Midweek @ Musings: The “How do you do what you do?” post

The other day, my friend Jeff left this comment on my Sunday Salon post:

These will probably come as a silly questions but:
1 – I’m assuming you are a fast reader – how did you learn to read so fast and how can I learn to read faster? Practice doesn’t seem to be the answer I’ve always been a painfully slow reader.
2- What does an avg day look like in terms if your reading schedule? How do you fit this in and around the rest of your life’s demands?

I was unable to respond to the comment right away, and then found myself thinking about Jeff”s questions on and off all day.  They aren’t silly questions at all!  Jeff really got me thinking about reading in general, and my growth as a reader in particular.   And I decided to respond to Jeff’s comment with a full-blown post.  This is probably waaaay more than he wanted to know; I hope it doesn’t scare him off commenting forever!

I suppose I read faster than average, but it’s not something I’m conscious of.  I started reading in kindergarten, and grew up surrounded by books.  My mom read all the time; once I reached my teens, I did, too.  I’ve been an avid reader for well over 30 years.  My theory is that my reading speed gradually increased, and it might be simply because I’ve read a lot for a very long time!

Reading is my primary hobby.  Oh yes, I have a fitness routine, I like to garden, and I enjoy activities with my family.  But these days I spend most of my free time reading, and I am never without a book.  When my kids were small I read a lot less.  But when my youngest was about 6, and the two could play together independently, suddenly time opened up again.  I do most of my reading in the evening, instead of watching television.  I have more time to read on weekends, and because I’m always the first one up, I often take advantage of the quiet time.  I also bring a book with me to work — if I don’t have any other lunch plans, I read.  And if I have to wait somewhere, like for a doctor’s appointment, I read.

I also have to mention the impact the internet and social media have had on my reading.  Once upon a time, I decided what to read based on the New York Times Bestseller List and Oprah’s Book Club.  But about five years ago I began discovering internet-based book communities.  I joined a couple Yahoo reading groups, which led me to blogging and to LibraryThing.  These social contacts serve as a powerful “recommendation engines.”  I’ve discovered books and authors I would never have found on my own.  Each new discovery leads to another, and I’ve quickly realized there’s no end to the great literature in this world.  There’s no doubt these internet communities have made me a more voracious reader.

I truly believe you make time for the things you enjoy and the things that are important to you.  That said, I often find myself thinking about balance.  Sometimes it’s all too easy to hide my nose in a book and avoid other things I “should” be doing.  If those other things involve housework, I don’t feel so guilty.  But if I’m reading instead of doing things that would strengthen my relationships with my husband and daughters, well that’s a problem.

Back to my friend Jeff.  I know something about him that the rest of you don’t.  Jeff is a very outdoorsy guy with a strong sense of adventure.  I’m in awe of his ability to do things I could never imagine doing.  How does he do what he does?  How can he backpack all by himself in the wilderness for four weeks, when I would find a day hike strenuous?  I bet it’s because 1) he’s done that sort of thing all his life, and 2) he loves it and can’t imagine not doing it.  And Jeff also works hard to strike the right balance between his outdoor pursuits and his lovely family.  Hmmm … seems we all have passions and talents that make us feel whole.

Now I’ll open it up to others.  How do you do what you do?

14 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: The “How do you do what you do?” post

  1. Love this sentence: “Once upon a time, I decided what to read based on the New York Times Bestseller List and Oprah’s Book Club.” That’s how I used to pick books too.

    I often get this question, especially with my kids still young. Like you, I don’t watch much TV. And lately, I’ve made a rule to be off the computer and into a “reading position” by 9pm. This gives me a solid hour or more to read every night. It’s a great way to unwind.

    Some people knit; some people build model airplanes; some people watch sports; some of us read. That’s what makes the world go ’round! =)

    • Jill, I like the idea of being off the computer and in a reading position (she says, as she types on the computer while wondering why she’s not reading right now …)

    • Jackie, now that you mention it, “library appeal” was also one of my criteria. Nowadays I hardly ever browse the library shelves. Instead I request a book online, and it’s usually one from another branch. My choices would be much more limited if our local branch was my only source.

