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The Sunday Salon: Remembering to Read

by Kim on September 6, 2009 · 21 comments

The Sunday Salon.comI wasn’t sure what to write about for Sunday Salon today because my reading life has felt pretty stagnant this week. But then @thebrainlair tweeted a blog post from Jim Burke at The English Teacher’s Companion called Remember to Read which gave me some inspiration. The post is about why English teachers need to make time to read, even when their class obligations make it seem impossible. Burke writes,

But not reading every day — and I do not mean to equate reading with vitamins or apples! — is like not watering the plants in my garden regularly and expecting them to remain healthy or even flourish. If we do not read — a poem here, some portion of a book or article there–we will find ourselves drying out and beginning to resent our work, our kids, our life — all that prevents us from doing what we love, from being ourselves.

I feel like this particular piece of advice is not just applicable to English teachers — it applies to just about all students who wonder how they’ll find the time for personal reading outside their reading and writing obligations as a student. (I know people who aren’t students struggle with this too, but I’m a student so that’s the context I’m thinking in right now.)

I’ve been thinking about this balance — school life and personal life — most of the weekend because I started classes last week. This semester is going to be very reading intensive, which makes me worry about the time and energy I’ll have for personal reading. But Burke’s post inspired me  — he included a whole list of tips and tricks he uses to find time to read in order to make reading for pleasure a habit of daily life (which I encourage you to go read!).

random-familyI already implement some of his suggestions. For example, I always carry a book with me when I’m out so I can sneak in a few pages before class or while standing in line. And I try to read a chapter or two of a book for fun before I go to sleep. Right now I’m in the middle of Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. I’ve always had an inconsistent habit of reading before bed, but now that reading time is scarce it’s much more important.

Another way I’ve been squeezing in some extra reading time is by reading aloud with Boyfriend. The idea started when we were driving home from a wedding last month. We couldn’t find a radio station and didn’t have an audio book, so I ended up reading Bonk by Mary Roach out loud in the car. We both really liked this, so we’ve been making time to read a chapter at a time when we have a few minutes.

We’re almost done and have started looking for our next book. I’m pushing for The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Sacks, a memoir on living with schizophrenia. He’s leaning towards Out of Our Heads by Alva Noe, a nonfiction book about the biology of consciousness.  Once we finish Bonk, I think we’ll just take a vote to pick our next book.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this week, reading in small doses and trying to get my head back into school mode. I’ve got a post in draft about my books for this semester, plus some thoughts on book reviewing (via Weekly Geeks) and a review of Say Everything by Scott Rosenberg on tap for this week, so stay tuned!

How do you squeeze reading into your schedule? What’s your best tip for making reading a habit when it feels like there’s no time? Or for students, how do you balance work and pleasure reading without burning yourself out?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Teresa September 6, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Good topic! And it’s equally applicable to me because as an editor I read for a living, so it’s possible to feel burned out by the written word. Several weeks ago, I actually had a woman ask me at lunch why I was reading at lunchtime when I’ve been reading all day at my desk. (“How can you stand all that reading?” were, I believe, her exact words.) Ummm… it’s reading for fun, and I don’t have to correct anything. Also, wouldn’t you think that someone who got into editing would be someone who likes to read? But that’s a different conversation…

I like your ideas for getting in more reading time. For me, the biggest thing has been turning off the TV. Almost all my TV viewing is via Netflix these days, and I’m not missing it much at all.

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Kim September 7, 2009 at 10:16 am

Teresa: No kidding, being an editor would be almost as daunting! I pretty much stopped watching tv when I moved to Madison. I have a few Thursday night shows I watch and do a lot of tv on DVD, but that’s about it. Not watching tv does free up a lot of time for reading!

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Kay September 6, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Personally, I have the bus and subway to thank for! That’s how I balance my reading: I do a lot of my non-school reading on my way to school or home. This way, I spend almost two hours a day reading. I know that reading in transportation makes come people feel carsick though, but I’m lucky it usually doesn’t!

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Kim September 7, 2009 at 10:19 am

Kay: That’s a nice way to do it! I end up walking to and from campus most days, so no time for bus reading. I should get some audio books to fill that time though. I don’t usually get car sick reading, thank goodness. That would be genuinely awful.

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Kathy September 6, 2009 at 3:00 pm

I need to send this to my son – he just told me the other day that he won’t be doing any reading for please this semester since he’s taking Literature and Film, Chaucer and Speculative Fiction.

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Kim September 7, 2009 at 10:20 am

Kathy: He should make time to read, even a little bit. Chaucer is, well, not exactly fun. Literature and Film sounds like it could be awesome, as does Speculative Fiction. You’re making me nostalgic for my English major days as an undergrad!

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Jennifer September 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I too have trouble finding time to read for pleasure in the midst of my heavy reading load from school. My savior is making time before bed. Even if it’s only a chapter, it gets me out of my school zone and into my happy place. I also read in the morning when I have some extra time. I’ve found doing something, ANYTHING, in the morning makes me more productive throughout the entire day!

