Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Finding the Time (To Read)

My friend Gwen blogged the other day, “Are You Addicted to Reading?” It was almost a silly post, but it made me take pause to think about reading time.

Both Stephen King and Richard Russo say that they devote several hours a day to reading, and all writers will agree (or most writers will agree, anyway) that exhaustive reading is a key component to being a good writer.

For me, a student of letters, finding the time to read is near impossible at times! Many aspiring writers or students complain that it's so hard to find the time to write; I think finding the time to read is even harder.

I have a list of books I intend to read, which grows longer by the day, and I despair at the thought, not knowing how I will ever complete this overwhelming task. I work full-time and attend school part-time, which involves not only class time but also writing and reading (aka homework) outside of the classroom; I also have to consider taking care of myself physically, which includes daily workouts (to be commenced in September, or earlier if the weather cools), and maintenance of my home life (regular cleaning, groceries and other chores; finally, I do have to pay attention to my husband occasionally so that he won’t divorce me.

What’s a girl to do?

Of course, I could speed read through the books just to get them read and checked of my list, but I’m not a half-assed effort kind of girl. If I’m going to read these books I want to learn something from them; I want to take away more than just a few hours of entertainment. (If I want a few hours of entertainment, I’ll go to the movies.) To really read closely, a need to invest a certain amount of time – I’m going to re-read sections, underline things, write notes in the margins, etc.

Recently, I learned of something called a dialectical journal, and I am dumbfounded that I’m only learning of this now. Why wasn’t I required to keep a dialectical journal at some prior point in my education? The link I provided here is a little basic – most instructions/definitions for dialectical journals seemed geared towards middle or high school students rather than college or graduate students. Still, I think the practice will be useful; when I take notes I find that my recollection and understanding is more comprehensive, and I expect that keeping journals of this nature will come in handy down the road, especially if I end up teaching. The notes will also help me to compose reviews of the books that I read, which I plan on posting both here and on GoodReads.

What kind of reader are you? Do you rush through books, because you can’t wait to see what happens or you’re eager to move on to the next book? Or are you a slow, savoring reader? Do you take notes? Underline? Highlight, even?


  1. I'm a slow reader. When I read I let my imagination become detailed. I take in all the words to create that theatre in my mind that lingers when I take a break or after I've finished a book. In fact, to this day there are some books that I've re-read just to enjoy the story all over again because my imagination is so vivid. I do not like to write in books nor do I enjoy taking physical notes. When I try to read fast I find that nothing is retained and I feel as if I didn't read anything at all.

    BTW: I had no idea that you were on blogger. ^_^

  2. First of all, i WISH we had been required to do dialectial journals in highschool or college. Admitedly, i am a fast reader. i don't try, i just read fast. However, i have been intentionally slowing myself down and find i am absorbing more of the nitty gritty details. I enjoy re-reading books as i usually find that something new will stick out to me every time i read the book. I'm with Lydia though and do not write in my books. i hate writing in them. it's a serious hangup. although i have started post-it noting some books when there is something profound and i may want to reference it later.

  3. I've actually been all of those kinds of readers, depending on my mood, my time, and if I was reading to fulfill some sort of requirement.

    For me, reading is like most of the other arts. Sure, doing more of it will allow you to hone your skill, but the most useful reading is done out of unbridled compulsion.

    But that's just me.