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Widening the one-lane road between my face and my brain

One of the things about which I often catch myself flapping my lips is the fact that I read excruciatingly slowly. Constantly referencing this deficiency is very much a defense mechanism designed to make me appear less insecure about the fact that a 350-page book can easily take me over a month to read. “HAHAHA I’m such a slow reader, isn’t that hilarious? I know, right? HAHAHA let’s talk about beer now.” I don’t think I’m officially ADD or ADHD, but my attention span is short enough that reading long books is not something I naturally fell into at any age (unlike my wife, whose voracious appetite for literature could have been one of those lines on the screen in Van Halen’s video for Right NowEvery 12 seconds The Geester finishes a book). I just noticed … one of my other defense mechanisms is deflecting the conversation from how slow I read to how fast Gia reads. Hey, all this free talk therapy is like really helping.

I know what my problems are. When reading, I hear the voice in my head speak every single word as I’m reading it. This is quite simply the natural gait of my eyeballs and brainsludge. I can force myself to sprint, and I can actually read quite quickly when I focus, but just like inserting sprints into a long distance run in real life, it wears me out and ultimately makes me want to stop reading. My other, larger problem is that if I am not totally engrossed in what I’m reading, I get very easily distracted. I think this goes back to speaking every single word in my head. My brain can simultaneously speak every word and (what is usually the case) think about something completely unrelated. Result = Zero reading comprehension.

Through what I call brute force, but what is really just half-hearted discipline, I have gradually been increasing my frequency of leisure reading over the past couple years. I think finishing Kavalier and Clay may have been both a conscious and subconscious catalyst. Word got out that I finished it and I started receiving books as gifts, whereas before, family members would remark, “For Tony? No, he’s illiterate. Buy him a shirt. He likes wearing shirts I think.” I ended 2006 with a small stack of books to read, I hit the ground running in 2007, and several days before the ball dropped early this past Tuesday morning, I had completed 11 books in 12 months and started but not finished 3 or 4 others. Le Stack:

Rather than attempt something as tedious as even brief reviews of these books I will simply identify each in terms of what topping it would be on a pizza.

How The Hula Girl Sings – Joe Meno – Italian Sausage
You Suck – Christopher Moore – Pineapple
Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans (McSweeny’s Humor) – Dave Eggers (Ed.) – Kalamata Olives
Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way – Bryan Charles – Grilled Chicken
Dishwasher – Pete Jordan – Roasted Garlic Cloves
I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell – Tucker Max – Overcooked farm-raised Salmon
In Persuasion Nation – George Saunders – Artichoke Hearts
One Man’s Wilderness – Richard Proenneke – Bacon (the thick kind)
Venus Drive – Sam Lipsyte – Red Pepper Flakes
The Mysterious Secret of Valuable Treasure – Jack Pendarvis – Sweet onions
Then We Came to the End- Joshua Ferris – Pepperoni … or cheese. Hell this one could be sauce or crust. Not that it needs my endorsement, but this book was freakin’ awesome. Anyone who has ever worked in an office should read it.

I have another small stack all ready to go for 2008, so here’s hoping my saint-like, diligent self-improvement continues. The stack above is a pretty good cross section of what I like to read. I will thank you to leave recommendations (and corresponding toppings) in the comments.

  1. I, too, got back in to reading with Kavalier and Clay. I went about three or four years of just not being interested in books. I read lots and lots of periodicals – anything short and sweet. I started on Kavalier and Clay once, and only got fifty pages in to it before I was overwhelmed. I picked it up again, about a year later, and devoured it. For me, the trick is, the more you read, the more you read. Not having a tv helps, too (read: I have a total lack of self-control). Now I’m even keeping track of my books on (grad school has kind of slowed that down, though).

  2. Jen reads the same way Gia does, apparently. She’s through, like, 8 books in the time I finish one novella. I have a stack 3x that damn size awaiting me so what do I do? Invite Phil over for Guitar Hero 2…nice. Good luck!

  3. found your site from dooce’s – just stopped by to say hi!

    I am a slow reader – my husband makes fun of me all the time because is an unusually fast reader which only makes it seem like I can’t read at all.

  4. My current problem is not being able to finish a single dang book. I must be half way through a dozen or so books but am only close to finishing the newest Oppenheimer biography. Fiction definately goes by quicker than the non variety. And like Nolando said, stupid video games are an easy distraction. Maybe I need to read my wife’s Lance Bass autobiography in order to get my count up.

  5. Thanks for the recommendations. I just finished Then We Came to the End last week. Good stuff! There’s no way someone who hadn’t spent a significant amount of time in an office could have written that book.

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