“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.” David Bowie
A female book blogger mentioned recently that whenever people learn that she writes book reviews, they ask a common question, “Where do you find the time to read so many books?” It’s a good question, and one that I’ve been tempted to ask film reviewers. “How do you get the time to watch so many movies?” So, the question being on the table, let’s see if I can provide one set of answers to the question as it relates to reading.
First, it helps to be a speed reader. I enrolled in the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics Program when it was all the rage (John Kennedy and Jimmy Carter being two of its graduates); and once you paid the initial enrollment fee, you were free to re-take the entire program again and I did. There were and are many misconceptions about speed reading in terms of what was offered by the Wood Program. No reading “tricks” were taught. The Wood Program was actually a memory course applied to the skill of reading. One started without much confidence in one’s own ability to remember long passages but through constant reading and test taking (similar to mock SATs), Wood students learned that the brain locks in content quite quickly. The Wood Program also illustrated the value of instinct as in learning to accept the rule that one’s first answer to a question is, generally and statistically, the right one.
The simple matter of gaining confidence in one’s reading retention abilities meant that a Wood graduate felt he or she could (and did) read faster, not worrying that it would soon be forgotten. (There’s a parallel to learning a new language. If you’re learning Korean, you will initially speak slowly and perhaps loudly. With confidence, you’re speaking the language faster and in a more normal tone of voice.)
Second, taking public transportation to work and back home builds in periods where reading is relaxing. My light rail trips mean that I have almost three-quarters of an hour each work day in which to concentrate on a new book. In fact, if I don’t read while commuting, the trip seems longer, something that most airline passengers have learned. (There are a lot of books sold at airports these days!)
Third, is to learn to combine a walk and a reading break into each work day. The walk is good exercise and spending a few minutes reading is a nice reward before trekking back to the salt mines.
Fourth, if you skip watching the local and national news in the evening, you will gain another half hour to 90 minutes of reading time without the depression and angst which result from hearing – and seeing – bad news. Life is simply more relaxing when valuable time is spent reading instead of tensely watching the tube. And, of course, there’s more time gained by treating newspapers as an optional, sometime, non-essential activity. As one of my former supervisors told me, if something truly important happens you’ll know because someone will walk up to you and say, “Did you hear about…?” That’s when they supply you with the news you’ve missed. It’s the way of the world.
Then there’s the certified trick of book reviewers everywhere, audio books. If you drive yourself to work all that formerly wasted commute time now becomes valuable audio book listening time, and the same holds true for out-of-town trips for work or family matters. This is why I will occasionally plead with a publisher for an audio book. And there’s a related audio trick… I used to listen to music on headphones virtually every night, but now that time is and can be reserved for audio books instead of listening to old Doors albums.
So, just like that I’ve covered six ways in which reader-reviewers like me create time (we don’t actually find it) in which to read. Are there other tricks of the trade? Of course, but as our wise old cat Munchy says, “Yeow!” Translated into English this means, “There are secrets that go with the territory!”
One article in a continuing series. Pictured: How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson, to be released by Plume in trade paperback form on July 27, 2010.