  2. Like you, I come from a family of readers. Our house always had piles of books everywhere and I was encouraged to read anything and everything, without being censored. My eyesight has slowed down my reading, and sometimes brain processing is involved so you go for the fluffier stuff, but I can’t imagine my life without books in it.

    Rather than detract from my reading, the internet has expanded it enormously, with everything from online book groups to access to ordering.

    I still love to knit and create things, so it’s all about balance.

    • Tui, I agree about the internet. It can detract if you allow it to take up too much of your time (the balance thing), but it has opened up such vistas, I can’t imagine how we managed without it!

  3. I only read on the train these days – 40 mins max each day, unless I am really into a book and I might make time before bed to read.

    I am so busy with work and extracurricular activities that I am never in of an evening to read, and I do miss spending hours reading as I used to do when I was at school and university. Whenever I get an inpromptu day off I always spend it sprawled on the sofa with a book!

    My English Literature degree taught me to speed read, so I do read very quickly. It rarely takes me longer than a week to read a book unless it’s excessively long. People often comment on the speediness of my reading and wonder whether I miss details, but I don’t. Sometimes if a passage is particularly complicated or beautiful I will have to read it several times to let it sink in, but most of the time I can assimilate what I’m reading in one quick scan of the page!

    I like to savour books rather than race through them and I don’t see reading as a competition like I sometimes feel other bloggers do – I only read 50 or so books a year and that’s fine with me. I have a busy life and unfortunately reading for pleasure can’t always be a priority.

    Before blogging I read a lot of classics and ‘proper’ literature – I have branched out from this and have enjoyed reading about other genres and authors I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise, particularly Virago and Persephone types. I’ve never been into reading prize winning lists or latest releases, and so blogs that only feature the latest hyped up bestsellers don’t influence my reading tastes really.

    That sounded very snobby! I didn’t mean it to! I just don’t really like following the crowd when it comes to my reading choices – and I get terribly bored of reading the same reviews of the same books all over the blogosphere every time there is a new release or prize shortlist announcement!

    • Rachel/booksnob, new jobs can certainly disrupt one’s reading schedule. And of course yours is an amazing experience on a different level; if you spent all your time reading you’d miss out on the whole “living in another country” thing.

      Like you I don’t read very many new releases. But I did have a little chuckle over your comment, “That sounded very snobby! I didn’t mean it to!” … when I consider the name of your blog … methinks the lady doth protesteth …


  4. Reading is my default activity, it’s as simple as that. I read first thing in the morning, at the end of the day and I always have a book or two to hand in case I have a few spare minutes.

    My reading horizons have expanded over the years, first via the university bookshop – I can still picture the stand of green VMCs – then LibraryThing and more recently book blogs.

    Just leave me with my family, my dog and a pile of books and I’ll be happy!

  5. As you already know, my knitting and crafting have recently seriously impeded on my reading time… but I agree that it’s always a matter of priorities! I love reading and getting lost in a good book.

    Ironically, I think all the years studying English as an undergraduate and graduate student actually slowed my reading down, b/c of getting in the habit of analysing and noting every little thing. I read a lot faster as an adolescent.

    • Well Marieke, your knitting & crafting is pretty nice stuff. I liked the earrings you showed the other day. So guess you’ll just have to continue balancing all your talents & interests!

  6. Since I’m home sick at the moment, finding time for books is rarely a problem for me: as long as I’m healthy enough to read, that is!

    But when I used to be in school/work, I tended to go to bed earlier so I could get up earlier and read in the morning before getting ready for the day. That way I didn’t have a problem w/ staying up past by bed time!

    Like you, book blogging has made me read even more (even when I was healthy enough to have a busier life)! I don’t think I’m a remarkably fast reader (I average 60-100 pages an hour depending on the type of book), but I have been doing it for so long that it’s rarely a lot of effort.

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