Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What are you reading right now?

I have never been someone who could read multiple books at the same time. I need to read one book, then another, then another. I have a friend who always has two or three books going at the same time. How does she do this? I only have a limited amount of time in my day to read, if any, and I like to finish books quickly, for the sense of accomplishment, at the least. If I were reading three books at one time, I don’t think I’d ever finish any of them.

This same friend of mine says when she can’t think of anything to read, she goes for the thickest book she can find at the bookstore. I’m more your slim volume type. Then again, two of the last four books I’ve read this year have been more than 600 pages each. And the one I’m reading now has more than 750 pages. Even though I often enjoy a thick book, I frequently look at it as a chore, as something else to do.

You need to make time in your life to read. And reading a thick book takes time. I always hear mothers say they can’t remember the last time they had enough time to read a whole book, yet they always seem to be up on the bestsellers as well as anyone I know. How do these people find all this time to read? They must not be writing all day.

In the past two weeks I haven’t picked up a book, mostly because I was writing something substantial against a deadline. Now there is a teetering, tottering pile of books next to my bed that I’ve been meaning to read and I can’t make a commitment to any of them. They are, in no particular order:

  • The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown
  • Salem Falls, by Jodi Picoult
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion
  • The latest Rand McNally Road Atlas
  • Let The Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
  • Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, by Susan Jeffers
  • Real Time Marketing & PR, by David Meerman Scott
  • The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
  • The latest issue of Poets & Writers magazine

So what did I finally choose when I was done with my big writing project? None of the above. I went for Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer (I know, I know). Someone got me reading the series, and now I feel like I have to finish it - I only have this one book left to go. Otherwise it will feel like reading a really really long book and stopping three quarters of the way through. I have been hassled for reading this series the whole way through, but you know what? It’s easy reading. It’s comfortable. I can take on a 750-page book like that because in the limited amount of time I give myself to read each day, I can still finish this book in a week.

I’ve always taken umbrage with people who pass judgment on what others read. I’m happy that the person next to me on the beach is reading at all, regardless of the book’s intellectual level. Reading improves your vocabulary, your spelling and your general knowledge of the world. And if you read what you think you should be reading instead of what you enjoy, reading will become a chore and you will eventually stop doing it.

So I’ll get through that whole wobbly pile of books next to my bed, in time. But right now, I’m rewarding myself for a writing job well done - reading a book I know I’ll get through fast and will probably enjoy - no matter what anybody else thinks of it. After all, no matter what book it is:

Reading is fundamental!


Joe Hesch said...

As you know, Jane, I'm your under-reading colleague. But I just finished Elmer Kelton's "The Day the Cowboys Quit" which was quite good. And now I intend to (finally) finish off "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel.

Mason said...

Keith Richard's Life by the downstairs "reading chair" and three mysteries at the bedside table. Along with Conversion with the Dead. Just finished new Tim Dorsey, which I wished went on forever.

And I too have just finished one of Spotty's ( )and have one on deck.

So this old house still, even in this generation, has half read books everywhere and someone always asking "Where is my book?"