A drip feed of dopamine hits

Been deliberately carving out a bit more time through the week to read; which is to say I’ve been deliberately not watching television. The algorithms have noticed, too. I keep getting emails from Netflix and Amazon, half-threatening half-wheedling, wanting to know when I’m going to get back to the series I started watching with them. In good time, algorithms, in good time.

In the same way I try not to hit the sauce too hard on a school night, I thought it might be worth declaring that from Monday to Thursday I was a reading guy, not a streaming guy. I wouldn’t normally get to watch a lot of teev on Tuesday or Thursday nights anyway because I’m at jujitsu in the evening. I don’t get back from that until at least 9:30 and I’m an old man. I like to be in bed by 10.

So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been opening my Kindle of an evening. Sometimes for a couple of hours, sometimes for just 20 or 30 minutes. It has made a big difference. Sustained reading for a couple of days in a row reminds me what it’s like to really sink into an imagined world. At the moment I’m reading John Le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and there are some long passages in that book that require close attention. The prose is beautifully constructed, of course, but it’s also quite dense and sometimes very demanding of your attention.

And of course the other thing demanding of your attention is the complex, twisting plot lines. More than once I’ve found myself going back and reading whole sentences, whole paragraphs and occasionally even whole pages to try and fit everything into context. It’s not the kind of reading you do scrolling through Twitter or Facebook. You don’t get the continual drip feed of dopamine hits, but you do get something just as powerful, and probably better for you.

Neurologically speaking, I have no idea what the hell that is. But I do know that I feel a lot better, I sleep a lot deeper, and the following day I seem to work for longer and with greater ease than when I spend the previous evening faffing around on social media, or trying to decide which of 600 TV shows I’ll watch on one of the half dozen streamers I subscribe to.

I am enjoying Le Carre so much that it will be tempting to just turn around and go back to the start as soon as I finish my first read through this book. And I do intend to go back through it at some stage, marking it up and breaking it down to try and work out how he performed some of his magic tricks on the page. But I might force myself to move on to the second book in the ‘Karla’ sequence of Smiley novels. And then, the third. Having rediscovered my appetite for long form reading, I reckon I might as well indulge it. I’ve got a massive stack of shame in my unread pile. It would be nice to get through some of it over the next couple of months.