“I was really lazy and promiscuous about my book reading”

November 10, 2011 @ 10:13 am | Filed under:

I completely, utterly identify with this:

I imposed these restrictions on my reading about two years ago and it’s had the most fantastic results. Unfortunately it requires some discipline.  My self-imposed reading rule was: only one book at a time.  Take the book with you everywhere, christen it – it’s the book you are currently reading.  Stick with it until the end.  Read at least an hour a day, then and only then can you move onto magazines and other reading material.  This might sound sort of silly, these self-imposed rules, but it had dramatic results. You see, I was really lazy and promiscuous about my book reading. I would read a third of this book, lose it in the house, and then move onto a third of another book. It never added up to anything and I wasn’t finishing anything.

(from Julia Sweeney’s October books-and-movies recap)

I am in the middle of a ridiculous number of books right now. And by “right now,” I mean “at all times.” Cybils judging has helped me focus: I’m reading AND FINISHING several books a week (but I need to step up that pace in a hurry). This is one reason I like participating in the Cybil Awards, and why I always prefer the nominations round of judging: I work best under deadline pressure, and it means I absolutely HAVE TO read a whole bunch of books.

Speaking of which, I fell head over heels in love with Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory. I’ll write a proper post about it, but don’t wait for that—go put it on hold at your library. You won’t be sorry.

    Related Posts


11 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Susan T. says:

    Lissa! I am so with you on Drawing from Memory. I can’t believe it’s not turning up on the Best of the Year lists so far.

  2. sarah says:

    Oh, I don’t know how I could bear reading just one book at a time. Unless it is a book which completely absorbs me, like Hunger Games has been doing lately. I shall go to my library website right now and order in Drawing From Memory.

  3. MFS says:

    Yes! I *totally* relate to this. In my October reading life review, I wrote:

    “Yes, I’ve been serial-dating my books again — taking a number too great to be called decent out for a burger and fries, a movie, a kiss at the door even, and then not calling.

    Ah, well. There are worse things. Sign me, An unapologetically promiscuous reader. Heh, heh, heh.”


    Note the “unapologetically” part, though. I’m not sure I’m interested in reforming this aspect of my reading life.


  4. Melanie B says:

    Oh dear that’s me all right. I used to be a one book at a time kind of reader but these days I am terribly promiscuous. Not am I sure I want to change at least not enough.

    We’ve been loving Allen Say recently. We have the one about the little boy and the crane out now. I think it’s called The Boy and the Garden but I might be misremembering the title. Looks like another to add to our list.

  5. Mamalion says:

    We LOVE Allen Say. I haunt Half Price Books, trying to get all his books in hardback. I think our favorite is Grandfather’s Journey.

  6. Lesley Austin says:

    Hmmmm….those rules are pretty much the way I have always read, but to me they actually seem rather lazy. To read several books at once or leave some unread would mean exertion to me, my head would spin and I would feel so scattered! It is my magazines and non-fiction books that often languish, as the call of my current story is always so strong!

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    Melissa—I *knew* Julie Sweeney’s remark reminded me of something! Hee.

    Until recently I have been content to be a wanton where books are concerned. But lately I seems to be starting more and finishing less, or finishing m-o-n-t-h-s later. Am suffering reader’s guilt over my casual dalliance with Blackout, which deserves better from me. And I have two books at my bedside right now which must go back to the library next week, cannot be renewed, and required months of library-queue waiting before I could get my hands on them in the first place. I—simply—must—finish.

    (THE WILDER LIFE and READY PLAYER ONE, for the curious…)

  8. Ellie says:

    I think it depends on the season of life one is in, really. I’ve got several books going right now: weighty non-fiction that I’m reading to flesh out my knowledge of the topics I’m teaching my children, novels I’m reading to and with and alongside the children, novels I’m reading for my own self. Some of these I might only read a third of, and that’s okay. Some I might let go on purpose because they simply aren’t worth my time to finish. That’s okay. It can actually work better for me — in terms of absorbing the material as well as in terms of getting through all of the books — to go from one to the other, here and there over the course of the day or week. And then there are the books that I dip into bit by bit over the course of months. These are books that tend to be more on the spiritual side of the book stack and reading them all in one gulp isn’t necessarily the best way to immerse in them. Literacy is such a glorious luxury, such a gift! Finishing for the sake of finishing hasn’t ever made much sense to me, I suppose. Books are such an individual odyssey, they carry an incredible weight in terms of potential acquisition of knowledge. I like that we can be flexible with it: what makes your heart sing?: The few chapters that cling for years, or the full book you forced your way through, and that’s all you remember about it?

    I shall now stop rambling! 🙂

  9. Melissa Wiley says:

    Ellie, lovely! It’s the books I *want* to finish but don’t that make me feel guilty. I no longer feel remorse for abandoning something that isn’t suiting—there are simply too many books left to read.

    What’s funny is I generally feel MUCH guiltier about unfinished library books than purchased ones. If I own them, it’s clearly a case of “not finished YET.” If I must return them, oh the agony! 😉

  10. PrairiePoppins says:

    I try to keep things to two books, actually just like I try to keep to two knitting projects.

    In knitting, it’s one that needs focus and one that can be done during TV or conversations.

    In reading, it’s one that can be read at bedtime (so sleepy by 10 that nothing heavy can hold me) and one that is heavier. Note that if I’m not reading something heavy I don’t need the bedtime book at all and so read just one book at a time.

    My real life is too full of competing ideas and attention-grabbers. The last thing my brain needs is a scattered mental landscape, too!

  11. Hannah @ Lovely Woods says:

    Allen Say is such a joy. I’m off to Amazon to see what kind of a book this is — for children? Adults?

    Of course, the promiscuous book reading completely resonates. Of course.