The Restorative Power of Sustained Reading

Whenever we discuss the experience of “reading” as we recognize it today, it is always important to keep in mind that we recognize as “reading” is a relatively young phenomena in the history of humanity, one that only exists because of the technological invention of the book. What past civilizations understood by “reading” often looked very different (and, it should be noted, literacy itself was generally the domain only of the privileged).

Still, I find my affection for sustained reading experiences–by which I mean focused reading for thirty minutes or an hour without interruption–growing deeper in our age of sensory onslaught. If reading does not exist in opposition to what we think of “technology” (indeed, the technologies of our age are very reading-dependent), sustained reading, whether you do it on a codex or a Kindle, forces us into a different mode of engagement than many of the technological structures we utilize and inhabit on a daily basis, structures that are designed to distract through stimulation. In a world of seemingly endless noise, sustained reading increasingly feels like a respite.

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