Time for reading?

How many books do you think you could read in, say, a year, if you had all the time you wanted to read? I’m thinking about this question right now because I’m on “summer vacation” and am not doing as much reading as I thought I might. I put summer vacation in quotation marks because I don’t want anyone to think I’m doing no work whatsoever — I have work-related writing projects to agonize over and a class to teach beginning very soon. But I do have extra time right now, and what I’m finding is that I read about the same amount as I did when the semester was in full swing and I was busy.

It seems that I read about the same amount year-round, maybe a bit more during the summer, but not as much as I expect. During the school year I look forward to the summer and eagerly anticipate all the books I’ll rip through, but when the time comes, I read just about the same amount as ever, and I spend any extra time I have on … I’m not sure what.

I’m beginning to think that there’s only so much I can read at any one time, only so many hours a day. That’s roughly true — there are always exceptions, like the times I can’t put a book down and will sit with it for hours. But generally, if I sit still with a book for too long I get antsy, and if I spend too many days in a row doing little but reading I get restless.

So — why do I look forward to vacation as a time I’ll get so, so much reading done? I’m not a binge reader, capable of doing enormous amounts of reading all at once. Better to think of myself as a slow and steady reader who can consistently read, say, four or five books a month and that’s it. And why do I wish I didn’t have to work so I could spend more time reading? Because I probably wouldn’t spend all that time reading.  I’d still read 50 or 60 books a year and fill the extra time with something else.


Filed under Books, Life, Reading

17 responses to “Time for reading?

  1. i find that i read most when i have more pressing things to do, like exams in a fortnights’ time or an assignment due to hand in a weeks’ time. it’s like i need to destress from the upcoming events but by destressing this way i’m actually stressing myself more! it’s when i have more free time that i don’t read as much or i read at a slower pace than usual, ironically.


  2. My problem is that I rarely read for pleasure. I avoid trashy books and seek out titles that make me think or challenge me with their structure and thematic originality. These books aren’t easy reads but they reward me intellectually and aesthetically. They also require an enormous expenditure of focus/concentration, the time to devote to deciphering their complexities. There are only so many hours a day and I am a workaholic author who resents even an hour away from my desk. I know it’s important for me to read MOBY DICK and CRIME & PUNISHMENT but I lack the time and energy to do them justice. What to do, what to do…

  3. RhiGirl

    I’m beginning to think that there’s only so much I can read at any one time, only so many hours a day. That’s roughly true — there are always exceptions, like the times I can’t put a book down and will sit with it for hours. But generally, if I sit still with a book for too long I get antsy, and if I spend too many days in a row doing little but reading I get restless.

    That’s me, especially at home. And forget it on road trips, though I still need to start buying audiobooks to tide me over.

  4. I left work at the end of March and in April I read and read – it was great. I read about half as many books more than I normally read and then I slowed down. Like you I thought that work got in the way of my reading, but really I think I do have a limit to how much time I’m happy to have my head in a book. There are so many other things to do, but I still can’t resist borrowing books from the library even though I tell myself not get any more out – then I have to keep renewing them, or even return them unread!

  5. I always think my reading is going to step up in quiet times, but it probably doesn’t all that much. If I put my back into it, I could probably read about 70 books a year, but I like the spaciousness of reading sometimes, and its leisureliness. I know if i take too long over a book though, I can get bored of it, so once I’m into something I need a regular pace.

  6. I dont read much at all when I am on holidays….it seems as though it breaks the reading habits that I have when I am working!

  7. My reading quota definitely does fluctuate, and quite widely too. While I’m working, I read maybe 1 to 2 hours a day, depending on which ‘lunch’ I’m on and whether I’m writing a review in the evening or not. When I’m not working, on a weekend and during holidays, I read maybe 5-6 hours on a quiet day, 3-4 on a more busy day. I would expect to get through 80-100 books a year, and probably more in the winter when it’s cold and the weather makes me housebound. :-)

    I’m like you though. I have always wished I didn’t have to work so I could read more!

  8. I always have such high expectations when I am on vacation (which for me is usually the week or so when the university closes down over the winter holidays or the occasional long weekend). I think I am going to accomplish so much, but in the end I never do! Sometimes I find that I actually do less than when I am working. I think with a schedule I know I have to stay focused to get chores and everything done and still get to read a little bit as well. When I am on vacation I end up puttering around and being lazy (though sometimes that is good, too). I still like to think I will read lots if I had more free time! :)

  9. I tend to read a lot during my vacation but I get the feeling if I didn’t have to work and had a lot more free time I might still not read that much more. I think a lot of my extra time would go towards other hobbies that also take a lot of time like my bookbinding.

  10. Poodlerat

    I can read pretty much around the clock, depending on what kind of book I’m reading. If it’s a little heavy, slow or difficult, I get distracted more easily and I’m less likely to start another book right away, unless it’s one that I think will be really light or entertaining. But given a stack of good books—and no internet connection!—I can read all day. Going away for a week’s vacation to a cottage or something like that entails bringing a selection of 10-20 books, so I don’t run out.

  11. LK

    I think I’m pretty steady, now that I’ve planned my reading activities. I read about 2 hours a day, generally. Sometimes, on weekends, I’ll have a marathon, but usually that leads to a stiff back and tired eyes. I think my comprehension is better on the slow-but-steady approach, too.

  12. I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t accomplish as much reading during slow times as I’d like! It seems that the more time I have, the more time the basic tasks of life take — like those tasks always expand to fill up all the available extra time there is. I envy those of you who can read 70, 80, 100 books a year; I just don’t think I can do it, which I suppose is okay — it’s not a race or a competition or anything. And I do need to take my time with books and not rush it, or I feel I’m not doing the book justice. And I know I’m slower with older, more difficult books — if I read nothing but “light” reading, I’d get through a lot more …

  13. I always think I will read more too but in reality I may only read one or two more books than usual on a vacation. Even when I had a whole month off once I can’t say that I read more. But I like the idea of it, the luxurious feeling that I could if I wanted to.

  14. hepzibah

    I really enjoyed reading this post — I too am the same way, I look forward to the summer and I imagine myself reading 100s and 100s of novels, only to find that I read much less than what I expected – but I have come to realize that I need to live and experience things too — so that counts for something, right?

  15. More important to be out in the sunshine…

  16. Good point, Stefanie, there’s something wonderful about the IDEA of reading as much as I want, even if I don’t end up actually doing it. Hepzibah — absolutely — reading must be balanced with actually getting out and doing things! Such as enjoying the sunshine, as Meli says …

  17. Dorothy, I am very very similar to you in my reading habits, it seems. I consistently read around 45-50 or so books a year. And as much as I love reading, I too get a bit antsy if I am doing a real prolonged stretch of it. Also, I will have a vacation time and think that I am going to read this crazy pile of stuff…. but I almost NEVER do it. If anything, I continue reading at my slow yet consistent pace.
    Having said this though, if I DID have a sort of unlimited amount of time to devote to it [if I didn’t work all day]… I think I would honestly, truthfully be reading about a minimum of 80 or so books a year.
    And doing much more WRITING in the other time, when I’m not reading! It is my dream. It is why I buy Lottery tickets.

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