Some of those who read less than before might simply prefer modern media which, let’s not forget, are much more sociable and interactive. It is not a Manichean split. But others profess to regret not reading more, just as they might wish to exercise more. When I asked people about their reading habits, many said their attention spans had been reduced, either over a long period of time or, more specifically, by the pandemic.
This is not the case for all readers. Many, it seems, are reading more than ever. But on behalf of people who can’t seem to get into it — a category I often occupy — I spoke to Alex Wieckowski. For its 90,000 Instagram followers, it is better known as Alex & Books (alexandbooks_). there and on Twitter he publishes book summaries, podcasts with writers, and tips on becoming a better reader. On his website, he cites research suggesting that reading increases intelligence and empathy, aids relaxation and sleep, and helps fight Alzheimer’s disease. Books, he writes, “are wonderful tools that can educate and inspire people. Reading gives people new perspectives on life and enables them to travel through time and space.
Wieckowski, a deep-voiced 26-year-old from Brooklyn, was a bookish kid. Years later, as a graduate student, he wrote summaries of books he was reading for his business class and began posting them online. His blog and social media accounts were born from there. Wieckowski shared what he learned about extending his attention span. “Reading,” he tells me, “like anything else, is a skill. The more you practice it, the better you will get at it. When I started reading, 15 to 20 minutes was a long time.
Potential readers, he says, find success by “just building that little consistent habit, whether you start with 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or 25 minutes a day. Once you make it a habit, you will notice that your concentration increases.
The hardest part, as with exercise, is getting started. “Once you open the book and read, you lose track of time.”