Of Opiates, TV, and Books


2015-08 PicI used to read a lot as a child and teenager. The amount of reading required of elementary, middle and high school never overloaded me enough to take away my pleasure. College, on the other hand, nearly beat the love of reading out of me. After studying the number of textbooks required of a full-time college schedule, the last thing I wanted to do was read – even if for pleasure.

When I started working after college, I found a way to fan the sparks of the dying fire that used to be my passion for reading. Since I took the bus to and from work, I used that time to start reading for pleasure again. I even mastered the art of reading while standing up, hanging on for dear life, while the bus went through endless cycles of stopping and starting.

As my fortunes rose in the form of added responsibility at work, my schedule became more unpredictable and wouldn’t accommodate taking the bus anymore. The increase in duties went hand in hand with an increase in the amount of reading required for work. Reading on the job started taking over just like textbooks had in college and my enthusiasm for reading waned again.

Vacations have helped to keep the fire burning. I always start a new book while on vacation and if I don’t finish reading it before I come home, the fun of the vacation continues until I get to the end of the book.

I don’t watch a lot of television. Even so, I use it like many others do – to chill out at the end of a busy day. At the beginning of the year, I found myself utterly bored with everything on TV – and I mean everything. Usually, I can find something to watch to relax with before I go to bed, but nothing fits the bill anymore. New shows don’t interest me and reruns of old favorites feel done to death. The void left is palpable. That makes me sound like a crack addict without a fix and the truth is that is how I feel.

One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons is where Calvin is reading from a book and he says, “It says here that ‘religion is the opiate of the masses.’ …What do you suppose that means?” In the next frame there’s a picture of a TV ‘thinking’ this response, “It means Karl Marx hadn’t seen anything yet.” Had I been victim to the intoxicating allure of television all these years and kidding myself that I could take it or leave it? Like an alcoholic who has a moment of clarity during a dry spell, I saw that I had to put the ‘cup of television’ down and take a new path to sobriety and I vowed the path would be paved with books. The path hasn’t been easy.

To reinforce my decision, I set a goal to read twelve books this year thinking one book per month is the minimum required to maintain a healthy reading life. According to my tally on Goodreads, I’ve read four books and am three books behind in reaching my goal by the end of this year. The challenge is in trying to get excited about picking up a book after reading for the majority of an eight hour workday. The good news is that it’s getting easier. Once I get over the hurdle of opening a book outside of work, it’s not difficult to enjoy what I’m reading. But man! Getting over that hurdle is sometimes like trying to jump over the Empire State Building.

Since I don’t have the leaping ability of Superman, I have some devices I employ to give me a lift. One is to keep my current book as visible as possible so it doesn’t become out-of-sight-and-out-of-mind. Another is to take it to a room to read away from where I usually watch TV. That way, I don’t feel drawn to my old habit. Third, I bargain with myself to say I’ll only read for ten minutes and even set a timer. With this one I find that I often get engaged with the book and read beyond the time limit I set. I’ll gladly take suggestions for other ways to keep at it.

As I progress, I wonder if I’ll become as addicted to books as I have been to television. Since I’ve never heard anyone told they read too many books, I think I can live with that.


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    • Claire Murray on September 1, 2015 at 8:40 pm
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    I’m having computer trouble again. It will only take me comment if it thinks it’s … So here goes: I enjoyed your story. I love to read and yet I always find it hard to carve out the time to do it. I find that once I get started, if the book is good, I hate to put it down. I’d read all night just to see how it ends if I could only stay awake. 🙂

    • Claire Murray on September 1, 2015 at 8:39 pm
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    I enjoyed your story. I love to read and yet I always find it hard to carve out the time to do it. I find that once I get started, if the book is good, I hate to put it down. I’d read all night just to see how it ends if I could only stay awake. 🙂

    • Karen Kittrell on August 26, 2015 at 11:29 am
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    Sue, I find that my eyes get too tired to read more, or I have manual work I need to do. This is when I turn to audio books. The library offers downloads in text and audio. Before this, I had a commute of an hour each way for about a year. I refreshed my memory of the classics that year – Moby Dick, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, and more. Agatha Christie mysteries and horror short stories were the perfect length. I would often pull into my parking place and not want to leave the story.

    As book Lover suggested, short stories are perfect for an evening. Try George Saunders Tenth of December.

      • Sue Remisiewicz on August 30, 2015 at 5:10 pm
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      I like the idea of listening to the classics. I’ll have to look into it. Thanks for the suggestion for “Tenth of December.” I’ve added it to my ‘to read’ list.

        • Karen Kittrell on September 7, 2015 at 2:56 pm
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        You might like the audio version. The author reads.

    • Kelly Bixby on August 25, 2015 at 1:15 pm
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    Sue, I have a similar history and relationship with reading. One of the best things I did to reconnect with my bygone pastime was to join a book club. I’m behind on the monthly commitment, like you, but love that I’ve re-established a great habit.

      • Sue Remisiewicz on August 30, 2015 at 5:12 pm
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      Thanks for the suggestion!

    • Kook-Wha Koh on August 24, 2015 at 3:52 pm
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    It is very good story. You are the second person I know that read lots of books.
    My friends, they sent me a book ” The girl on the train ”
    However, I read the books related to the business or history.
    ” Good to Great ” by Jim Collins, I plan to read.

      • Sue Remisiewicz on August 30, 2015 at 4:59 pm
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      I’ve heard those are both good books. Let me know how you like “Good to Great” and if I should add it to my ‘to read’ list.

    • Book Lover on August 24, 2015 at 3:17 pm
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    Sue, while in college, I also began to lose the love of reading. The mandatory reading of the boring history books made me determined to find something interesting to read that wouldn’t take up too much time. That’s when I returned to reading short stories. After completing each required reading assignment, I treated myself to a story in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine or the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Now I read novels as well as short stories.

      • Sue Remisiewicz on August 30, 2015 at 4:54 pm
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      I hadn’t thought of that! I have a few short story collections that I will pull off the shelf. Thank you!

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