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Perils of Reading

I wanted to write something here about how to enjoy a book, novels in particular. I’ve touched on this before, but I wanted to expand on that theme.

It’s not enough to read for an hour or so before you go to bed. Read when you first wake up in the morning. Read at lunch time. Read when you get home from work or school. Intertwine your reading with your daily activities, until you are thoroughly immersed. Soon you will be living in two worlds, thinking of that fictional world constantly even as you navigate the real one.

I was going to write something like that. I was thinking about this as I rode my bike to work the other morning — when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a man walking down the bike path and reading a book.


I was so stunned I had to take a picture. I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing. What was going on here? Was this some sort of gag? Was I a victim of some kind of psychic-powered hidden camera TV show?

No. This guy was just really into his book. He was so immersed in what he was reading, that he couldn’t put the book down even as he walked through the neighborhood.

And that’s kind of cool…


…but perhaps this guy was taking it to far.

I gawked in amazement as he walked across Tulane Avenue. Barely a glance at the oncoming traffic.


As you can see, he survived. But yeah. Definitely too far.

When I related this encounter to my boss, she told me Stephen King was struck by a car while walking and reading a book at the same time.

I think the moral is clear.

Reading and walking don’t mix.

Actually, according to an interview in the Bangor News, King wasn’t reading the book when he was struck. But I still don’t think it’s a good idea. Personally I am way too much of a klutz to walk and read at the same time. I would surely trip and crack a tooth.

And what have I been reading lately that got me thinking about this in the first place? I got finished with When Gravity Fails earlier than expected, so I had some extra reading time. I decided to tackle The Book of the Short Sun at long last. Took me about a month and a half, and I’m still digesting it. After that, I read Blindsight which served as a sort of bracer, and I finished it just in time for today’s book club discussion. Now I’m partway through Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry by Arthur Zajonc, which is providing a fantastic counterargument to some of the anti-consciousness arguments of Blindsight. Some Borges is up next. It’s interesting to me how each book we read informs those before and after it.

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  1. I didn’t want to distract him — or alert him to the fact I was taking his photo — but if you look at the full size photo you can almost make out the title. If it was a book I’d read I bet I’d recognize it.

  2. My friend Ned does this all the time. Next time you’re on the University of Wisconsin campus, look for a 6’6″, 350-lb, redheaded Scotsman with his face in a sci-fi paperback. Cars don’t dare hit him, never mind bicycles.

  3. Sean Sean

    It would’ve fit well with your story if he had been reading a Dark Tower book, so I had to look it up… but I did somehow stumble upon the one he was reading entitled “Just another judgement day.”

  4. dsb dsb

    From the Amazon book description:

    “There’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s got the Nightside’s rich and powerful quaking in their boots. He’s The Walking Man, and it’s his mission to exorcise sinners-with extreme prejudice.”

    There you have it: The Reading While Walking Man.

  5. Jackie Jackie

    I almost always read while I walk. Including while I cross the street and when I walk my dog. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid-in fact, I would guess I’ve been reading and walking for fifty years now. So far, no car accidents. Lots more books read.

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