Reclaiming the Reading Hour: Please Quit Netflix and Go Read a Book

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We’re wasting too many evenings binge watching TV, when we could be enriching our lives with a good book! Why not quit Netflix and get back into reading? I’m right there with you.

Cozy Christmas lights and bed with open book and coffee mug

Reading Books Instead of Watching TV

Is it just me, or have we become a culture of TV binge watchers? By “TV” I mean those ubiquitous subscription sites: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO, and whatever else.

The rise of streaming services and a new Golden Age of TV have given us a glut of show options. There’s constant chatter online and in real life about the latest show people are into. And there are so many “latest shows” to be into that our watch lists are endless. To make headway on them you practically have to binge watch!

But here’s the funny thing: this overkill of options has actually got me burned out.

There’s just so many shows beckoning for my time investment that I want to go the opposite route and not invest in any! It’s too hard to keep tabs on all the popular series. Too much work to sift through the hype and pick a show I’ll actually like. (Because although prestige TV has given us better storytelling and production values, it’s also served up darker content–more violence, sex, and general edginess.)

Sometimes you get a sense of accomplishment from finishing a series. On the flip side, it’s a little stressful to have an “open” series. You feel like you have to finish it. But then there are so many series that don’t hook you, and you end up bouncing around with time frittered away here and there.

Again, there’s just too much out there. Too many shows I could watch. “Should” watch.

Actually, I know I’m not the only one thinking along these lines. I’ve talked to others of my generation or older who are feeling the same thing: they’ve given up on trying to keep up with it all. We could potentially spend hours and hours and hours of our lives working through these TV shows.

Many of us are waking up to the fact that we don’t want to.

Remote control pointed at TV screen with Netflix logo

Swapping TV Time for Reading Time

While we’re feeling discontent with the confusing array of options and the prospective hours they require, the next step is to ask the question: “What could we be doing with that time instead?”

Take the hit show Breaking Bad, for instance. If I wanted to catch up on that cultural phenomenon I’d have to spend 62 hours of my life. By contrast, in that amount of time I could instead read ALL of Jane Austen’s completed novels…AND still have time to tackle The Aeneid. Oh, and Moby Dick. (Thanks to howlongotreadthis.com for providing this fascinating calculation.)

When I think about it like this, suddenly I’m not so sure I want to spend days–years–of my life watching a show. I’d rather be reading.

Yes, TV shows can also give us powerful, beautiful stories. But TV has rarely changed me, sculpted my imagination, or enriched my life on the profound level that books have.

Missing the magic that books brought to my life, I’ve reconditioned myself to be a bookworm over the last few years. It’s a state I’d slipped out of beginning in college and in the new adult years just after.

You see, I’ve realised that I can’t call myself a bookworm without devoting chunks of time to reading for pleasure.

Ditch Netflix and Reclaim Your Evenings for Reading!

So when does one find time to read, when you’re busy (as all adults are)?

For most of us, the answer comes every 24 hours: In the evenings.

Evenings are the old-fashioned, timeless, cozy hours for setting aside the day’s work and living our “other lives” in books. Sure, we might have a stray half hour to read earlier in the day–at a doctor’s appointment, at the playground, after Sunday lunch–but the most reliable and substantial reading time comes around when the sun begins to set.

Cozy scene with book open on someone's lap, with tea pot and mug

This time won’t work for every adult’s schedule, but I’d say for most of us, if we want to be real readers again we need to take back our evenings.

Enough with Netflix already. And enough with scrolling Facebook and Instagram, if that’s more your vice.

Get back to reading. You won’t regret it!

Something fascinating happens when you take back your evenings and begin reading again. You will lose a great deal of interest in all those shows that used to feel so compelling. Reading–even a “tough” book–will seem just as relaxing as vegging in front of a screen. I think this must be because we humans gain an interest in the things that become our habit.

Also, your reading list won’t be as daunting. It’s not going to take you months–or even weeks–to finish a novel. So there’s not so much riding on your choice of what book to read next!

The Literary Medicine Cabinet eBook Cover - gold letters and bookshelf illustration on navy blue backgroundFor a lovely, short eBook on reading as a form of self care, check out The Literary Medicine Cabinet by Haley Stewart. She includes some excellent reading suggestions and lists, too!

Buy Now

Give TV Time a “Container”

Don’t want to give up TV entirely? Me neither. My husband and I still enjoy a few shows and look forward to when new seasons are released. And we love heading to the library to find a good movie for the nights we get takeout. The key is that we don’t make screentime our default for the evening.

Contain your TV time to a couple of nights a week. As your evenings develop a new rhythm, you’ll enjoy the simplicity and coziness of curling up with a good book. And for the nights when you do watch TV, you’ll find that they suddenly feel more “special,” too. You might even be inspired to make popcorn and actually savor the one or two episodes you watch.

Bye-bye bingeing.

What’s your opinion on reading vs watching Netflix? Have you ever slipped into watching too much TV? What spurred you to return to reading instead of TV or social media?

Other posts you might enjoy:

Plus, check out all the book lists here for LOTS of reading inspiration!

I also enjoyed this post by someone who cancelled his Netflix account entirely. The comments are interesting, too!

Reclaiming the Reading Hour: Please Quit Netflix and Go Read a Book
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6 Comments

  1. It is so easy to fall into the trap of binge-watching TV. My dad adored ER when I was growing up and I’ve recently fallen in love with it myself, I can watch it for 3 or 4 hours without even thinking about it because it’s as engrossing as a book and just as well-written as some of them too.

    1. Yes, there are definitely some talented writers in the TV world! And I have good memories of watching shows, too, some of them “inherited” from family members who watched them, too. It’s good to give TV a spot, just not let it consume so much of our leisure time.

  2. I really enjoyed this post. I feel the same way- overwhelmed by the options of tv shows and the sheer amount of time it would take to “catch up” or “get through” an entire show. I feel like my attention span is so much shorter now than it was when I was younger, and unfortunately, sometimes reading is an exercise in self-discipline. However, I have found if I will start reading and cut out the distractions, after about 10-15 minutes, I usually can fall into the nice, easy rhythm of reading again. But, oh how those first 10-15 minutes can be a struggle!

    1. Thank you! Yep, the struggle is real. It’s especially hard to stay focused when you’re just starting a new book…at least it is for me. I try to begin a new book when I know I have enough reading time to get about 3 chapters deep. It usually takes about that much to get me hooked and then it’s so much easier to dive in the next night!

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