Living a life through books

Can’t Sleep, Can’t Put it Down

“A book you could not put down” That is the topic for this transcript from the podcast by Living a Life through Books. Here’s the link for the podcast.

Hello again and as always, welcome back.  This is Dr. Shahnaz Ahmed, your friendly neighborhood book reader for living a life through books.  Before I start with today’s episode, I want to make a quick note about my introductory episode.  I don’t know if you remember my mentioning that I found a video on Facebook about how the average person reads at an average speed and the calculated math of how long it takes to read a book etc etc etc.  Well, in that episode, I did not have the reference to where I got the information from, but then it randomly showed up a couple of weeks ago. Well, through my medium subscription, an email popped up, titled “The Simple Truth Behind Reading 200 Books a year” published in The Polymath Project by Charles Chu.  Hmmm.  I clicked on that link and it wasn’t a video.  It was a blog about the same concept.  I’m quite sure this was the blog version of the video I had seen on Facebook.  So, that information was from The Polymath project.  Well, there you have it.  The reference.  I don’t know why I’m so big on it, but sometimes, the very concept that one can steal another’s idea and just run with it as their own, is something that doesn’t sit well with me.  But enough of that.  On with today’s episode.

That book was so great, they would say.  I couldn’t put it down.  I finished it in one night.  That kind of thing.

Excerpt from post

Today we are going to talk about getting hooked.  A book you could not put down.  The story goes that I’ve been reading through my childhood, on and off.  No big deal.  I’ve met friends who have read more than me, some who have read less, but there was this one thing I’ve heard of throughout my life, from the book kids. They would all talk about “some” book, it was a different book for each person, but there was this one book that they couldn’t put down.  That book was so great, they would say.  I couldn’t put it down.  I finished it in one night.  That kind of thing.  What about you?  I’ll be honest.  I had not experienced it at that time and I felt a little embarrassed by it. Somehow, I used to feel less of a reader because I hadn’t gone through this phenomenon.  I would tell myself that people were just exaggerating.  Or that people just couldn’t control themselves. I think it’s important to have a grasp of your life and steer it in the direction you want.  If you lose control, then your life potentially can go out of alignment.  So, not having experienced this, I would self console with pride that I was impervious to such weaknesses.  Of course, if you can’t experience things, your defense mechanism starts telling you that those experiences are not worth it and even to the extent that your defense mechanism raises you up above the others that you actually feel a bit inferior to.  So, yes through my defenses I was above such weaknesses.

Before I go on, I want to say that if you feel this way, don’t give others that much power over you. Just because someone has experienced something doesn’t make that experience special.  It may be special for them, but that experience may not be what you want.  It’s our comparison mode that gets activated.  Remember the rule of my reading experience.  Do not compare yourself or your reading with others.  So, if you feel this way.  Stop.  Deactivate and read and not worry about it.  I know it’s hard.  Everyone deactivates their comparison mode differently.

For me, the comparison mode self-deactivated when I did experience a book I couldn’t put down. But the point is that it didn’t have to be that way at all.  It’s great but I don’t think it’s worth the self-drama I had created about not having the experience.  OK.  On with the story.  My can’t put a book down experience happened once and only once. It was a book called Memoirs of a Geisha.  I was at Heathrow and found it on the shelves of a bookstore.  I had seen it on a friend’s book shelf and when I realized I had 3 hours to kill at the airport, I bought the book and started reading.

Lucky for me, I was travelling with my mom at that time because my mom was still in the airport while I was immediately transported to Japan and to a world I had never known about before.  Now, this was over 10 years ago and I’ve only read the book once, so I apologize for any story errors I may make in this Podcast.  I’m going off memory here.  Weren’t the siblings sold off by their own father in the very first part of the book? OK.  Don’t laugh, but to me, I had never heard of such a concept.  A father selling his own children?  Who would do such a thing?  I most certainly have lived a sheltered life.  But that was the hook.

Maybe if I read the book today, I might be more immune to the cruelties of reality but that day sitting in an airport, I was gasping for air.  Not literally, but it felt like that.  I found myself transported from a fishing village to a geisha house.  I had heard of the word “geisha” before but pretty painted ladies was all that I had ever considered about geishas.  Nothing else.  Maybe I was very naïve.  Maybe I had a lot of growing up to do.  Yes, fine! I was still a kid in a lot of ways but that book, fictional as it was, had my mind, heart and soul.  I felt my mom tugging at me.  It’s time to go to the gate.  Oh.  OK. Hold on.

One hand was holding the book, the other hand wheeling my luggage, we made our way to the gate and a long line awaited us.  I opened the book and read while my mom literally guided my zombie self towards the gate and finally towards the seat in our flight.  Mom fell asleep.  I did not. I was reading.  And reading.  And reading. And cursing the attendant for bringing me food and refreshments.  Did she not see that I was reading?  Ughh. I would have to put the book down and eat.  What was wrong with people?  Fine. I’ll put my book away just for a bit and take the tray and then after food, back to reading.

9 hours later, we landed in Chicago.  I was done with almost 75% of the book and that was the first time since I started reading that I was able to put the book down willingly.

The next morning, I wondered what had transpired that I was lost for 9 hours straight.  That was a first for me.  Interesting enough, I didn’t have that great desire or force that made me finish the book.  I was back to being myself, the regular reader who had full control over her senses. I was curious enough about the story and so I spent another 3 hours and finished the book that will always remain in my memory as the book I couldn’t put down.

I could put it down after 9 hours.So, technically, I haven’t experienced a book I could not put down at all but I’m chalking this book up towards that experience.  Close enough.  I don’t feel ‘less’ of a reader anymore.  I don’t feel that my ability to put the book down eventually means a lesser experience.  It is what it is.

So, now that I have experienced it, what are the pros and cons of such a phenomenon.  Well, in the pros would be that you are reading.  9 hours straight gives you in some cases, an entire book.  If I had a book goal or something at that time, it would have been great.  The book captures you and you aren’t distracted by the external world and boom, 12 hours later, book done.  The other pro would be that it’s just a fabulous reading experience.

The cons.  If you were home and had a ton of errands to run and things to do or Podcasts to work on, then you are stuck.  All other activities have to be put on hold.  It does become a force that you cannot control and I don’t know how I feel about that.

If I had a choice, I would like a book to grab me for a limited period of time, but to not totally hypnotize me so as to lose the external world completely.  Or something like that.  Although, losing yourself in the world of books is part of the big fun of reading.  I think what I want is to be able to drift back and forth from our world to the other world.  Ya. That.  I think so!

And with that, I come to the close of yet another episode.  Before I go?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Have you experienced this?  And if so, what book was it?

If it’s a teen fantasy, I probably would try it out, but that’s it for this podcast.  This is Dr. Shahnaz Ahmed with living a life through books, signing off.  And Remember to water the seeds within you.  It’s time.

If you want to read a book review by me, here’s the review of China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan.

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