I am asked often, “How do you read so much?” These days, I read more than 100 books a year (including at least a half-dozen or so of Shakespeare’s plays).
And I don’t read nearly as much as I want to. I’m constantly anxious to get back to this book or that, frequently aware that (as my bumper sticker would say if I had one), “I’d Rather Be Reading.”
Still, as a busy husband, father, grandfather, and occasional writer, how do I read more than a book a week?
1. I pray. Daily. Actually, twice daily most of the time. And usually those times of prayer involve reading. So once or twice a day, I’m reading from (of course) the Bible and one (or two) other books. Currently I am using the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible and my own The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional.
2. I read in the bathroom. In addition to a varied assortment of magazines (Sunset, Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, etc.) in our first-floor lavatory, I keep a book in the rack. This is how I read several volumes of poetry a year. The current volume: Gary Snyder’s 1975 Pulitzer winner, Turtle Island.
3. I keep a book with me at all times. My wife, the lovely Robin, once expressed righteous indignation because I left the house for one of our weekly date nights with a book under my arm. “Am I such bad company,” she said, “that you need to bring a book?” I tried to explain that, no, she is sparkling, scintillating, captivating company….but that one just never knows when one might have the chance to read a page or two. She wasn’t convinced, but I still have a book with me at all times (and, as a happy and proud iPhone/iPad user, it is even easier than it used to be, using iBooks and Kindle apps).
4. I “read” while driving. I admit, there have been times in the past when I actually read a printed book while driving…but only on the expressway. But my wife disapproved that practice as well, so nowadays my “reading” in the car is via audiobooks….books on CD or on my iPhone (usually on my Audible or ChristianAudio apps). I also listen to audiobooks while mowing the lawn, which takes about two hours a week during the growing season. In this way, I “read” about a dozen audiobooks a year. Currently, I am enjoying the ChristianAudio version of The Brothers Karamazov.
5. I often read while walking, particularly in Spring and Summer and early Fall, listening to an audiobook. I choose these books (like those I listen to in the car) fairly intentionally, making sure they’re not books I would want to underline or make notes in. So, mostly fiction and biographies.
6. I read while waiting in line, while eating, while waiting for someone to show up, at the doctor’s office, at the airport, etc. I even read while waiting in line to buy a book. There are hundreds of opportunities in a given week when I can steal enough time to read a page…or two…or more.
7. I watch very little television. The lovely Robin and I DVR a few shows to watch together, but I never watch television shows alone. I’d usually rather be reading.
8. I absorb Shakespeare’s plays. In addition to subscribing to the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and attending Shakespeare in the Park performances, several times a month I watch one of Shakespeare’s plays with the text open on my lap. I love seeing how different producers and directors adapt plays, and will often pause the presentation to ponder or find my place in the text. An amazing array of Shakespeare plays are available online (via Youtube or the Globe Player, for example), on library DVDs, etc. I also have a healthy collection in my iTunes.
9. I retreat. I take an annual prayer retreat (sometimes more than annual), during which I talk to almost no one but God, and listen to him…primarily through the reading of his Word and other books that foster “interior conversation” with God.
10. I read on vacation. The ideal vacation for me involves a lot of time to read. In a hammock with a cup of coffee in hand. On a porch with a cup of coffee in hand. On the balcony of a cruise ship with a cup of coffee in hand. In a coffee shop with a cup of coffee in hand. You get the idea. (In fact, one of the things I love to do is connect my reading thematically with the place. So, on my first ever visit to the Black Hills I read Loren Estleman’s Sudden Country, set in that part of the country. On a cruise, I read Charles Nordhoff’s Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy. On a California vacation, during which the lovely Robin and I enjoyed a memorable drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from northern to southern California, I read Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, which visits and revisits much of that coastline.
That mostly covers it, I think. My reading is more a way of life than a program (though I do plan much of my reading; see here). I just can’t satisfy my hunger for reading. For books. For words. For the experience of turning a page in anticipation, reading a line of prose or poetry repeatedly because it’s so striking or beautiful or apt, turning a book over in my hands or closing it with gratitude. It’s one of life’s simple–and best–pleasures.
Matter of fact, gotta go. I hear a book calling my name right now.