When I have spent too many days staring at laptop and phone screens, I get a dull headache and my eyes feel sunburned from the brightness of electronics. If I still have work to do, I take two Aleve and put on a pair of sunglasses. The rest of the time, I try to take breaks from tech and busy myself washing dishes or folding laundry. There’s only so many dishes that need washing or clothes that need folding. Last week, I decided that I needed a new book to read. A real, paper book that would allow me to take a break from electronics on something that wasn’t another chore. Something to read that didn’t weigh heavy on me like the news articles and op-eds that I read online all day long. I wanted a light, summer read.
I went in the older boys’ room to scour their wall of books and video games. I couldn’t find any books that didn’t fall under the umbrella of dystopian literature. The only thing close to a light read was their old MAD magazines and that wasn’t what I was craving. I wasn’t just craving a book. I really NEEDED to get lost in a good book. So, I tweeted a complaint.
There are too many dystopian paperbacks in this house. We need a reading style intervention. Is there a librarian reality show?
— Cathy McCaughan (@cathymccaughan) July 23, 2014
Another Tweeter pondered about the connection between the abundance of dystopian literature and his theory that current teens have less optimistic hopes for the future than our generation. We both pondered that chicken-egg concept and concluded that the books WE read as young people weren’t any lighter than what our children read. He’ll have to use something else as evidence for his imaginary thesis on hope and optimism. I still needed something to read.
I bought a book. It appealed to me. It was also dystopian. I guess I was wrong about not needing dystopian literature. I know I was right about needing a book. I started reading it last night. I finished it this afternoon. Now I need a new book and clicking a link to download a new one won’t satisfy my need.
I’ve tried reading books online. It takes me forever. Technology makes me feel ADD. I feel compelled to be doing a dozen different tasks simultaneously when I’m using tech. I’m editing and uploading pictures, while I’m following a breaking news story, while I’m chatting with someone, while I’m waiting for updated code to work, while I’m reading three different articles, while I’m not fully focused on ANYTHING. I don’t know if it’s something that has gotten worse over time or something that I only now recognize about myself.
Since I’m not going to take Ritalin just to read an e-book and I can’t go to the library or bookstore every day, I need to learn how to focus on a tablet reader… or hack into the database of a publisher and add my name to their list of book reviewers… for lightly dystopian fiction.