Booksluts Summer Safety PSA: Reading Safety

10 July 2014 by 28 Comments

Reading Safety Warning image by Susie Rodarme

As you may or may not know, I’m a member of the U.S. Air Force, so I am constantly getting reminded of how to do a wide variety of activities more safely.  Seriously. Anything from grilling to snorkeling to using a scanner–I’ve heard the safety brief.  The sad thing is that we wouldn’t get these briefings if people didn’t hurt themselves in stupid ways. Since Uncle Sam really cares about protecting me, I get a weekly safety brief, and since I really care about protecting you, our readers, I want to remind you to please read safely.

Now I know what you’re thinking: How is reading dangerous?! When you think of dangerous activities, reading is probably not high on your list of things that could get you injured or killed.  However, there are some risks, so I am here to raise your awareness and provide you with lifesaving tips.

Wear proper safety equipment for reading.  
What?! Safety equipment?!  Yes. Wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for reading.  Protect your eyes from strain by using a light and wearing glasses if appropriate.  If you are reading outdoors, be sure to wear sunscreen. This is no joke, people! SPF 30 or greater is recommended to prevent sunburn and even potential skin cancer.  Consider wearing gloves to protect yourself from paper cuts, especially if you are reading an illustrated book that is printed on heavy paper.  You probably won’t die from a paper cut, but they really suck, and when you get one, you’ll kick yourself and wish you had listened.

Get enough sleep.
When reading a good book, it is often difficult to stop for anything, and it’s especially difficult to sleep. Many of us are tempted to pull all-nighters reading.  But consider what you will have to do the next day.  If you will be operating vehicles or heavy machinery, be sure to get the appropriate amount of sleep (6-8 hours) so you can do so safely.  If you can’t get proper sleep due to reading, it is recommended that you call in sick to work. This has the added benefit of allowing you to stay home and read.  Your life (or your book) is more important than a paycheck.
Let's face it: We've all done this.
Put your book down and eat.
When reading, we are often swept away into a fictional world while our bodies are meanwhile wasting away without nourishment.  Without proper nutrition, you will face serious health risks such as scurvy, decreased immunity, and starvation.  The temptation will be to grab convenience food such as a bag of chips or a candy bar and continue reading.  There are two reasons not to do this: The first is that spilled or dropped food could damage your book and you may be unable to use it for future reading. Second, typical snack foods don’t contain the proper amounts of nutrition that your body needs.  For the best health benefits, you should eat a well-balanced meal that includes fresh fruits and vegetables. Then go back to reading.

Get some exercise!
Sitting in your chair hunched over a book for hours at a time will cause noticeable strain and discomfort for your body.  It is recommended that at the very least, stand up and stretch every twenty minutes to restore proper circulation and ensure that all extremities and organs are receiving the right amount of oxygen and nutrients.  While stretching is good during reading, for the best health benefits, do regular aerobic exercise such as swimming, jogging or walking briskly.  It is not recommended that you read normal books while performing these activities (unless you are on a treadmill or an elliptical), but then again, that’s what audiobooks are for.

Drink plenty of water.
No safety brief would be complete if you weren’t told to properly hydrate.  It will help you regulate body temperature during the hibernatory process that often results from reading. It will also help with stretching, as you will have to stand up from your chair more often when the need to pee arises.  Check your urine to make sure it is a light yellow color. Darker urine means you are not properly hydrated. Always be sure to have a water bottle on hand when reading.

Don’t read and drive!
Distracted driving kills.  Don’t read while driving. Period.  (Exception: Read the road signs. They might actually save your life.) If you really can’t stand to be away from your story while you’re on the road, then listen to audiobooks.
I usually think of Britney as one of the best examples of what not to do in my life.
That’s it for now.  I’m sure you didn’t think reading could have so many risks, so I’m glad I could increase awareness and potentially save lives.  The floor is now open for discussion: Can you think of any other reading risks?  What can we do to prevent them?  Leave us a comment!


Divorcé, proud father of four, blogger, black coffee drinker, ukulele enthusiast, and Tech Sergeant in the United States Air Force

28 thoughts on “Booksluts Summer Safety PSA: Reading Safety

  1. I would add, when commuting, don’t read over other passengers’ shoulders. This can be potentially hazardous, especially if you’ve already read the book and can’t help shouting things like “Oooh! You’ll love the next page, it’s where they discover she’s really THE DAUGHTER OF THE EVIL MILLIONAIRE–!” I’m not speaking from personal experience, of course.

