Finding Time To Read

tumblr_lptmh1EY1E1r1sle6o1_500There was an article in the paper on Tuesday about a new venture in the French city of Grenoble.  Apparently, they have installed a number of automatic dispensers which schpeel out free printed short stories for frustrated citizens waiting for their turn to encounter various forms of bureaucracy.  After they have taken a number for whichever queue they have joined said citizens can then push another button to receive a short story on a scrolled piece of paper that is not dissimilar to a till receipt. It seems that this has gone down a storm, with satisfied readers quoted as saying that they are transported out of the waiting room and into a ‘happy moment’ with new and interesting characters. Apparently, the stories take between one and three minutes to read.  All I can say is that bureaucratic queues must be a darned sight shorter in Grenoble than they are in England.

This did, however, raise yet again that perennial question of just how do you manage to find the time to read.  Part of me may be quite envious of those short French queues, but I have to admit that having the freedom to read uninterrupted in waiting rooms not only makes waiting far less stressful, but also, paradoxically, means that sometimes our English queues move too fast. All readers know the joy of the half a dozen snatched moments, but they are never enough and nine times out of ten we get to the end of a day and wonder just how that book we are reading got sidelined yet again.

In theory this should be absolutely no problem at all for me.  I am retired and I have no immediate family to make calls on my time, and indeed, when I first gave up work I did seem to be able to do all the reading and associated blogging that I wanted to.  But, I had to give up work on health grounds and for the first six months I did very little other than read and force myself out for a daily walk.  Now I’m back up and running (or at least ambling) again and out and about in the community it doesn’t seem so easy to carve out the hours that I want.

Lot of people talk as if they have found the answer but when you dig into what they have to suggest there is very often little substance behind their remarks. There was a discussion on the radio about ten days ago after a query as to how to choose what to read given the amount of fiction that is published these days.  The ‘expert’ didn’t really answer that question (which was a shame, because that is another perennial problem) but diverted off into the issue of time, however, all she actually came out with was that you had to prioritise. Well, yes, I can see that.  But how do I actually set about doing it?

I do all the things I’m supposed to.  I never go anywhere without a book, or at least (given back problems) without an ereader.  I watch very little television and apart from blogging spend almost no time at all on social media.  I would be loath to give up blogging because half the pleasure of a good book is ‘talking’ about it with other people.  I can’t do the ‘go to bed half an hour later and get up half an hour earlier’ thing because if I don’t get my seven hours I wouldn’t be any good for the reading time I do get.

So, what are your tricks for extending out the reading time?  I know you must have some because many bloggers read and review far more than I do.  What am I missing and how can I improve?

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40 thoughts on “Finding Time To Read

  1. If you find out the answer, let me know – I struggle to find enough reading time without being totally antisocial! :)))

  2. You can let me know too! I’m lucky that I live with another reader who understands – and though I have a dog who definitely doesn’t, she to sit in the park and watch the world go by on warm weather, and while she’s doing that I can sit on a bench and read.

    1. The bears are very good about putting up with my reading obsession just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the making of marmalade sandwiches. After all, if it hadn’t been for a book they would never have known just what a delicacy they are.

  3. I really only have a couple of comments. First, I read around 150 books a year of varying levels of difficulty and quality. I think that personal reading speed has a lot to do with volume – I’m a fast reader and always have been. I also think that more difficult reading material necessarily results in less books completed. I went through a phase where I read historical regency romances by the dozen and I could read two of them in a day. Wolf Hall, by Mantel, on the other hand, took me six full days to finish. If I read only Wolf Hall level books, I’d read more like 50 a year, but I would arguably be better read!

    Second, there are only two ideas that I have for adding more reading time: audiobooks and staying off the internet. Audiobooks are a good way to add reading to time spent in the car. And by far my personal biggest non-reading time suck is social media, including book related social media. I would note that I am terrible at following my own advice!

    Best of luck!

    1. Your first point is very true, Christine. I used to get through children’s books at a rate of notes when I was little. However, I am not a fast reader and I like to make notes a lot of the time as well, which doesn’t help. You’re also right about the internet taking up time but I have come off all social media other than book blogs and that has helped a little.

