Monday, April 23, 2007

"I don't have time to read."

I don't get that. Admittedly, I read obsessively; even so, it befuddles me that so many people say to me (often after hearing I'm a librarian, or that I'm a writer), "I love books, but I just don't have time to read." They sigh wistfully, as though reading involved taking several days off from work and making complicated childcare arrangements. Really, it's just not that hard!

I guess it has to do with being committed. Reading, for me, is and always has been a way of life. I always have a book with me (two if I'm toward the end of one, just to avoid that terrible feeling of book panic), and when the opportunity presents itself, I read. I read in waiting rooms, on buses, in the kiss-and-ride line at my children's school, during meals (if I'm alone), you name it. These same people can, of course, tell me what happened last week during 24 and Lost, and American Idol (none of which, at the risk of scandalizing whoever reads this, I have ever actually seen). Not that I hate television or anything -- I just have better things to do. Like play with my kids, read to my kids, hang out with my husband, cook, write, knit, walk the dog...

Maybe people just don't find the right books for themselves. I give a book maybe 50 pages, and if we haven't clicked by then, I'm finished. There are too many great books out there for me to waste my time struggling through one I can't get into. When I'm in the middle of a good book, I can actually carry on conversations with other people (although I have no idea I'm doing this at the time) and tune out just about anything (and I often got in trouble for this as a child, having no recollection whatsoever that I'd promised to clean up my room or do the dishes). I've been reading and missed my bus stop, subway stop, and train station. If it's a good book, I'm in that world, and that's that. Maybe these wistful non-readers haven't had the chance to find the books that really grab them. They have struggled with too many dull books and have just given up. That's a depressing thought.

At any rate, I was thinking about these things today when I was having lunch (good food and a good book - my favorite!), and all around me were people eating alone, just staring off into space, clearly not enjoying themselves very much. That brought to mind people I see on the subway, just sitting there looking tired and bored. Why don't these people grab a book? Try something new? I want to carry books around and distribute them to people. I guess that's why I like Bookcrossing so much. I leave lots of books on public transportation, but usually I never find out what happens to them.


  1. I was just LOOKING at the title of your post and I realised I DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO READ! *smile* You've got it completely spot on and indeed it is about commitment! Btw, you've missed out one of the better places to grab some read...erm...the toilet...there's I've said it! I'll be back again soon for another nice read.

  2. You're absolutely right! My mother used to spend ages in there with a book because it was the only place my grandmother wouldn't hound her to stop reading and get to work on her chores! My bad. :-)

  3. I LOVE this post - I agree with you Darla, I think its a lot about priorities. While in school, I purposely don't pick up non-school books because I know I'll get sucked in and there will go two-three hours I should have been studying.
    But its funny about wasting time, I have to ride the bus back and forth from the medical campus (where I live) to main campus (where I study) and I find that is a great time to read the Washington Post, catching up on whats going on in the world. I hate just sitting around, staring into space.

  4. Thanks, VA Gal! I simply do not GET the staring in space thing! Sometimes what I do to make sure I get my boring class reading done is I make sure the only thing I have with me is the textbook, and then I take a long public transportation ride. It positively makes whatever I'm reading fascinating. Unlike being at home with all those tempting other books beckoning to me!

  5. as usual i kept rambling. because my thoughts meander. so i posted a response in my blog.

  6. OMG - Darla I do the EXACT same thing - I have this project management class where the reading can be a bit tedious, so on some of my bus rides, I only bring that book - knowing I'll be forced to read it. How weird is that - we do the same thing?!

    Great minds think alike!
    ps - lets point fingers and mock Molly, hee hee - just kidding.

  7. Point, mock, tee hee!

  8. I, too, read obsessively. Which is why sometimes I have to force myself NOT to start a book, because everything else will suffer. I can't read a few pages here and a few pages there. I generally read a book start-to-finish or as close as possible to that scenario, staying up till way past my bedtime in order to finish, "forgetting" to start dinner, that sort of thing.

    And in defense of the eat-alone-starers, I will say that I enjoy eating alone, and I like the quiet and to simply ENJOY my food. I like to focus on the smell and taste and textures of my food and I find if I read while eating, soon I'm done eating and haven't tasted a thing! I like food too much to do that!

    BTW, nice blog.

  9. Thanks, sonnjea! I know, it is so very un-zenlike of me to enjoy reading and eating so much. All I can say is that for some bizarre reason, a good book makes food taste better to me - kind of like the right glass of wine with my meal!

    I hear what you mean about not starting a book. Sometimes I need to do the same thing, especially if it's a new one out by a favorite author, and there's a lot going on in my life. It will be as if I've had a lobotomy (to those around me) until I've finished it.

    Btw your dog is adorable. :-)

  10. Forgive the comment on an old post, Darla.

    I was just thinking about how often I say that I don't have time to read. I say it a lot. LOL Of course, when it comes down to it, unlike those who use it as an excuse not to read, I do read. Quite a bit in fact. My definition of not having time to read is much different than the person you reference in your blog obviously. :-)

    When people ask me how I find the time to read, I always tell them that I make the time. When you enjoy doing something so much, you find a way to fit it in. I may not have children, but I do work full-time at a job where I rarely can read even during breaks and lunches. I have a house and a husband. Animals to care for. It's not like I don't have a life outside of the books. I certainly do. And yet I still have time to read. :-)

  11. I love comments on old posts, Literary Feline! You are right - it's definitely a question of commitment and priorities, isn't it?

    I often read when I should be doing the laundry, or watering the plants, or sleeping. That's one way of fitting it in! :-)

  12. I agree 100% If they have time to sit around, watch television, or this and that, they have time to read.


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