      • Bahahahaha INDEED.

        This makes me think of a few lines from “My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors” by Moxy Früvous:

        “So I got myself on the streetcar and it drove right into someone.”
        “The driver said: ‘I was looking straight ahead!’ but he was reading the Toronto Sun…”

    • Great point! And to that added warning I would add another warning — don’t criticize other people’s reading choices. In person, you risk evil glares at best, and physical injury at worst. Online is even worse, as you risk permanent shame (b/c as we all know, what happens on the internet stays on the internet. Forever), loss of potential fans if you yourself are an author, and also physical injury from readers angry enough to hunt you down.

  2. This is great. Hahaha!

    I would also add putting the book down for ten minutes and taking the time to shower. Personal hygiene is always important.

    (Funny, while reading this I was also reminded of my gamer days. I quit gaming because I finally decided that eating, showering, and sleeping were more important. Heh.)

    • Yeah, I definitely had to quit gaming because my world would fall apart around me. I had two toddlers and I worked nights while my at-the-time-wife worked days. I would get up with them and do the morning routine–change diapers, feed everyone breakfast, find them an activity–no problems. Then I would start playing games and time would pass in a blur. At what felt like it should be lunch time, I would check and find that it was actually late in the afternoon, time for me to get ready for work, and time for my wife to get home. The kids would have dirty diapers and have destroyed the house. After a few weeks of the same pattern, I finally admitted I had a problem and stopped. Living by myself again, I occasionally go on Civ 5 binges, if I have a day off and nothing that needs to get done.

  3. This is real, people. I have a scar on my left wrist from dropping a book while reading in bed. I lost my grip while trying to turn the page and the corner of the hardcover book sliced me on the way down. And I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve fallen asleep while reading and dropped my Kindle on my face.

  4. Make sure when you’re reading in bed that the book you’re reading isn’t too heavy. If you fall asleep with the book lying on your chest, you may have trouble breathing. This will probably just be mildly annoying for regular folks, but if you have respiratory issues it actually becomes a legit concern. (One of the reasons I enjoy e-Readers is because you can have the biggest, heaviest book in the world loaded onto it but you never have to deal with the weight)

    • I hadn’t thought about that one. Come to think of it, I’m kind of a thrasher when it comes to sleeping, so I would probably tear up my book if I fell asleep with it on me. So there’s that, too. :)

  5. No one wants to talk about the hazards of living with other readers. Second-Hand Reading Rage is a real thing. There is always the risk that the person with whom you are reading will morph from a placid reader into a book-flinging rage-monster when the author of the book in question does something supremely stupid. When reading with another, wear a helmet at all times.

    • This is especially true if you live with a rage-reader like me — some sensible people actually stop reading when the book sucks, but I just keep reading for the hatefest, and there have been occasions when I have thrown the same book across the room multiple times.

      Additionally, asking reasonably “Why don’t you just stop reading it if you hate it so much?” may result in damage or injury.

  6. I love how the tone was tongue-in-cheek but it’s actually kind of seriously an issue, because people will actually drive while reading, for instance. Some of the others I can definitely relate to, but audiobooks are probably a good call.

    • When we get these safety briefings, usually the briefers make jokes or are sarcastic because many of the things we’re told to do for safety are just common sense, but a lot of them are actually problems. Like I said, if people didn’t get hurt in stupid ways, we wouldn’t need so many safety briefings.

  7. Particularly when reading fantasy or sci-fi, remind yourself occasionally that it is fiction — there are no giant killer dragons attacking your city. There aren’t any sparkly vegetarian vampires waiting to fall in love with you and turn you immortal. You cannot actually fly by “throwing yourself at the ground and missing.” Remembering such things will help prevent:

    1) undue anxiety during particularly intense/frightening scenes;
    2) depression caused by the failure of real life to conform to fantasy standards; and
    3) serious injury or death from attempts to apply fictional world rules to real life.

    • I second Pamela’s comment and add that periodically looking up from the book you are reading as you are walking can prevent serious injury. If you don’t, you might find yourself unintentionally doing a somersault over a concrete bench with book in hand. Trust me…I’d know.

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