  4. I don’t drive at all, and I live in London, so everywhere I go, I either have to walk or take public transport. This isn’t a solution for everyone, but I find that reading while walking isn’t a huge issue (as long as it’s not, you know, Oxford Circus at rush hour), and my 35 minutes on the Tube in the morning and evening actually gives me a chunk of time when reading is the only thing I have to do–it’s amazing how much I can get through just in that space of time.

    1. Have you read Jenny Nimmo’s Charlie Bone books, Elle? There is a character in those who reads as he walks around but in his case it’s so that he won’t blow out all the local light bulbs. This is probably not your motivation. Unfortunately I am travel sick if I read so time spent on public transport isn’t an option.

  5. I don’t have any solutions, I’m afraid. The number of books I get through each month varies widely and I can never quite put my finger on the reason why (the length of the books I read doesn’t seem to be as big a factor as you might expect). I also watch very little television, but I know the internet – and specifically blogging, reading blogs and replying to comments – takes up a lot of my time. Like you, though, I wouldn’t want to give up blogging as it has become an important part of the reading process for me.

    1. It’s interesting, Helen, isn’t it that so many people seem to see reading as a passive activity and yet for the likes of you and me it is only complete when it is shared and discussed.

  6. My wife used to sit in front of the television buying what-nots from The Home Shopping Channel and complain to me that she wished she had time to read. It’s a common complaint. Instead of wishing for more time to read, I suggest wishing for better concentration: if you’re “in the groove” you can read faster with much better comprehension.

    Another (related) suggestion: I spent almost four hours in the car dealer this afternoon waiting for maintenance on my van and four new tires. During the time I had three espressos and read 62% of The Bathing Women by Tie Ning. What with the puppies interrupting and all those other neighborhood stop-overs for a cup of sugar at home, I probably would have read less than half as much. So buy new tires at least once a week.

    Good light, no interruptions, no secondary attractions (especially television) and a steady supply of good strong coffee ,,, also big print (thus the eReader) is better than juggling a magnifying glass.

      1. I already have several thousand books or ebooks to read and not that much time to finish them so I have pledged (to myself) not to buy any more books (except the occasional eBook).

        But I need the tires to get to the doctors who are making sure I hang around long enough to read a few of those books.

  7. I will be checking back for helpful suggestions – I initially typed “hopeful” there.
    I don’t really watch TV these days, but I do spend a lot of time staring at screens in the evening. I am trying to cut that down – not too successfully so far.

    1. It’s difficult, isn’t it, Lisa, when you enjoy being part of a bookish community. How do you find the balance between reading enough to be able to take an active part and having the time to communicate?

  8. I read more now that I’m retired than I did before but I think I’m at my limit of reading time now – by that I mean that even if I had more hours in the day to read I would still spend the same amount of time reading as I do now. Like Helen I do spend time on the internet, reading other blogs and commenting and much as I love reading I find that I need time to do other things – blogging being one of them. But I am amazed at the speed with which other book bloggers read and review so many books – I could read more if I didn’t review them, and every now and then I think I’ll give up blogging, but I’m always drawn back. It’s all a matter of balance (as in most things in life) for me.

    1. I do agree with you about balance, Margaret. The trouble is that I keep seeing all these books that I so desperately want to read and just not being able to find the time to get round to them.

  9. Believe me, French queues can be unbelievably long — I always take a book. But I agree about audiobooks, which I listen to in the car. I read at night, in bed, though have trouble keeping awake, and sometimes in the morning before I get up. Also sometimes manage a couple of hours in the afternoon. And I read while travelling, which I do a fair amount.

    1. Part of my frustration is because I can’t read while travelling, Harriet. I did, however, manage to read ‘War and Peace’ one winter just while I was waiting at bus stops on the way to and from work, which says something about our local transport system.

