On Books & Reading: A TED Talk About My ‘Disrupted’ Reading Habits, Plus the Last TBR Report for 2022

My real physical TBR stack is in the Florida room.

Well, Dear Reader, it’s Thursday, December 29, 2022, and since today is almost at the halfway point of its 24-hour span, we are getting closer to saying goodbye to the Old Year and ushering in the New Year.

I had hoped to write a book or movie review today, but I – once again – did not sleep all that well, so I will do that on a day when I’m more energetic and feel capable of writing one.

I have not done any updates to my To Be Read (TBR)  list (or “stack,” as I sometimes call it) of books that I’m currently reading, and since TBR lists are not as difficult to write after a restless night plagued by angst, frustration, and insomnia, I will do such an update today.

A Note on My Reading Habits

A small selection of both my Star Wars collection and personal library. (Photo by the author)

When I was younger and didn’t have the plethora of distractions or the habit of spending long hours at my desk in front of a glowing computer monitor, I read books cover-to-cover at a fast clip.

When I wasn’t in school (whether it was at the primary, secondary, or post-secondary level), I could read a book – whether it was A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan or Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy in a matter of days, a week at most if the book was long and/or I was going out with my friends. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, when I was younger I went out every so often, and I had many friends to hang out with. The only thing I didn’t have until I was in my late 30s was a dating/sex life.)

In the Land of Ago – roughly between 1992 and 2010 – if I bought or was presented with a book, I would read it at a fast clip, even if I was writing online, doing the occasional out-of-the-house consulting/business writing gig, or – whenever I was lucky to be in a relationship – dating someone. Depending on the genre, subject, author, and overall quality of the book, I could still read an entire volume in less than a month. This wasn’t because I was too busy to read, but rather because I had begun to unconsciously mimic my mom’s habit of reading several books nearly simultaneously.

I’d choose three or four books from my bookcases – I had several cheap and not very sturdy ones in my bedroom at the East Wind Lake Village townhouse in South Florida – at the beginning of the month and “nibble” from each one on different days. For instance, I’d choose Rick Atkinson’s Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War, Stephen King’s uncut and unabridged edition of The Stand, and Tom Clancy’s The Sum of All Fears, and – without a particular schedule in mind; I am not a terribly structured person, to my detriment – read a chapter or two from Atkinson on Monday, then a chapter or two from King on Tuesday, and then a chapter or two from Clancy on Wednesday, and so on until I had finished all three books by the end of the month.

The view from my favorite reading spot ever – looking out to the patio (which needed a lot of work that Mom and I couldn’t afford), Since the sliding glass door behind the table and lamp face west, sunlight flooded in during the afternoon hours, and I could read for hours on end sitting or lying on the couch from which I took this photo back in 2014.

Once Mom became incapacitated after a complicated surgical procedure to repair her damaged spine – the operation was a success, but the recovery was not – and I found myself as the unofficial (and somewhat unprepared) head of the household (much to my half-sister’s surprise and displeasure), I no longer had as much leisure time as before June of 2010. Yes, Medicaid and the Department of Children and Families (and for a while, Easter Seals) sent home health aides and respite workers, but I had to divide my time to manage both the household and the caregiving of my ailing mother.[1]

As a result of all this, my entire routine for leisure activities was disrupted. TV-watching habits that were long-established were the first to be affected, although I will be the first to say that what totally upended them – demolished, really – was my move to Lithia and having to adjust to the tastes of my then-girlfriend, now…ex-girlfriend. But even as early as 2011, when 24 ended its eight-season run on Fox, I watched less and less broadcast TV network fare and more stuff on Blu-ray and DVDs.

And as my mom’s mental decline became more pronounced and required more attention, my reading time was cut to the point where I wasn’t reading from a “TBR stack.” Instead, I reverted to my childhood habit of choosing one book at a time and reading it from cover to cover.

The passage of time and my settling down in Lithia did nothing to reverse this trend. Instead, it accentuated the problem of how to fit reading books into my daily routine. Even when I was relatively happy with my then seemingly stable relationship with my now ex-girlfriend, I was still buying lots of books (at least five or six new books a year), but because the “caregiver” is not a reader, at least not one like me, the layout of the rooms and lighting setups suck for reading. Lamps are chosen for their looks and not for their ability to illuminate a room enough to read comfortably. The couch I’d choose for reading is comfortable, but the lamps aren’t seated properly or give enough lumens to read by without my eyes getting tired after only a brief time.

My futon? It’s not comfortable enough to read on it for long stretches at a time; I get more reading done in the bathroom than I do in my bedroom/writing room/mancave, the toilet is not comfortable, but the lighting is perfect for reading. The lighting in my room is far from ideal, and the futon-as-couch is only viable for short reading sessions.

