Reading is my default mode

I’ve said and I’ve heard other bloggers say that those who claim they don’t have time for reading aren’t making any sense whatsoever. If you want to read, you will find time. Saying you don’t have time is a way of finding an excuse for not doing what you don’t really want to do anyway. I fit reading into every unfilled corner of my life, and I don’t feel like this takes any special effort. It’s just natural. People might be amused to watch my husband and I eat meals – except for lunch at work we eat most meals together and sometimes even at work we do – and it consists mainly of us shoveling food into our mouths while we devour our reading with equal pleasure. We eat fast so that we can get upstairs to a more comfortable place to read. We have “family dinners” all right, but we don’t talk to each other: we read. We have a stack of magazines on our table, so an article is always handy, and I know well the difficulty of holding on to a book while eating something like tacos or a messy sandwich that requires two hands. Magazines are a good solution to that problem.

I do want to recognize, however, that there ARE people who really, truly don’t have time to read. I’m thinking of, say, someone who works two jobs or a single parent trying to hold down a job, or two jobs. Having time for reading is, to a certain extent, a middle-class privilege. I say that reading is natural, as natural as breathing, and it is, but … it’s not. If you know something about 18th-century culture, you know that reading is connected, in however complicated a fashion, with the growth of the middle class and of leisure time. Yes, probably anyone anywhere can fit in a little bit of reading every day, but I can see having to work so hard, and worrying so much about money and food that reading becomes less important and a person loses the energy for it. Ehrenreich’s book on low-wage workers reminds me of this.

But I think when I and other people criticize others for not having time to read, we aren’t talking about the poor, we are talking about middle-class people who choose to keep themselves busy with other things. I just don’t like the idea of not recognizing that some people’s lives are so difficult that it really would be a struggle to find time to read. And that some people have never learned to love to read because they didn’t have parents who read, or because their education sucked. And I don’t like the idea of looking down on people who make different choices than I do, although I know I’m guilty of doing this. Okay, I DO like looking down on people who make different choices than I do, but I realize I shouldn’t.

I added the Alberto Manguel quotation above as my “blog description” because it captures so beautifully how I feel about reading: it’s almost as natural as breathing. It’s something I do without even thinking about it. And, I should probably clarify, Manguel isn’t talking solely about reading books; he’s talking about reading the stars, the landscape, animal tracks, tarot cards, another person’s face. In this broader sense, we all do read, all the time.

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Filed under Books, Reading

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