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“Why should I put down George R. R. Martin during the short trek from couch to bathroom?”
June 9, 2012 8:00 AM   Subscribe

A Book Lover's Guide to Reading and Walking at the Same Time by Lev Grossman [Time.com]
posted by Fizz (53 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Audio book + MP3 player is a lot less accidence prone.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:06 AM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was once locked out of my job for nine weeks, and the picket line was the perfect environment for walking and reading; everyone marching around a building in the same direction, at about the same speed, between August and early October (i.e. the best months of the year, weather-wise). I got a ton of reading done and I lost weight from all the walking (and not eating food court lunches). It was the high point of my career at that particular organization.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:09 AM on June 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


Audio book + MP3 player is a lot less accidence prone.

Tell that to those unfortunate individuals who get hit by oncoming traffic because they had their ear-buds in place at a cross-walk and were unable to hear other pedestrians call out a warning that was too late.
posted by Fizz at 8:10 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


'John Carter's Literary Machine' to the rescue!!
posted by Fizz at 8:13 AM on June 9, 2012


I just don't do that much anymore but am pleasantly amused when I pass a serious reader.
posted by sammyo at 8:20 AM on June 9, 2012


Like I need the extra distraction. I run into people and objects often enough when I'm walking without doing anything else.
posted by Gordafarin at 8:23 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Walking and reading in your own home is nothing. The only time I ever mastered it outside was walking to and from school, because there were few other pedestrians and I had the good sense to look up at street crossings. I also liked walking backwards all the way home, though walking backwards and reading gave me motion sickness so I never managed that.
posted by emjaybee at 8:27 AM on June 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll never understand the "short burst" of anything, well kidney punches, I understand the jab. Mental jabs, how does it work?
Quick ads I guess, billboards on a highway. WELCOME TO (border), Tiger with gas and breakfast awaits. I've no time to read and travel, guess it's my location. Vermont provides mental stimulation avoiding rubbernecks.
posted by Mblue at 8:40 AM on June 9, 2012


As I have admitted here in the past, I have a Reading Problem. I have read while roller skating (outside!) and I have fallen down on a downtown sidewalk while my head was in a book. That last one wasn't too long ago, either. I am a bibliophile. You lot are precautious dilettantes.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:42 AM on June 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


though walking backwards and reading gave me motion sickness

Walking backwards and reading forwards, I presume. There's your problem: you have to read backwards as well.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:46 AM on June 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I've only run into a pole once in over twenty years of walking and reading, and in my defense, it was a really thin pole in an unexpected position, so my peripheral vision didn't catch it.
posted by Scattercat at 8:48 AM on June 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


you have to read backwards as well., unless manga, the walk forward.
posted by Mblue at 8:49 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I walk around our house and even go up/down our stairs while reading, often enough that my husband is sure I'll break my neck. I tell him to shush when he says that, because don't talk to me when I'm READING. I've always been a pretty avid reader. When I was a kid my parents had to make it a *rule* that no books were allowed at the dinner table - though this was for my sister, too, who also kept her nose buried in a book whenever possible.
posted by routergirl at 8:52 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just want to go on record as saying that I will not truck with people who read and walk.
They are only slightly less worse than people who text while walking.

And I love reading. Walking is neither the time nor the place.
posted by Mezentian at 8:55 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was notorious as a kid for walking 20 minutes in either direction to one of the libraries, acquiring an armful of books, and getting well started on one of them on the walk back.

I still do some reading outside, but my neighbourhood is too hilly and full of obstacles to make it safe, so almost all of my ambulatory reading now is inside the house. /waves to routergirl

I pace, therefore I am.
posted by maudlin at 9:00 AM on June 9, 2012


I do this in the halls at work, and in the parking lot, and waiting in line for lunch, and I didn't realize it was strange until a new-hire commented on it recently in the break room. But I've seen plenty of other people doing the same thing.