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Kim September 7, 2009 at 10:21 am

Jennifer: Yes, reading before bed is a great time. I love settling in with a book and reading until I start to doze off. I usually spend the morning doing blog reading and random computer things, but reading a couple chapters of a book might be a good habit to get into.

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Lisa September 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Great topic! I’ve been known to read at red lights just to get in a couple more pages.

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Kim September 7, 2009 at 10:21 am

Lisa: That’s funny! I have never thought do read at red lights :)

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Anastasia September 6, 2009 at 6:08 pm

I’ve been known before to neglect school reading for pleasure reading, but I’m trying not to do that this semester. :D So, what I’ve worked out is: every morning on my commute to campus I read a pleasure book; throughout the day if I have some extra time (slow day at work or five minutes before class starts), I read a bit of my pleasure book; the commute home is for class reading if I need it, pleasure reading if I don’t; after I’ve done a chapter or two of class reading at home, I read a few pages of the pleasure book. Weekends are normally just for pleasure reading but my profs are being really mean and stacking on the reading for the upcoming week and so I have to do some of that if I don’t want to fall behind. :(

(“pleasure book” makes is sound slightly naughty, but really it’s all YA fantasy at the moment.)

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Kim September 7, 2009 at 10:24 am

Anastasia: My reading for this semester is stacking up quickly, that is for sure. Both of the syllabi I’ve seen have a ton of journal articles and chapters which are not easy reading. I like your strategy though, sounds like you’ll have time for all those naughty YA fantasy books ;)

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Memory September 6, 2009 at 7:39 pm

I also carry my current read around with me. I read whenever I have a bit of spare time: on the bus to and from work, on my breaks, when I’m in a long line, when I’m waiting for someone to arrive at a meeting place… just about anywhere, really. When I was in school, I used to read before my classes, too. I got through a lot of books that way.

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Kim September 7, 2009 at 10:25 am

Memory: I’ve always got a book with me, although now that I have to have so many school books I’m starting to make small, paperback books a priority for pleasure reading :) The fit in my purse better!

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Jenny September 6, 2009 at 9:43 pm

I carry books around with me everywhere – but it’s not hard for me to remember to read, because I get wicked bad headaches if I go a few days without doing any leisure reading. So I have to find time. (Very often at the expense of sleep.)

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Kim September 7, 2009 at 10:26 am

Jenny: That’s interesting; I have never heard of anyone who gets headaches from not reading. I tend to get them from reading too much.

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Susannah September 7, 2009 at 1:40 pm

My pleasure reading… well, I hope I speak for many when I say it’s in the bathroom. I’ve been living in smaller apartments for a while now, both with a partner and without, so I find private time/space where I can. It’s a nice place of solitude where I know I won’t be bothered, and I like to get up in the morning and read myself awake before I have to really start my day. I keep a lot of old New Yorkers in there, or pleasure reading books (those that I know won’t be hurt by an occasional splash from the sink!).

I may have confessed this before, but when the last Harry Potter came out, my then-boyfriend and I were in the UP for a wedding, and every time I had to go to the bathroom or get a breather from the dance floor (it was in a tent), I’d sneak back to the car and plow through a chapter :)

Since I’ve been going through some classics (the LM Montgomery that I hadn’t read yet, for example) I actually enjoyed using the Stanza app on my iPhone. I’ve carried books around in my purse before, but getting them on my iPhone (while certainly not the regular book experience, or even that of a Kindle) actually made me look forward to my all-too-brief commute.

Also, I’d love to see another post on reading aloud to each other. Now that Jamie’s here, we really value our late evenings (he’s got a weird schedule and comes home after 10), so it would be wonderful to come up with some more stuff that is amenable to reading just before bed. Something with nice chapter divisions, easy language and nothing too deep or scary (watch those dreams!). If I find anything good, I’ll share :)

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Kim September 8, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I like the idea of reading in the bathroom, but my current bathroom is so small I feel closed in when I’m there. It’s not a great place for reading!

I think reading on an iPhone would be sort of cool, actually, if I had one. It would be nice to not have to worry about whether a big book was going to be too heavy or something. Someday I’ll move into the world of fancy-schmancy internet cell phone.

I’ll work on a post about the reading aloud thing soon. Boyfriend is not a big reader, but it turns out he doesn’t mind being read to, and since I don’t mind reading aloud it’s worked well for us. So far we’ve just read Bonk, so I don’t know if I have good recommendations just yet. Maybe after we try a second book :)

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Susannah September 9, 2009 at 10:07 am

Addendum: we just celebrated our anniversary, and one of the gifts he gave me was a copy of All Creatures Great and Small, which he said was for reading to me. (Aww.) I was then browsing around the Web looking for additional recs and found this thread:
http://ask.metafilter.com/104159/Scheherazade-you-are

Maybe you can get some more ideas from that!

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Kim September 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm

That sounds like fun Susannah! That’s a good list too, I like it. For now we’re sticking with nonfiction because the chapters work well to divide things up and it doesn’t depend, generally, on remembering everything you read last time to get what’s happening now. That’s good for books that you read in spread out times.

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Beth September 17, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Elyn Saks is amazing. The Center Cannot Hold is a must read! Enjoy :)

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