While driving home from the grocery store, Jean and I spotted one of the kids who lives in our complex. He was walking his dog. While riding his bike. While reading a book.
Jean laughed, and I admitted that the kid, probably about 12 years old, reminded me of myself.
I never attempted something as bold as dog-bike reading, but when I was his age, I always had a book open. I would read at home, at school, in the car. And I certainly held a book in front of my face as I walked places, which is something I’m convinced only a child is physically capable of doing.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen that kid without a book. He even sits outside in the middle of winter, bundled up, flipping pages in our apartment’s playground. Once upon a time, I was that dedicated to my reading. All the way through high school, I would tear through books, often reading two or three at a time. I’ve pulled almost as many all nighters to finish a book as I have to finish a paper.
Toward the end of college, I got busier and my reading slowed down. Sometimes, it stopped altogether. I’ve tried to get back into a habit, but it doesn’t have the same sticking power it once did.
But in the last year, I’ve found a solution: Audiobooks.
I’ve read the occasional audiobook for a long time, but I really got started when I bought a copy of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline to listen to on the drive from Florida to Illinois. Since then, I’ve been hooked. I always have an audiobook (or three) on my phone so I can listen in the car, on a run, or sitting at my desk while Jean watches Real Housewives of *Insert Place I never want to go*. I’m glad to have picked up my own book habits, but I’ve wondered why I now prefer audiobooks, since both would be just as convenient on my 2 1/2 hour commute.
Last week, it finally occurred to me. The time I’m setting aside for reading is always when I’m travelling—and I’m sharing that experience with the adventures being narrated into my ears. I realized the connection during the introduction to American Gods by Neil Gaiman when the author’s note revealed that Gaiman wrote the book while travelling (seeming to rely on travelling to write the book). And in the book, the main character is travelling. When the audiobook plays for me, the journey is shared, or at least happening concurrently. It’s a connection I never noticed until I read that author’s note.
All books, even if the events all take place in one room, are a journey—and sharing in that motion enhances the experience. I don’t have any science to back that up, but I’m sure that kid from my complex agrees. There’s a power to reading on the move, and I’m glad to see it at work in the audiobooks on my phone and the paperbacks on his handlebars.
But most of all, I’m glad to be able to read while walking again.