But then, I work at a library.
posted by General Tonic at 9:01 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


My lowest point of grade six: Finding "Prisoner of Zenda" in the school library and walking home from school reading it. Discovering, upon reaching home and waking up my quite annoyed and confused father, that I had actually walked off the playground reading and come home at recess. Sent back to school with some choice words. Sufficiently overwhelmend by the shame and trouble that I not only ready my way back to school again, but to the third floor girl's washroom into a cubicle where I finished the book. Discovered there crying some hours later by a search party.

Now the really startling experience for me is walking around when I am asleep on my feet. I have had the unnerving experience of people teleporting right in front of me while walking to work in the middle of the night. Every time this has happened the sidewalk was completely clear right up until the instant they appeared and I had thought I was walking with my eyes open and looking at the street. I guess I wasn't...
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:08 AM on June 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm quite notorious among my family, friends and acquaintances for doing just this. Once, I was so absorbed in my reading that I inadvertently walked into a film shoot. The director actually found it so amusing that he asked me to do it again, on purpose, as an extra...
posted by Skeptic at 9:08 AM on June 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


You haven't lived until you've read while cycling. Admittedly, in a bike-unfriendly country, you might not live *long*.
posted by HFSH at 9:13 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, the ettiquette of reading while walking is to apologize without looking up to any near collision. You can quickly learn to do this on auto-pilot. Not only does this save on wasting peripheral vision to see if the near collision was with a lamp post or a person, the fact that you are walking down the street mildly apologizing to lamp posts clues in any other pedestrians that you are really not responsible or doing it on purpose.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:14 AM on June 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


You haven't lived died until you've read while cycling.

Fixed.
posted by Fizz at 9:17 AM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I am also going to hell for reading at stoplights. And in really bad traffic jams, when I can't take any more shitty radio.

My mother hated my book absorption, due to the half-finished facedown books everywhere and my general inability to socialize with boring relatives. Books were also banned at our dinner table. I also sometimes read with my knees on the floor, leaning on my bed, to give my butt a break, and more than once had someone come into my room and think I was praying.
posted by emjaybee at 9:21 AM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have, on more than one occasion, walked a mile out of my way cause I was at a really good part of a book and didn't want to put it down just yet.
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never actually run into anything while doing that. I have, however, ended up in locations other than wherever I was heading.

(and generally it's not worth the effort, unless it's a *really* good chapter)
posted by HFSH at 9:23 AM on June 9, 2012


I've always read while walking. In elementary school I could finish half of a new book from the library on the walk back to my classroom.

Maybe this is why I have no trouble texting and walking. Peripheral vision - it's a good thing!
posted by olinerd at 9:24 AM on June 9, 2012


I've started walking while reading my Nook.
posted by drezdn at 9:30 AM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also do this all the time -- I've never bumped into anything, and I force myself to look up at any intersection, no matter how small. I love seeing other people doing it, too, and I always crane my neck to see what they're reading.
posted by cider at 9:40 AM on June 9, 2012


I can't really get behind the idea of short bursts of opportunistic word-cramming followed by attentive (to reality) digestion of the material. My technique is to pick some poor soul who's walking about as fast as I like to move and pace them, slipstreaming through other foot traffic in their wake, hoping they're headed where I'm headed or for a while at least.
posted by carsonb at 9:45 AM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here are a couple of readwalkers from Underground NY Public Library

"A Clash of Kings," by George R.R. Martin


"Devil's Gate," by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown

posted by kryptos at 9:48 AM on June 9, 2012


I've never actually run into anything while doing that.

I suspect you're just making every other person get out of your way and haven't noticed.
posted by Mezentian at 9:53 AM on June 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why would I need a guide to do what has come naturally ever since the age of 7. That was in a different century, children.
posted by infini at 9:53 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Consider the way the media paints our current society, we should just be happy that people are doing something active period.
posted by Fizz at 10:01 AM on June 9, 2012


Okay, his technique in the article is just abysmal. Memorization is a fool's gambit. Here's what you do:

1) Book in one hand, thumb to turn pages. This leaves your other hand free for balance and/or breaking falls.

