Had an unusual experience this week. I was out on my walk and listening to an audiobook. Ordinary morning routine. I've listened to at least a hundred books over the years since I got my first iPod. This past Wednesday it brought on a new experience. For some reason I imagined I was reading the book for a book club, and it completely changed the experience. I immediately stopped hearing every word and started thinking about what I'd say to my imaginary book club about the book. I missed a paragraph or so before I snapped out of it. My interest in my own ideas swamped my experience of the book, and someone was reading it to me. If I had been reading an actual book, I'd have had my head in the fridge before I woke up.
I have to imagine what this did to me and does to others when they read for a class. It would be bad enough if you were reading in anticipation of taking a test or writing an essay. What if the teacher or professor assigned a bit of reading and told the students what to look for or think about along the way? It's like a recipe for a wandering mind.
I was in a book club once, and enjoyed it greatly, perhaps because before we'd been at it six months we stopped reading books. It was difficult to get people to actually read the books. Wandering minds? Possibly. More likely kids and spouses and jobs. Instead we all subscribed to the wonderful Sun Magazine, which I recommend heartily to everyone. A brilliant blend of short fiction, interviews, poetry, essays, and photography, entirely supported by subscriptions and donations (no ads!), this was our answer. Most of us read the whole thing cover to cover, but everyone had time to read something. And most of it was so good (and short) we weren't distracted thinking about how clever we were going to be in the book club that week.