One of my resolutions is to “read more.”
Reading is essential to my work. It's an important part to my social life. And far more important, reading is my favorite thing to do, by a long shot. I’m not a well-rounded person.
A friend once told me, “My idea of a good weekend day is when I’m outside with my kids for two hours before lunch and two hours after lunch.” I answered, “My idea of a good weekend day is when we all lie around reading in our pajamas until the mid-afternoon.”
But reading takes time, and there aren’t many days when I can loll around with a book for hours. Here are some tips for getting more reading done.
1. Quit reading. I used to pride myself on finishing every book I started. No more. Life is short.
2. Use TiVO. It’s amazing how much more efficient it is to watch TV shows on TiVO. You skip the commercials and control when you watch.
3. Skim. Especially when reading newspapers and magazines, often I get as much from skimming as I do by a leisurely reading. And I skip almost all stories about crime or celebrities (though I must confess I read every word written about the Brooke Astor scandal).
4. Read books you enjoy. When I’m reading a book I love—for example, I just re-read Muriel Spark’s brilliant The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie—I’m astonished by how much time I find to read during my day. Which is another reason to stop reading a book I dislike.
5. Get calm. I have a sticky note posted in our bedroom that says, “Quiet mind.” It’s sometimes hard for me to settle down with a book; I keep wanting to jump up and take care of some nagging task. But that’s no way to read.
6. Any book is better than no book. Sometimes I feel like I should be reading one book when I actually feel like reading something entirely different. Say, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s T. Tembarom instead of Kahneman, Diener, and Schwartz’s Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology. But now I let myself read what I want, within reason, because otherwise I end up reading much less.
7. Limit time spent watching televised sports. Reclaim some of these hours.
8. Always have something to read. Never go anywhere empty-handed.
9. Maintain a big stack. I find that I read much more when I have a pile waiting for me.
And here are some thoughts on readings from a few great readers from the past:
Randall Jarrell: “Read at whim! Read at whim!”
Henry David Thoreau: “Read the best books first, otherwise you’ll find you do not have time.”
Samuel Johnson: “What we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read.”
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