2) Hold the book up high, like it's a lantern on a Call of Cthulhu adventure module cover.

3) Use peripheral vision to watch around the edges of the book, at the sides and down at your feet.

4) Slow your pace to at least half of your normal rate. This accommodates your reduced advance warning of things like streets and so on.

With proper training, your eyes will be drawn to any movement or mismatch of color (which could indicate uneven ground or obstacles. Bam. Pay attention to the book and just keep the rest of your systems online to scan for anomalies.
posted by Scattercat at 10:10 AM on June 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Been there, done that, got the occasional bump and near death experience paying a little too much attention to my book, not enough to the rest of the world.

If only the weather got better, then I could consistently walk home from the station, which is basically a straight line -- quick trip to the ferry, five minutes reading time on the open water, then fifteen minutes at a measured pace walking home.

Managed to walk into a lamppost while reading on a school trip in Barcelona. Didn't live that one down the rest of the year.

You haven't lived until you've read while cycling. Admittedly, in a bike-unfriendly country, you might not live *long*.

Beaten by a friend of mine who has admitted to watching movies on his laptop while biking to and from work.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:33 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that this has never really occurred to me as a serious option because of the danger of injury... to the book. I take a reasonable amount of care not to break the spine of a book as it is. So the potential for a walking-based accident to result in bending, tearing or scuffing just seems too great.

I know the real value lies in the words on the page, rather than the pages themselves or the cover that binds them but still, damaging books is just wrong.
posted by MUD at 10:36 AM on June 9, 2012


Soon anytime, anywhere!
posted by sammyo at 10:39 AM on June 9, 2012


I probably started reading while walking the streets in Tokyo half a century ago; I have read while walking down crowded sidewalks in Buenos Aires, New Haven, and New York City (never bumping into a soul), and one of the reasons I was proud to be a citizen of that latter metropolis is that I would occasionally pass other people also reading while they walked. Don't try to take my book out of my hand. (And yeah, "Audio book + MP3 player" is a bad idea.)
posted by languagehat at 10:45 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do this too, always have.

What's funny to me is that when I opened this thread I expected it to be full of vitriolic attacks on Grossman. Tourists from Chicago who don't pay attention to the people around them while walking in New York get pilloried here, but I guess it's OK if you're staring at a paperback instead of the Empire State Building?
posted by escabeche at 11:27 AM on June 9, 2012


I can sympathize when I see people walking alone without reading at the same time. Maybe they're even clumsier than me, or maybe they have inferior peripheral vision, or maybe they don't know their current route... there could be any number of legitimate explanations for why so many other people are acting so strange.

What I just don't get is people who ride public transit alone without reading at the same time. I do an otherwise inconvenient park-and-ride commute specifically because I prefer 20 minutes of driving plus 20 of reading over 30 minutes of driving. But other than students analyzing textbooks, the other passengers are not talking to anyone, not checking maps to figure out what stop to get off at, just staring out into space or maybe listening to music. I want to take a public survey: "You may have only twenty million minutes of consciousness left! What are you doing wasting twenty of them!?!"
posted by roystgnr at 11:44 AM on June 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I was little and getting dragged around by my mom to do errands after school, I would bring a book and read in her wake. Since she is a reader herself, she didn't mind me trailing her around the supermarket like that, but her rule was that I had to look up if we were crossing a street or going through a parking lot. This always annoyed me intensely. If she had decided it was safe to cross the street, or walk through the parking lot at that particular moment, why wasn't it safe for me to just follow her? Or, in other words, I have the survival instincts of a hamster, because the imperative in my brain to Finish the Page totally overwhelms the Don't Die imperative whenever the two come into conflict.
posted by colfax at 11:54 AM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


"You may have only twenty million minutes of consciousness left! What are you doing wasting twenty of them!?!"

They might be thinking, an activity which can often be effectively avoided by means of reading.
posted by escabeche at 11:55 AM on June 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Being really tall helps the visual-field-around-the-book contain useful information, as does not living in a big city, as does having sidewalks. The physicality of the book is important, too. My mind wanders when reading and walking, and with audio it's a lot harder to notice when you've checked out, and so I end up spending a lot of time rewinding thirty seconds and being paranoid about getting blindsided in an intersection.

