Reading in the new world

Startling admission from a former English major: I am not a critical reader.

If I have to comment intelligently on a piece of writing, I have to read it twice: the first time for enjoyment, and the second time for thought. Because reading is a pleasure, an escape. And who wants to pause, while in another world, and think, “my, what a nice piece of symbolism the author has incorporated here”? Not me. I’m all about the suspension of disbelief.

So, I was highly offended the first time a note appeared on my new Kindle, saying something like: “1,077 people have highlighted this sentence.” What were all those other people doing in my book, pointing at something that I was supposed to then see as profound!?! Get out of my book, you strangers!

And I thought… if I highlight a passage, this machine is going to know which sentence I found particularly moving, and it’s going to broadcast that information to a pack of voyeurs.

(You can click somewhere and turn off this sort of highlighting notification, but I didn’t do so. I left it on a while, so I could maintain my righteous indignation.)

Then, just last night, I remembered something. I took a John Green novel out of the library recently and inside the front cover was a post-it note. It read: “Hello Fellow Nerdfighter! I LOVED this book. I laughed, I cried, it changed my life. I hope you love it, too.”

How wonderful that John Green has a secret society of fans, communicating through post-it notes and united in their love of insightful novels.

Next, I started thinking about this blog. About the way I write whatever springs into my mind, but there are sometimes friends, and even strangers, who stop by to comment on my latest random thoughts.

It seems that writing and reading are growing closer. And reading (highlighted paragraphs and all) is becoming less of a solitary activity. You read, you tweet your read, you blog your review. And already, in the reading, you’ve absorbed some of the thoughts of those who read before you.

I am reading Mockingjay right now, by the way. And 1,977 people have marked this passage: “I don’t want anyone with me today. Not even him. Some walks you have to take alone.”

Or do you? Because apparently, 1,977 people are watching.

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