And, of course, since I have no friends to hang out with physically, I must make up for it by staying connected to people (most of whom I will never meet in person) online. So, I spend way too much time at my computer, which cuts into my already curtailed leisure time allotment.

So, yep. I don’t read the way I used to, and that’s why my TBR lists take so long to change.

Oh, Yeah…the TBR List

Since I last posted a TBR-related post on WordPress, things have changed – but only slightly.

I have finished one book that has been on my TBR stack since July – Thomas Wikman’s The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger. In my old life, I would have read this book in a matter of days. It’s taken me longer than I thought it would, but that’s not a reflection on the book or its author.

I also added Ian Doescher’s Pop Shakespeare mashup book, Much Ado About Mean Girls, which takes the Tina Fey-scripted 2004 comedy film Mean Girls and presents it as if William Shakespeare had written it as an Elizabethan era five-act comedy for the stage.

Promotional image of Much Ado About Mean Girls (C) 2019 Quirk Books

Because of its format, I’ve read more of Much Ado About Mean Girls than I have of the other books on my To Be Read list.

As for the other books on my TBR stack, I have been reading both of my Operation Downfall-based books (Code-Name Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan – and Why Truman Dropped the Bomb by Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar, and D.M. Giangreco’s  Hell to Pay: Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947) often, mostly on trips to the bathroom when I know I’ll have to sit on the porcelain throne for a long-enough-to-read spell. I think I am mostly done with Code-Name Downfall, and halfway through with Hell to Pay, that book is longer and has more historical material to peruse.

Sadly, I have not made much progress with the late James D. Hornfischer’s Who Can Hold the SeaThe U.S. Navy in the Cold War, 1945-1960; I have not abandoned it totally and nibble-read it every so often, but I still have not gotten to the start of the Korean War (1950-1953).

I have not revisited either Peter Caddick-Adams’ Fire & Steel: The End of World War Two in the West, or Mike Chen’s Star Wars: Brotherhood, a novel set between Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I took them out of my bedroom and put them on a shelf in the Florida room. They are accessible; I just forget to go get them when I have time to read.

Well, Dear Reader, I’ve prattled long enough, and I should at least go take a shower, change into a fresh change of outfit, and perhaps go out for a walk to the park. It’s a nice day outside, and it seems such a shame to waste it.

[1] My mom’s illnesses – which were at first limited to the spinal issues that sent her to the hospital for surgery in the first place, but later included depression, anxiety, and the onset of dementia – coincided with the last four years in which my half-sister worked as a geriatric nurse at the now-closed Metropolitan Hospital of Miami. Logically, Vicky should have been the one responsible for our mother’s medical caregiving and the person who called Leon Medical Centers – Mom’s HMO – to ensure that the medications Mom needed were delivered on time and without hassles. But because Vicky worked during the day shift (7 AM to 7 PM), it was impossible for her to do so, at least not without disrupting her work routine at the hospital. I was at home keeping an eye on Mom and the DCF/Medicaid provided HHAs, so it was only logical that I had to step in and become Johnny on the spot when it came to dealing with the HMO’s pharmacy and making sure the medications were delivered on time.

As far as Vicky’s contributions to the caregiving of my mother during those long five years of her final illness, they helped some, I won’t deny that. She would leave the hospital after her shift was over at 7 (she’d arrive at Mom’s house between 7:30 and 8 PM, just as the evening HHA’s shift was in its last hour or so. She would help change Mom’s adult diaper and turn her from one side to another to prevent pressure ulcers from forming, and she’d stay and watch TV with Mom until 10:30 or 11 PM, often giving her the last doses of blood pressure medications before going off to sleep at her apartment. So, I can’t say that Vicky did nothing to help.

On the other hand, because she resented the fact that Mom trusted me and not her with the overall running of the house – including the handling of the house finances and paying of bills, which Vicky totally would have bungled – she sometimes was more hindrance than a help. She expected me to be the one who got up to give Mom a sip of water or a juice box from the fridge while Vicky was lying back on the extra bed across the room from Mom’s hospital-style adjustable bed and watching telenovelas on Miami’s Univision station, WLTV 23. She could physically do it; the townhouse was not as large as the house I live in now, and there were commercial breaks. She was just being a passive-aggressive asshole because she wasn’t in charge of Mom’s house, her finances, or anything not related to medical decisions.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

4 thoughts on “On Books & Reading: A TED Talk About My ‘Disrupted’ Reading Habits, Plus the Last TBR Report for 2022

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: