A few weeks ago, I posted on this site about my annual reading plan, which usually guides ¼ to 1/3 of the 100 (or so) books I read each year. As often happens when I talk about my reading plan, several people asked, “How do you read so much?”
After all, I keep fairly busy as a husband, father, grandfather, writer, speaker, literary agent, and man-about-town. So how do I manage to read a book or two a week?
- 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. This year, I’m using Tyndale’s Mosaic Bible and my own The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional.
- 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. Regularly (see what I did there?). The current volume is one I’m rereading: Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology.
- 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 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).
- I “read” while driving. I admit, in the past I sometimes actually read a printed book while driving … but only on the expressway. My wife vehemently disapproved of that practice, so nowadays my “reading” in the car is via audiobooks on my iPhone via my Audible, ChristianAudio, or Hoopla apps. In this way, I “read” about a dozen audiobooks a year.
- I often listen to audiobooks while walking or exercising, particularly in Spring and Summer and early Fall (and also while cooking, doing the dishes, and shopping). I choose these books (like those I listen to in the car) fairly intentionally, making sure they’re not books in which I would want to underline or make notes. So, mostly fiction, biographies, and memoirs.
- 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.
- I watch very little television. The lovely Robin and I watch a few shows together online or on the DVR, but I almost never watch television shows alone. I’d usually rather be reading.
- I absorb Shakespeare’s plays. In addition to attending Shakespeare in the Park performances, several times a year 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 I 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 library.
- I retreat. I take an annual prayer retreat (sometimes even twice a year), 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.
- 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, even with my reading plan. 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.