It is possible to read and not force other pedestrians to part in waves around you, and it's an excellent excuse to not notice someone waving at you. A joy on weekends.
posted by Earthtopus at 12:01 PM on June 9, 2012


I suspect you're just making every other person get out of your way and haven't noticed.

I can confirm that walk-readers are doing this and not noticing, having been not noticed many times as I alter my course to avoid disturbing them.
posted by Aquaman at 1:09 PM on June 9, 2012


They might be thinking, an activity which can often be effectively avoided by means of reading.
As I mentioned, I do often see people engaged in particularly difficult thinking, and naturally these people use (text)books to help, because nobody who wants to think efficiently would try to start from scratch. Reading doesn't avoid thinking, it just adds someone else's thoughts to your own. When the accumulated, tested, and filtered thoughts of generations are accessible for a couple bucks, why avoid them?

Granted, to some extent everyone needs to think some of their own personal thoughts because everyone's personal problems are slightly different, and everyone ought to think some of their own thoughts about more universal problems on the off chance of generating a unique insight... but that would explain why 20% of the world wasn't reading at any given time, not why 95% wasn't.
posted by roystgnr at 2:13 PM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I walked about 5000 miles last year. I would have loved to be able to read while doing so. Sadly, I don't have that talent.
posted by 3200 at 4:47 PM on June 9, 2012


Joining the reading while cycling club, here. I'd hold one book, read the other. I've always been surprised people think reading while walking is some sort of difficult feat.

I stopped the riding when I ran into a car, mind. But I have no regrets.
posted by solarion at 7:13 PM on June 9, 2012


I've been reading while walking a d getting harrassed for it my whole life! The key is to read with the bottoms of your eyes and lookout with the tops of your eyes.
posted by windykites at 8:15 PM on June 9, 2012


Been doing this since I was a kid (say, ummmmm, 37 more years than I am happy to admit to). Never have had a single soul say bad things to me.

People do, however, think it's weird when you are doing it with a netbook though.

Like I do.
posted by Samizdata at 9:38 PM on June 9, 2012


I had a really easy walk to and from school in elementary school (not that long ago, graduated HS in 2002). It was almost exactly 1 mile each way, almost no street crossings or drive ways. I really enjoyed the extra 34 minutes a day I got to read with no other responsibilities.
posted by Drumhellz at 11:56 PM on June 9, 2012


Tourists from Chicago ... staring ...the Empire State Building?

They're probably thinking, 'aww, look at that! New Yorkers have a cute widdle skyscraper. Good for them.'
posted by Ghidorah at 4:43 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


roystgnr > You may have only twenty million minutes of consciousness left! What are you doing wasting twenty of them!?!
roystgnr > Reading doesn't avoid thinking, it just adds someone else's thoughts to your own. When the accumulated, tested, and filtered thoughts of generations are accessible for a couple bucks, why avoid them?

I kinda... stopped reading so much... around the age of 35 or so. Part of it was due to having my personal library destroyed by a hurricane, admittedly. But I was slowing down anyway. I kinda feel like after reading voraciously since before I was even in kindergarten, I'm... full. There's still stuff worth reading out there, but man, I got a lot of other people's accumulated thoughts up inside me already. I don't need more. I need to process some of this stuff.

Plus, I need to think about the graphic novels I'm working on.
posted by egypturnash at 11:43 AM on June 10, 2012


I'm always dumbfounded by the people I see walking around while reading their iPad. It seems like a very expensive mistake waiting to happen.
posted by stopgap at 6:23 AM on June 11, 2012


Reminds me of a smartphone app, Megareader, that lets you use your camera display as the page background, turning your page into a digital transparency so you can see where you're walking. (Haven't tried it myself though -- my heart still belongs to Stanza).
posted by Rhaomi at 1:24 AM on June 24, 2012


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