  10. I agree with Harriet that French queues can be very long – I always have a book or ereader with me (and plenty of battery power, there’s nothing worse than finding you run out of battery in the middle of a book). When I travel for work (a lot of planes involved), I always get a lot of reading done, with waiting times and delays at airports, in the security check or immigration queues (I was crying over a book of poetry once while entering the US and was treated with great suspicion). Plus, being alone in a town you don’t know at night, jetlagged, isn’t much fun (or you may be out of town, at an airport hotel), so a lot of reading gets done there as well. When I wait to pick up the children from school or activities, I have a book to hand. Finally, it’s not good practice (my mother was always telling me off about that), but I do read while eating lunch or tea – not when I’m with other people, obviously.

    1. Living only with a group of very understanding Bears I also do a lot of reading while I’m eating, Marina Sofia. It may not be good for the digestion but it does get you through a few more pages.

  11. Brilliant idea for calming the queue – so much better than anodyne music which can often be infuriating. I don’t think I can add much to what’s already been said in the way of tips. Reading has been part of my working life for decades so I read quite fast and also have a partner who reads which helps.

    1. I think I’m quite a slow reader, Susan, which doesn’t help. Neither does the fact that I like to make notes while I’m reading so that I can engage with what the writer is trying to communicate.

  12. Great topic! I found that my reading time really increased with audiobooks. I can now “read” while walking, commuting (I have a very short commute that’s not ideal for printed books), cooking, cleaning, etc.

    1. I don’t find audio books useful for the sort of reading I normally do, Alex because so often I have to be able to go back and refer to the passages that illustrate points I want to make in discussion. It’s a shame because obviously they are a great help for a lot of readers.

  13. I don’t drive to work, I take public transit so that gives me about 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes on the way home. I read during my 30 minute lunch break and take myself away so I am not interrupted. I go to be early (at 9) and read for 30-45 minutes. On the weekends I block out time to read on Saturday afternoons for a couple hours. Those are all my planned reading times, then I read whenever I can in addition to those. It works pretty well for me but I think everyone needs to figure out their own “schedule” that works for them. Good luck!

    1. Blocking out time rather than relying on serendipitous gaps is a good idea, Stefanie. In fact, it’s something I used to do when I was lecturing and students would be needing me to read sections of their dissertations and theses. That time went onto the timetable just like giving a lecture or tutorial. Perhaps I need to go back to old habits.

  14. I tend to go to bed by 10.30 so I can read for an hour or more if gripped. I read almost every morning too for half an hour or so. But lately I can often be reading at around 4am for a while to get back to sleep after overheating – time of life – argh!

  15. I wish i had the magic solution but I don’t. it bothered me last year (especially as you say when you see the speed at which some people seem to read) but I’ve come to the conclusion this month that there is no point fretting about it. I just can’t squeeze any more into the day. I was sort of banking on retirement as a way to read more but having seen your comment, now I’m not so sure that will materialise

    1. I’ve never had a job where it wasn’t acceptable to be reading during the working day at some point, Karen. Mine was probably the last primary classroom where we all stopped for twenty minutes after lunch and read – me included. and I always read to the children for twenty minutes before they went home. Then, of course, I moved into teaching literature at University level and reading was a necessity. This may be why I didn’t find such an expansion in my reading time on retirement. You may be luckier.

  16. I don’t know the answer to this! A lot of the time that I find for reading is on my commute to and from work, which is a lovely half-hour block in the morning and another in the evening. And, oh, I read when I exercise, also. I run up and down stairs (ugh) for fifteen minutes, and I read while I’m doing that. It’s a good way to get through nonfiction in particular, reading a chapter or two at a time.

      1. I went around reading and walking until the inevitable collision with a lampost. I am lucky in that I can read on trains and buses and, especially in summer, get some reading done in the early morning.

  17. I live in awe of Jane Austen types who can walk through uneven fields while reading, or Jenny, who can do it while going up and down stairs, something I couldn’t even do way back when before knee surgery without looking.
    I do listen to audiobooks sometimes but have the same problem you do about wanting to make notes–since I get my audiobooks from the library, I try to get a paper copy at the same time, and then when I reach my destination I can put a sticky note in the book to remind me I want to say something about that last bit.

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