Saturday, April 26, 2008

How And Why

People often ask me, "How do you read so many books?"

I understand that anyone who asks this already knows the answer: I spend a lot of time reading. Ta-da!

I'm left wondering what they really want to know. Are they asking if I ignore my children (sometimes) or if I have a really messy house (not extremely...but I admit that the Queen of Clean does not feel her crown is threatened by me)? Are they asking me if I have some sort of superpower (of course) or if I only skim the books I review (very rarely...because what's the point of reading if you don't care about the details)?

I also understand why they are asking. I ask the same question all the time to other people. Only I ask about different things. How do you stay so organized? How do you manage to be so thin? How do you always have the perfect piece of jewelry for every outfit?

I think we all want to hear that this person has more hours in the day, more money, more support, more....anything...than we personally do because then we could justify why we can't or don't do it too.

But, I believe the answer to all of these questions is....we do it because it's something that's important to us.

Reading, and being a reader, is important to me.

There are times I wish I had others' priorities. I wish I cared more about my body. I wish I couldn't sit still until my bed was made and my sink sparkling. I wish every time I had a reason to dress up, I had the perfect pair of shoes to match a fabulous necklace.

I wish....but, instead...I read. It's my hobby. And I've come to terms that it's an o.k. hobby, flabby stomach and all purpose black sandals notwithstanding.

Looking back, I've always been a reader and throughout my adolescence, enjoyed spending many of my free Saturdays and Sundays reading all day. I have memories of wearing my super stylish green sweatpants and coming upstairs for the first time late in the day after reading in my bedroom for five or six straight hours.

Additionally, I am fortunate to be blessed with a gift...a wonderful gift. A gift that limits its benefits to me only. I enjoy the gift of being able to become completely absorbed by a good book. I don't hear someone talking to (or shouting at) me. I don't hear the phone ring. I don't get sleepy or bored or feel the need to stretch and walk around for a bit. This gift limits itself to a good novel, mind you. My gifts seem to evaporate when I attempt non-fiction or poetry. I'm as handicapped as the rest of the world when it comes to those.

When I started blogging and first posted my book reviews, I immediately discovered the bonus of writing about what I read.

To begin with, writing book reviews turned a hobby into a goal. During my first year of blogging, I set a goal to read fifty books in a year. Nine and a half months later, I finished my fiftieth book and immediately began the next year's goal of reading seventy-five books.

Having a set number mattered to me. That magical number of fifty or seventy-five always kept me reading but more importantly, it kept me reading better books. As I knew I'd be writing about each book, I've been much better at choosing a wider variety of literature, including much more non-fiction than I would normally read, and staying away from an abundance of chick lit, beach reads, mysteries and tawdry romances. I still read them...occasionally...but having a person or two looking over my shoulder at what I'm reading makes for much more deliberate decision making.

Another bonus is that I can remember what I've read for much longer if I've written down what I thought about it. I've enjoyed developing the talent of writing a book review. Some of my reviews are much better than others, but like any talent, I feel I've gotten better the more I've practiced. With some books, now, I can see parts of my review while I'm reading. In other words, sometimes, I know what I'll get out of it even as I'm getting it.

Amazingly, I can vividly remember books I've read almost two years ago, mostly because the two or three paragraphs I took the time to jot down afterwards jogs my memories much more than reading what somebody else wrote about it on Really, this ability to talk about a book or character from a book I've read in the past, has made me appear much more educated and in the know than I really am. It's a super party trick.

Lastly, like anyone, I feel good when I accomplish a goal. I have until the 10th of May to get to book 75 and as of today, I have read 81. It took dedication to read 81 books in a little more than eleven months. Many times, I chose to read over watching T.V. or renting a movie. Although, I admit it also helps that our social life has been dramatically reduced by the fact that we have no couple friends besides family and many of our weekends begin with the question, "Do you want to watch a movie or would you rather read?" Jay and I sure know how to par-tay.

So, if you want to know how I read as much as I do...this is how.

I read almost every night.
I read a lot on Sundays.
I stay up late to finish a book.
Sometimes, I'll read during the day.
I shop only when necessity dictates that I have to.
I don't craft.
I don't mind if I don't go anywhere most days.
I like to travel and can get much reading done on a plane.
I'm not much of a phone talker.
I don't believe my primary role as a mother is to entertain my children. Teach, guide, cuddle with, listen to and nurture...yes.
I (usually) pick books that interest me so that I actually want to read them.
I can read fast.

There you go. That's how and why I read as much as I do. If, per chance, you've asked me this question in the past, please don't feel like I wish you hadn't. Honestly, it's been good for me to discover the roots of my motivation. If I sound defensive, I'm not. Well...maybe I am a little. But, I try not to be because I do understand that it's easiest to spend our time doing the things we're good at. The trick, I think, is to spend our time doing things we should be good at.

Thankfully, that's not my area of expertise.

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