I grew up reading all the time (thanks, Mom!), devouring series like Harry Potter, Eragon, and The Hunger Games as fast as I could get my hands on them. As I got older, though, I began replacing reading with other activities like socializing, tinkering with computers, or even just doing homework; by the time I finished my undergrad, I was only reading a non-assigned book every year or two at best.
Then, during the holidays at the end of 2021, I watched Little Women and spontaneously decided that I should read the book. Once I got home from vacation, I dug up my old Kindle, got a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s classic, and started reading. By the time I finished, my love of reading had been reignited; I finished 36 books during 2022 and discovered that reading is a wonderful hobby, worth fitting in regardless of how busy my schedule is.1
For me, the biggest benefit of reading has been its ability to help me relax and de-stress in ways that no other hobby does (except maybe exercise, which I’m also trying to do more of). I have two little kids who, as any parent knows, seem to make noise and demand attention incessantly. When they’re in bed at the end of the day, I find myself needing a little “me time” to unwind and think about something other than toys and dirty dishes.
Before I started reading regularly, I typically spent my evening free time browsing the web or tinkering with my computer. Although these activities were fun, they usually left me feeling more distracted, less able to fall asleep, and more convinced that my kids were taking up too much time in my life. These activities also spilled over into the time that I spent with my kids – I was always reading one more article on my phone or quickly testing a fix to that nasty bug instead of engaging with them. My constant distraction left me feeling unsatisfied; I was neither enjoying time with the kids nor having fun on my own (because the kids were constantly “interrupting” me). What’s more, my kids were quick to notice that my attention was divided, and their resulting frustration made me even less excited to spend time with them. It was a bad cycle.
Contrast that experience with how I feel when I spend the evening reading. A good book may keep me up a bit past my normal bedtime, but once I put it down I can usually go to sleep just fine. And I don’t read much when I should be engaging with the kids, partly because I don’t always have my book with me like I do my phone, partly because reading in two minute increments between my children’s interruptions isn’t very satisfying, but mostly because books don’t seem to distract me in the same way that tech does. Whereas my previous evening activities left me unhappy with the rest of my life, reading helps me find more enjoyment throughout the day, even when I’m not reading.
Similarly, reading helps me learn about topics that improve the rest of my life. In 2022 I particularly enjoyed exploring my relationship with technology2 and feeling excited to spend more time outdoors3. I also learned about computing history4, race and inequality in the U.S.5, and death6; and I read several fascinating true stories7.
Overall, I’ve found reading to be an interesting and restorative hobby this past year. I’m glad that I decided to pick up Little Women last January, and I’m excited to keep reading in 2023!
This journey started with Digital Minimalism and continued with How to Do Nothing, Should You Believe Wikipedia?, Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life, Bored and Brilliant, and Reader, Come Home. ↩︎