How to Support a Book Habit, Part 1

12/14/2010: I have a system

If you pay any attention at all to the list of books scrolling down the right-hand column of this blog, you're aware that I like to read. 

I like to read a lot.

For some reason, this fact seems to make people curious. The top three questions that people generally ask about my reading habits are as follows:

  • How do you decide what to read?
  • How do find so much time to read?
  • How can you afford it?

Since I've already covered How to Choose a Book in a previous post, I'll spend the next few posts focusing on the other two questions. 

How to Find Time to Read:

1. Decide that reading is worth the investment.

When people hear that I like to read, they invariably trot out the excuse that they just "don't have time" to read. While I'm appreciative of the busyness of life (especially the busyness of full-time parents. Seriously, all respect in the world to you people!), I also know that no matter how busy we are, we invariably invest time in what we think is important. While most of us work very hard, we're not machines: we generally build time into our days for things that are important. If we believe that reading is important, then we'll build reading time into our schedules.

And reading is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that recent studies link reading to increased cognitive function in old age and a decrease in symptoms of dementia.

2. Don't feel the need to lose sleep over a book.

Have I lost sleep over books in the past? You bet your Harry Potter boxed set. It's how I made it through graduate school. 

Will I do it again? Probably. 

But being a reader doesn't necessarily mean staying up all night to devour an entire book. In all honesty, my current schedule (which involves, among other absurdities, getting up at 4:40am) requires that it's generally lights out on or before 9:00pm. 

These days I couldn't stay up reading all night if I tried.

3. Stop seeing the issue as either/or.

In discussing reading habits with my high school students, I've learned quickly that their primary assumption is that since I like to read, reading must be all I do, ever. They also assume that I instantly hate all TV shows and movies because they're not books, and that really all I do after work is to rush home and collapse with a book.

Bless their little hearts.

For one, at the very least I have to keep up with housework and laundry.

But seriously. 

I'm a heavy reader, sure. But I'm also active in my church and community, a contributor to the local fine arts scene, a member of a busy social group, and an all-around participant in travel of all kinds. My pop culture knowledge may be a bit spotty, but I have TV shows that I keep up with and movies that I adore. 

Being a lover of books does not limit my interactions with the world. If anything, it enriches them.

4. Read what you can, when you can.

Find the holes in your schedule and plug them with words.  If there aren't any holes, make some. 

If you can't make time to get through a book, fine. Keep magazines and blog posts on hand to fill whatever time you find. Load articles on your smart phone and read them when you're locked in your bathroom for Mid-morning Mommy Time. 

Whatever it takes.

Granted, as a single adult who lives alone, I'm pretty much able to order my off hours as I choose, meaning that I can make time every afternoon and/or evening to read. Because my brain needs multiple functions simultaneously in order to feel comfortable, reading helps get me through mundane single-function activities such as eating, drying my hair, washing dishes, or folding laundry. (I've just learned to be very careful how I prop the books.) 

In addition, I'll admit that I can read rather quickly without straining comprehension. This fact alone goes a long way toward explaining to people how I find so much time to read. Yes, I do make more time to read than your average adult, but I also read quite quickly.  

So there's that. 

But since reading quickly doesn't necessarily improve the value of a reading experience, it's definitely best to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. 

* * *

The truth is that for those of us who are already supporting a book habit, finding time to read isn't necessarily the issue. For us, it's getting through the rest of life that can sometimes pose a challenge -- especially when we've been forced to put down a gripping story and go to work just as the plot is reaching a turning point. 

That's the worst. Literally the worst. If you think cancer or world hunger or the energy crisis or the whole Detroit bankruptcy issue is actually the worst, then you've never been ripped away from Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore just as Clay is about to have his epiphany. 

Because if you had, then you would get it.

You would begin to understand the emotional cost of supporting a book habit.

* * *

Next, we will handle how to deal with the actual financial toll of supporting a book habit in "How to Support a Book Habit, Part 2."


  1. "If you think cancer or world hunger or the energy crisis or the whole Detroit bankruptcy issue is actually the worst, then you've never been ripped away from Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore just as Clay is about to have his epiphany."

    I get it. I really do.

  2. This is one of the hardest things about being a parent! Post college and pre-kiddos, I was averaging four or five books a week. Now days, unless my son's Dr. Seuss books count, I read about one a week and half the time it's young adult fiction. I guess it's better than nothing!


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