Somehow I managed to read 55 books in 2011, completing my GoodReads reading challenge. Yay! Of course, I have at least 55 books I DIDN’T get to, but I’ll save those for 2012.
I’m sometimes asked how — and when — I managed to read that much with novel revisions and edits, freelance work, and a preschooler. I know a lot of parents who can barely sit down and read a magazine article, let alone a novel. A relative of mine recently bemoaned the fact that with two little ones under the age of four, she hasn’t read a book since the first was born.
My answer? Reading is a total priority for me, right up there with writing. It feeds my soul. It continually teaches me new things about my own writing. There are days when I’d rather read than eat, and often I multitask and do both at once.
I read late at night — I love my nook for this purpose. I read in the car. No, not while driving, but while waiting in the school parking lot to pick up my son. I don’t do audiobooks because I don’t seem to have the attention span to listen to books read aloud; my mind wanders (and besides, my son has taken control of all electronic devices in car and house; I’m lucky if I can hear one weather report). If I’m alone, I read while waiting in line. I read in waiting rooms. I always have a book or two on hand. My late grandmother taught me that habit; she was never without a book in a little brown paper bag, tucked inside her purse.
I read in the predawn light, a few pages before diving in to my own work. I read in the evenings while my husband occasionally watches sports; the noise in the background fades away as soon as I open a book. (That’s another secret to finding time — I don’t follow any sports at all. Which is why I’m never invited to Superbowl parties I guess).
OK, here’s my big secret to finding — or making — time to read. Ready?
I do not watch TV.
Well, not much, anyway. I watch exactly two shows with my husband. One is The Amazing Race (we’re addicts and vicarious travelers) and it has blessedly short seasons, so it’s an intermittent Sunday evening addiction. The other is a lovely British comedy/drama called Doc Martin, which features the talented Martin Clunes as a small-town doctor with poor social skills and a phobia of blood; it’s riveting and well-written, and each episode makes me feel like I’ve read a satisfying short story.
And that, my friends, is all.
I know I have a cultural void. I can’t participate in many water cooler conversations. (If I even had a water cooler to converse at; I’m self-employed). I’ve missed the whole Friday Night Lights phenomenon. I never saw one episode of Lost. I enjoyed some episodes of Mad Men but couldn’t get sucked in to a huge ongoing drama as I knew it would eat into my reading time. It beckoned to me, but I resisted the siren songs of the compelling characters and lush filming style. I cancelled my Netflix trial subscription and turned back to novels.
Following TV shows can add up to a lot of hours. The one time I gorged on TV was when I was nursing my infant son and couldn’t physically hold a book. I logged enough TV hours for a part-time job. I saw some great shows, but almost would rather have had the part-time job — or more reading time.
I know there is great writing in American and British television these days, but if I have to make choices, I’m going to choose books. When I’m old and in some nursing home and my eyesight is failing, maybe I’ll kick back and catch up on the shows I’ve missed over the years.
Incidentally, I know of people who read 100+ books a year. And blog about them, and write up thoughtful reviews on GoodReads. And they keep up with TV shows. And see movies to boot. (Did I mention I don’t watch many movies these days either?) I don’t know how they do it, but my hat’s off to them. I’m guessing they give up something else. We are surrounded by so many options for entertainment these days; everyone has to make choices.
When do you find, make, scavenge, or borrow time to read? What have you relinquished in order to make room for books?