March 7, 2009 @ 9:32 pm | Filed under: Books
I enjoyed this post (three years old now) by Andrew Wheeler of the Hornswaggler blog: How to Read a Book a Day. I don’t read anywhere near as many books as Andrew does—but then again I don’t have a subway ride to and from work. I consider it a major accomplishment if I manage to read a book a week. (Not counting picture books and read-alouds.) Sure, I’ve been on a bit of a reading jag lately, but I’ve had dry spells in the past few years during which it seemed like I could barely get through a book a month. Sometimes it seems I simply lose the habit of reading.
Or (this was certainly the case last fall in the months leading up to the election) there are periods when all my reading time goes to information-gathering, reading blogs, magazines, journals, articles. Other times, I’ve gone on topical nonfiction binges: education theory, or cooking (oh yes, just because I don’t like to cook doesn’t mean I don’t relish a delectable cookbook now and then), or sewing and the needle arts. Last September and October I felt like I was doing little besides reading, but none of it was the sort of thing you keep track of in a nice, neat booklist, that satisfying record of what you fed your brain this month.
(My stars, how I do love a booklist.)
Anyhoo. Andrew Wheeler mentions several habits he has cultivated to assist his rather stunning goal of reading (or at least finishing) a book a day:
—has more than one book going at once, some heavier, some lighter (yup, I do that too)
—keeps a book by the computer to pick up while waiting for pages to load, etc. (but then when would I Twitter?)
—reads while waiting in line (wouldn’t work for me as I’m never waiting in line alone: but I do tote books to read to kids if we get stuck waiting somewhere)
—keeps lots of enticing books around so there’s never a shortage of choices (I’ve got that one down pat)
—doesn’t watch a lot of TV
—makes a point to have dedicated reading time in his daily routine. Susan Wise Bauer urges the same habit in The Well Educated Mind. Makes sense.
I’ll say, though, that at this season of my life, with a houseful of kids both big and little, I just can’t count on having a set time of day devoted to reading for myself. (As opposed to reading to kids, or prereading books for the kids, or reading books to discuss with the kids.) What I have to do is jump on the opportunities when they arise. And that means strewing for myself, making sure I can always reach out and grab something to read when I sit down to nurse the baby, for example. If I take a book down to our patio room, where all the little ones’ puzzles and trains are, I can usually squeeze in a chapter while they play.
I don’t read much at night because unlike Andrew, Scott and I do watch a fair amount of TV—one to two hours a night, I’d say. We watch LOST, Battlestar Galactica (not for much longer, sob!), House, Heroes (though what a disappointment it is this season), The Office, and 30 Rock. And often we’ll watch a Daily Show episode we DVRd the night before. Other nights we put in a movie, but it usually takes us two nights to finish a film because I crash halfway through. Scott reads in bed at night but I only pretend to. He takes the book off my face when I start snoring.
I can often sneak in a chapter or two early in the morning, though, before anyone else is awake—especially if I download a book on the iPod, as I mentioned the other day. I recently read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother that way. I’m still plugging away at my DailyLit installments of Ulysses, too; I find I really enjoy waking up my brain with that tiny chunk of lush and inscrutable prose. I’m not saying I’m understanding all of it, but it’s good exercise.
My favorite part of Andrew’s post is this bit:
And what makes the whole thing go, of course, is guilt. You have to look at those towering stacks of books and desperately want to get through all of them, right now.
Ain’t that the truth. Sometimes as I walk through this house—all the walls are lined with bookshelves, even in the hallway—I feel almost tormented by the desire to read all those lovely, beckoning books. All the ones we own that I haven’t read yet. All the ones we own that I’ve read repeatedly because they’re so darn good. All the ones.
Sometimes I’ll think: that’s it. No new books are coming through this door until I’ve read everything we own. And then I’ll die laughing because that is crazy talk. For starters, there’s that book I’ve had on hold at the library for weeks that is finally ready for pickup. And that review copy that just arrived in the mail. And the book I put on preorder and forgot all about. And the present from a friend. And the book Jane borrowed from her friend—gosh, that one looks terrific. And that other one I’ve read three blog reviews of in the past month, and look! An Amazon gift certificate! Really, I have no choice!
Oh, books, books, books, my darlings, my hamburgers. (A little literary humor for the Paul Zindel fans out there.)
A few of the titles filling me with that sweet guilt and longing this week:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (that’s the one Jane borrowed from her friends)
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (Mental Multivitamin loved it; Sarah didn’t)
River of Gods by Ian McDonald (library reserve that just came in)
A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould’s Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano by Katie Hafner (Scott’s library choice which I shall steal because it looks fascinating)
And on and on and on…had I but brain enough and time.