How do you read…?

How do you read? These days, I tend to read in bursts. This is partly because I lead a busy life and find it hard to set aside time for reading. So I will buy a book, or borrow one from the library, full of enthusiasm, start reading and put it aside “for a moment” while I do something else, and then realize I haven’t touched it for days, weeks or even months. In such circumstances it’s easy to lose the thread and to feel the need to go back a few pages or start the current chapter again.

Or perhaps I will start a book and then pick up another one and start reading that because it seems so interesting. Before I know it, I am devoting my reading time to the new book while the old one languishes on the side. Or maybe I will read both together, the “hard” one during the day when I have my wits about me, and the “easy” one at night before going to sleep.

I find books endlessly fascinating. One of my favourite gifts is book tokens. I am in the happy situation of having some at this moment. Despite the fact that I am always popping into bookshops – I find it hard to walk past one in the same way that an alcoholic finds it hard to walk past a pub – it still takes me a while to use up the book tokens. This is because, obsessed as I am with books, I am equally obsessed with the need to use the book tokens “wisely”.

The problem is that there are so many books on the market. One person could never read more than a small fraction of them. Booksellers are sneaky. Well, I suppose they have to be. Anyway, they lay the books out attractively to catch your attention; they have “bargain books” bins; and, of course, they have all these famous “offers” where, for example, they sell you three books for the cost of two. You may be in a hurry and want only one book but if it is included in such an offer, you feel obliged to choose two others so as “not to waste money”. So then the books pile up, unread, at home.

My task is made easier – just a bit – by the fact that I do not read fiction. Fiction is a waste of time. It’s lies, all lies, you know. Made up. There is so much to learn about the real world, swathes of knowledge that I will never have the time to acquire and understand, even if I live as long as Methuselah, that I have no time for fiction. Even so, I still cannot read all the books I wish I could. The world is a beehive animated, not by buzzing, but by the scratch of pens on paper or, these days, the click of fingers on keyboards. And the honey pours from the presses in marvellous floods.

So, how do you read – in a desultory fashion like me, surrounded by half-read books, or like those people I see on the tube, totally absorbed in a book, so much so that when they reach their station, they drift along the platform with the book still held in front of them, unwilling to put it aside for a second? Jeffrey Archer or Richard Dawkins? The Mayor of Casterbridge or A Short History of Time? Public library or bookshop? The world of books, the endlessly fascinating world of books…

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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6 Responses to How do you read…?

  1. I never have three books going at one time. My circumstances now limit my reading time so I tend to read in bursts (20-30 pages every day), then I finish off the book on the weekends when I have time off.

    As for fiction, I prefer fiction myself. Yeah, it’s all made up but that’s the fun. I guess I’m a dreamer so it’s very easy for me to get lost in a fiction book. I will however say that my preference is definitely on the the more realistic side of fiction (e.g. coming of age novels like The Catcher In The Rye). I hate fantasy and most sci-fi novels or novels with completely ridiculous plots.

  2. nylusmilk says:

    i read most when i need to be doing something else, and read least when i have all the time in the world to read. i’m so fed up with myself sometimes! 😛

  3. Chris says:

    How do I read? Easy: with my finger running underneath the words and an expression of intense concentration.

    Joking apart though, I, like you, read mostly non-fiction, but I do like to vary things with a bit of fiction from time to time. It’s more than just lies, you know: it’s made up of thousands of finely distilled observations of human life. My most recent read was fiction: Garrison Keillor’s excellent ‘Lake Woebegon Days’. I picked it up for only 50p; had to have it, as I remembered hearing some of it serialised years ago on Radio 4 and never got around to reading it at the time.

    Not all fiction is quite so good though. I’d give all that Jeffrey Archer stuff a miss if I were you.

    Oh and don’t tell anyone, but those paperback romance novels that we all like to poke fun at, make great firelighters. So you see, fiction is worthwhile after all.

  4. SilverTiger says:

    I perhaps tend to over-emphasise the fiction-phobia (there must be a nice word for this). I have read fiction and even (don’t tell anyone) enjoyed it.

    To fllyrslfwthqrtrs: Your case sounds like mine: when I worked in a bookshop and we were not allowed to read on duty. I was once caught and warned. Like you I am not keen of “fantasy”, some of which seems very self-indulgent. I read a lot sci-fi at one time, so much that I had to keep a list to avoid reading the same books. Then suddenly one day, I just didn’t want to read any more of it and that was that.

    To nylusmilk: I understand your predicament well. I’ve always been one to be doing the wrong thing at the right time, as it were, like reading astronomy when I should have been writing lectures or going for a walk along the Thames when I was supposed to be in a meeting. There is a special thrill in that and the enjoyment is greater. Who was it who said guilt is the best sauce on pleasure? (If no one did, it’s time someone did.)

    To Chris: I have have never read JA and have no plans to do so. Snooty, me? You bet. A relative of mine reads Mills & Boon. Buys them by the truck load. She an intelligent woman with a hush-hush job. She always wraps the book in brown paper as she doesn’t like people to know what she’s reading…

  5. Emma says:

    One at a time, mostly at bedtime to try and stop my brain from writing code during the night. I read the occasional magazine (NOT girly ones) but also fiction and non-fiction. I love biographies and autobiographies (albeit not of 20-something celebs or football players), history books, sci-fi, fantasy – and every now and then I like to escape into a detective novel. When i was a kids I read anything I could lay my hands on – now I’m a little choosier. 😀 One of my fave things to do at the weekend at the moment is have breakfast in bed with Tracy, Mollie and a good book. Fantastic.

  6. SilverTiger says:

    Emma siad: One at a time, mostly at bedtime to try and stop my brain from writing code during the night.

    I sympathize as I have often lain awake unable to sleep because of some idea going round and round in my mind.

    One night it was sudoku: I kept seeing sudoku grids and trying to insert the numbers. I would wake up, tell myself not to be so silly and doze off again and up would pop the sudoku grid.

    The worst is when you read and keep falling asleep over the book, but when you put the book aside and lie down, you can’t sleep. It is annoying because you can neither read nor sleep.

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