I’ve lamented a good deal on this blog about my reading slumps and how I wish I read so much more than I actually do. But it occurred to me recently that I never actually stop reading–I just read different things. When I’m struggling to focus on a book, I often dive headfirst into Twitter, for better or worse.
I also spend tons and tons and tons of time reading longform articles online, usually ones I’ve found through Twitter or one of the myriad email newsletters I subscribe to. My favorite genre of these are deep-dives into scammers and government and corporate corruption (especially in Silicon Valley), followed closely by celebrity profiles and cultural criticism.
The fashion blogs Tom & Lorenzo and Go Fug Yourself fill up many of my hours, though I rarely if ever pick up an actual print fashion magazine thanks to the mainstream fashion press’s rampant body-shaming.
Finally, while I’m not a fan of audiobooks, I do spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, which I view as a first cousin to reading online content. My ongoing favorites are Stuff You Should Know, Sawbones, My Brother My Brother and Me, the Dear Prudence podcast, the late great Thirst Aid Kit (which I hope shall ride again), and NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. I also love heavily season-based or one-off shows like Dirty John and Slow Burn.
All this got me thinking: why am I so hard on myself for “not reading,” when I’m clearly never “not reading”? (The answer is, of course, perfectionism, generalized anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder! But my point still stands.)
As the internet becomes more and more dominant in our lives, I have to wonder if our ideas about what constitutes “reading” and even what’s reviewed and analyzed on our beloved book blogs and in literary criticism will change, too.
Fanfiction has already crossed over into the mainstream, with Francis Spufford writing a much-anticipated “unauthorized” Narnia novel. (It’s fanfic, dude! You’re just writing fanfic.) Fifty Shades of Grey is part of that same blurring of the lines between “fiction” and “fan,” just a little tawdrier.
So what will it look like when we come to see internet texts–in all their ever-shifting, precarious (look at what happens when beloved outlets like The Toast and The Hairpin go offline) glory–as just as worthy as books?
I feel like print magazines are in a similar nebulous space, and they’re much older than the internet, so maybe there’s no hope for internet words after all. The New Yorker is my favorite magazine (which is why I was so thrilled to be in their letters to the editor section earlier this year, *shameless plug*), and it happens to be one of the snootiest highest-browest literary publications out there. But even then, I never seem to count the time I spend sitting down with an issue of The New Yorker as “reading” in the same way I’d count the time I spend reading a book.
I’m curious what the rest of you think. What do you read when you’re not reading books, and how do you feel about it? For those of you who do read and love audiobooks, do you have trouble convincing yourself that it’s “real reading” (and do you think podcasts count at all)? What words do you weigh as worthier than others?
Let’s chat all about it in the comments!