Last week the New York Times featured an article about bite-sized reading. The writer recommends such reading as an antidote to mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media feeds. The idea is to find books that have short individual pieces, each of which can be read even when only a precious few minutes are available.
Collections of essays or, even better, columns are a great place to start. Essays tend to be short and totally independent of each other — at most they’re linked by a common theme. While there are often one or two essays in a collection that take an hour or so to read, you can save it for when you’ve got a little more time to kill and just chip away at the shorter ones when you’re at the bus stop.
The three books that we at Story Artisan Press have published are a great fit for bite-sized reading. The essays and short stories are short and cover a wide range of topics and perspectives. Also, since they are e-books, they can be read on a smartphone!
I am not a big user of social media and so I don’t really need a replacement for compulsive scrolling. However, I have realized that the way I read has changed. I have much less patience than in the pre-internet era for sticking with writing that rambles or that is not relevant. A side-effect of this is that I prefer writing that is presented in, say, 5-6 short paragraphs rather than in 1-2 longer ones.
This has also affected how I write. In addition to writing shorter paragraphs, I am also placing section separators within chapters to indicate a change of scene or change of perespective. My hope is that this will signal to readers that they can read the book in short bursts that don’t waste their time and that offer a payoff of meaning.
What strategy do you use for effective reading? Writing?