantly, really think about the book once I’m finished and before I move on to something else.

  • Esme December 31, 2011, 8:54 am

    I so agree with this-I sometimes wonder about people who read 10 books in a week-that is not a realistic goal for me and not one I would contemplate ever attempting to achieve. I read for the enjoyment of it. About a year ago I was frustrated as I was reading to do review books and the fun was starting to dissipate-the solution was easy-JUST SAY NO. Sure there are some books I do not really remember but that is probably because they are not memorable and not because they all ran together.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) December 31, 2011, 9:32 am

    There are times when I feel like a robot because I’ve got a deadline to meet for a book club or a book tour. That’s why I’ve cut way back on commitments and challenges. I don’t really have any reading goals.

  • Trisha December 31, 2011, 9:33 am

    I definitely go into robot mode, but it’s primarily when I’m re-reading books, so that may not be quite as bad. I’m definitely modifying my reading goals to allow for a bit more slow, conscious reading in the coming year.

  • Aarti December 31, 2011, 12:46 pm

    Oh, that article is so, so true. I completely agree. Sometimes it’s very hard for me to pick up a long book because I want to read MORE books. But I think I just end up missing out on a lot by doing that.

  • Heather Pearson December 31, 2011, 12:52 pm

    There are times when I forget that I am supposed to be enjoying what I am reading, and other times when I get so caught up that i lose track of which is the reality and which the book. The other day I was getting breathless as I am running along side the main character….

  • Meghan December 31, 2011, 12:59 pm

    It’s easy for me to fall into that robot mode unfortunately – most prominently when I choose a book based on its length rather than the one I really want to read the most. I did that too often this year, although I think I’m getting better.

  • Wendy December 31, 2011, 1:10 pm

    Interesting perspective! I agree – a book should transport you and you should not read just for the numbers! That said, I do challenge myself to read a certain number of books a year – mainly because I have such huge stacks of TBR books that I know if I don’t set a goal, I will never in a million years read them all (and I want to!!!). Happy new year!

  • christa @ mental foodie December 31, 2011, 8:28 pm

    I like what you said about “a transporting experience” – that’s a great goal to have! Happy New Year!

  • Jennifer January 1, 2012, 12:54 pm

    I haven’t read the article you mentioned but I love the quote that you shared so I will be reading it shortly.

    I am definitely focusing on developing readin habits this year that prevent me from becoming a reading robot. I want to read with a purpose. I want to enjoy the transporting experiences that come with reading good books.

    I look forward to seeing your reading goals for the new year!

    Happy New Year!

  • jennygirl January 1, 2012, 7:16 pm

    Sometimes this happens to me if I have deadlines to meet. I know it’s not good, but I plan to change that in 2012. Reading for joy, food for thought, or for new experiences is the goal for me 🙂
    Looking forward to your goals for 2012.

  • Care January 2, 2012, 8:15 am

    OH goodness, YES. I have a friend that got a Kindle for Christmas and she’s already bragging that she’s read 37 books already. WHA__!? I admit that I felt a bit of something not kind that I can’t quite put my finger on. I have to say to myself, ‘let it go, Care’, and remember to enjoy the reading I want to read.

  • Jenny January 2, 2012, 8:50 am

    That paragraph is exactly why I don’t set number goals for books or pages or whatever. I’ve found even doing reading challenges makes me feel stressed and robotic, so I’ve given them all up. Spontaneity in reading, say I! :p

  • Trish January 2, 2012, 10:52 am

    I first saw this article after someone tweeted a link with the note that this is why she is a book blogger–so she won’t forget what she reads. But I was really struck by the reading robot part that you mention in this post. Honestly I feel like many book bloggers HAVE become reading robots and I’m thrilled to see some of them moving away from that. Of course it’s good to make goals but I think it’s also easy to step away from the joy and reason we read in the first place.

    I hope you have a wonderful new year Kim!

  • Steph January 2, 2012, 5:42 pm

    I think every book blogger faces the dreaded “reading robot” syndrome at some point or the other. I know that when I get really focused on trying to read X number of books in a year, I do tend to pick books that are easier or lighter just because it’s another book I can plow through and put on the list. But I also found that reading that way was really less enriching and rewarding for me than just reading at whatever pace I felt comfortable with and picking up books that would challenge me, even if it meant they might take a bit longer. In 2011, I had no real number of books I was trying to read and I think I was a happier reader as a result.

  • Belle Wong January 2, 2012, 6:24 pm

    I like that feeling of coming up for air when I’ve finished a good book – maybe I should somehow work that into my reading goals for this year! Happy new year, Kim!

  • Gwen January 4, 2012, 3:18 pm

    *raising hand* Total reading robot at some points last year. Last year, I took on very few ARCs so that I could always be reading what I wanted, what I’d missed, or even what wasn’t really right for the book blog. The problem was that I had missed so much and there was so much great buzz for new books that I turned into a machine.

    Looking back, it is all blurry. Still, I don’t mind that too much because it was such a freeing experience. The only problem with it is that I disengaged from so many other things; blogging, joining book clubs/read alongs, other hobbies, just basic life things to feed this need for reading everything. I read 238 books with over 75,000 pages. I didn’t finish any of the paintings I started, refinished only one piece of furniture, made very little jam, etc. I just read. That is not how I want to live. I don’t want my tombstone to read, “She was always reading”.

  • Amy January 5, 2012, 9:17 am

    I really love that quote, thanks so much for sharing and for the link to the article. That was why I ultimately decided not to continue the Nigerian lit every Friday – it became too much about having to read to get the review in time which made it less enjoyable overall.