Aging, Reading, and the Kindle

“I love reading history,” writes Barbara Strauch, “and the shelves in my living room are lined with fat, fact-filled books.

“The problem is, as much as I’ve enjoyed these books, I don’t really remember reading any of them.”

She’s the health editor at The New York Times – and she’s written a book about the problems of an aging mind. It’s something I’ve worried about: will I still be able to enjoy reading as I grow older? I have fantasies of retiring, and finally having all day to read. (Maybe then I could finally tackle Remembrance of Things Past or War and Peace.) One reason I bought my Kindle was to increase the font sizes on books — so I wouldn’t need spectacles or special Large-Print editions. And with WhisperNet, I’m now invisibly connected to all the literature I could ever want to read.

The problem now isn’t the reading technology — it’s the physical problems of the reader! Will reading be a different experience when you’re doing it with a differently-aged brain? Strauch apparently answers the question in her upcoming book – but there’s reason to be optimistic. The book’s subtitle is “The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind,” and according to the blurb on Amazon, “the middle-aged brain is more flexible and more capable than previously thought.”

And in the New York Times this week, Strauch informs us that “The brain, as it traverses middle age, gets better at recognizing the central idea, the big picture.” So I won’t lose my ability to enjoy the great works of literature before I die. And in fact, if I’m understanding her correctly, our ability to literature may actually improve with age.

“If kept in good shape, the brain can continue to build pathways that help its owner recognize patterns and, as a consequence, see significance and even solutions much faster than a young person can…”

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