Distracted Reading

Distracted reading is a hot topic lately but I’d been ignoring everything I saw in the media, telling myself that’s not me, I’m fine.  But then I realized that it totally IS me. I’m just not reading on pace with what I used to read and I’m either cancelling holds that Libby sends me (sorry, friend of my heart, dear Libby) or suspending them for a week or two which just feels like I am delaying the inevitable truth that I’m not going to read that book – ever.  All of the ‘coolest’ books are passing me by because I am now one of the distracted readers.

It takes a particularly gripping book to hold my attention right now and even when I hold a book in my hands, I find that I’m reading the words but not retaining the content at all – all of those articles are right!  Three chapters in and I am thinking – wait, why did the character move to London from that small town?  Is her name Marissa?  I thought her name was Melissa.  Ugh, go back and read those chapters again, I guess.  What’s a fan of reading for pleasure or using books to avoid all of those house chores to do?

I have turned to my old friends – glossy magazines.  And it is so much fun, especially because there is a new level of entertainment in reading the latest issues.  I like to see how the editor has adjusted the content to reflect what Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani call living in “the weirds”, their term for quarantine living (their podcast is a mix of pop culture, silly chat and reflection on staying indoors, with great guests).  Give yourself the soothing balm of an hour with them any time you can.  You could listen to them while you read one of these great magazines available to you through RBdigital on our Digital Library.

Country Living is a magazine that can always be counted on to deliver an absolutely charming mix of decorating suggestions, ideas for displaying an alarming number of quirky collectibles, and recipes that actually seem possible to complete.  They open each issue with a needlepoint ‘sampler’ that takes the place of their table of contents and it always delivers something that I want to rush to read, an Instagram account @countrylivingmag that is so pretty I will look at it more than once, a few product suggestions, and something cheerful.

For June Country Living has included a peaceful feature on decorating with hydrangea patterns, three pages about ways to add more rainbows to your life (yes!) and so many berry-filled recipes that you could try a new one each week.  Their photographs don’t look drastically changed from what they might have done before Covid-19 as they did keep an article about getting together to watch the 4th of July parade in the Catskills but maybe they were feeling optimistic?  Maybe readers will be willing to look the other way on this decision when they see the kids sitting at a mini picnic table with a red and white gingham tablecloth – there is a toddler wearing Mary Janes and a red bow in her hair, would you have been able to cut that photo?

An absolute highlight of the June issue is the choice of cover photo and tagline.  One person stands alone in a pristine kitchen with white cabinets, gleaming black and white tiled floor, and bare feet (as one does in the kitchen) with two lovely chickens just casually hanging out.  The words above the title of the magazine are, “All cooped up?”  Love that.

One popular Canadian magazine doesn’t seem to have made many changes with their June issue is Canadian Living.  The features that they highlight on their cover could have easily come from an issue in 2019 or even ten years earlier.  They are big fans of rhubarb, strawberries, using the barbecue, and s’mores.  All sure to please and likely reasons that Canadian Living has been around since 1975.  Sure, sure.  Recipes and features that are solid and consistent in a pleasant magazine format, good stuff.  And maybe it’s not that easy to make changes to content that is produced many months in advance.

The Canadian Living web content is a little more current.  They recently featured a recipe for the perfect Negroni cocktail, inspired by actor Stanley Tucci, I’m sure.  The editors of Canadian Living did sprinkle little tastes of inspiration about resilience and staying strong throughout the pages (and that s’more recipe does look tempting), but their adjusted content was limited to mentioning connecting with fathers through video chat and online games.  They might have gone to the trouble of wrangling a few chickens?

Wired magazine is chock a block full of fabulous writing every month, with content from many perspectives.  Their May issue continues this tradition but they have painted many small articles and sidebars with a Covid-19 brush.  Actually, if you are avoiding material with that focus this issue will be a trigger for you, even if the material they are providing is truly wonderful to read.  Their feature-length reporting is superb and wonderfully distracting this month so maybe skip ahead to that?

Wired’s editor-in-chief writes about technology, running, and his relationship with his father and an article about an almost-extinct porpoise had me rushing to tell everyone in the house all about it.  Images in Wired don’t need too much updating for these times as they are usually limited to photographs of the people or technology that they are featuring and their covers generally have vibrant pictures of an individual or issue.  The cover this month has a Brady Bunch-style grouping of people with the words “All together now” in the centre.  They have captured this moment in time in a colourful way, making that emotional punch a little easier to take.  Their whole May issue is a wonderful effort in achieving that balance.

Some magazine editors don’t need to make many adjustments to their articles or cover right now.  Cook’s Illustrated is perfection at any time of the year and their May-June issue features a simple metal basket with eggs in colours that would make Martha Stewart’s chickens proud.  The cover promises a guide to the ultimate yeast doughnuts and all-purpose chicken breasts which seem like two things we all could enjoy – one versatile item and a desert that can be eaten seconds after it comes out of the oil or glazed in so many ways (they include a recipe for raspberry glaze, yes they do).  This is a periodical which is dense with satisfying content and so, so good.

Less useful but lots of fun, is the May issue of Architectural Digest.  You can always savour this magazine – cover to cover – but this issue features the almost impossible to describe 50,000 square foot home of Drake.  Drake!  Pour yourself something hot or cold and settle in for a few moments of wonder.  We’ve seen some of this home online and in Drake’s videos but reading the descriptions in print borders on something from a novel – “seating upholstered in in diamond-tufted shearling with polished nickel studs” and “materials that ranged from ostrich skin and mohair to macassar and bronze”.  Their editor’s letter addresses the fact that the AD team planned this issue months ahead and had to complete it at a distance but it really is a pleasure to have Drake’s mansion to ponder while we are spending so much time inside our own diamond-tufted-free homes.  The timing could not be better for a spectacle like this to have appeared on their pages.

Magazines allow for the thrill of browsing, from an article about the latest in entertainment industry gossip (I absolutely love Variety, available weekly through Press Reader, also on WPL’s Digital Library) to a detailed road test of the 2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 in Car and Driver.  They are perfectly designed for these distracted times because the longest articles are, at most, eight pages long and the journalists who write for these publications are experts at crafting a story that keeps you engaged.  They are skilled at making every word count.  You are sure to find many wonderful things to read in magazine form, limited only by the clicking of your mouse.  You might not be able to forget what is going on in the world but you will surely be able to set aside concerns over whether or not the laundry gets done for an hour or two and that always feels good.  Distracted reading at its best!

— Penny M.