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Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

The problem with reading too much

Posted by Lissa on August 13, 2009

All my life, I’ve been a bookworm.  My sister was two years older and always passed along any good books assigned in school, so I was always at least two years ahead in reading level.  I used to smack into lampposts and trip over things because I always had my nose stuck in a book.

I wasn’t always reading Shakespeare, mind you.  (In fact, I’ve read shamefully little Shakespeare, something I really will have to remedy some day.)  No, I got my start with Garfield comics.  My poor family — I can’t even begin to guess how many comics I “recited” to them, describing what happened in each panel complete with exact dialogue.

There are certainly a number of advantages to being a bookworm.  My grammar is acceptably decent, even though I never studied grammatical rules.  I can’t diagram a sentence to save my life and I’ve no idea what the present progressive is unless I translate the meaning from Spanish, yet I’ve corrected mistakes made by lawyers at Ye Olde Financial Company.

The best part of being a book-lover is that you’re rarely bored.  I don’t mind eating a meal by myself, in a restaurant or at home; a book is company enough.  I can tolerate long waits at the car shop if I’ve got my nose buried in a book.  I have a friend whose brother, while college touring, packed his X-BOX to hook up to the hotel TVs; what else was he going to do at night?

And now that I have a Kindle, I’m even more in love with reading.  It fits nicely onto the shelf of the elliptical machine at the gym so I can read during my morning workout; it gets whipped out when the line at the fish counter at Shaw’s is moving very slowly; it makes the glacial pace of the post office tolerable.

At any time, in any place, I can sit down and be happily absorbed in a book.

And that’s one of my problems.

There are some people who are frenetically busy and jittery, who clean constantly.  There are some people who just don’t feel comfortable if the area around them is untidy.  There are some people who clean when they get bored, who vacuum and dust as a means of alleviating ennui.

Why can’t I be one of those people?

Hell, I had a friend back in high school who, when given a bit too much of the party refreshments, would feel a desperate need to CLEAN.  (That was awesome for the rest of us, by the way.)

I read someone like Their Wicked Stepmother, who wakes and has coffee, a load of laundry and breakfast before I’m usually awake in the morning, and I’m in awe.  Lyn insists she’s not a neat freak; that “My general rule is: vacuum twice a week, mop once a week, bathrooms scrubbed once a week. Everything else as needed.”  (Crap.  When was the last time I vacuumed the bedroom?)  Meanwhile, I just want to curl up on the couch with my cat, my husband, a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and my Kindle.

Obviously, part of becoming a responsible adult is learning to balance what you want with what you need to do. Furthermore, I’ve no doubt that when human kittens (eventually) join our family, my leisurely book reading will become a thing of the past as I struggle with diaper rash (Milk of Magnesia works!), bodily fluid expulsions and the sixth sense that tells small children EXACTLY when you’re either eating or resting.  (I helped raise two younger brothers.  I pretty much know what we’re in for.)

I know a lot of my readers are bookworms as well.  Tell me, y’all — how do you balance your household chores with your desire to gobble down books?  Got any tips for me?  (I hope the answer is not books on tape.  I’ve only listened to a snippet of one, once, and I wanted to gouge out my eardrums.)

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11 Responses to “The problem with reading too much”

  1. Brad K. said

    Lissa,

    If you like Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, the books on cassette that Adrienne Barbeau narrated are really good. I like the unabridged version. I also found the Harry Potter “Sorcerer’s Stone” book on cassette pretty good. “The Goal” is a business book, Goldblatt or someone like that I think, that is a bit tedious in the narrative – it is presented as a teaching story, a lame novel with some interesting economic and business approaches – the cassettes go about 13 hours. Which was great for me at the time (I was commuting from King of Prussia, PA, west of Philadelphia, to Camden, NJ, on the east side of Philly).

    Superfastreader blogs. She is a new mom, within the last year. http://superfastreader.com/

    Consider that you can also use books to entertain kids. No, not the gummy, melted to the bottom of the tub, don’t hit your sister with that! kind of toy, but read to the kids. Read aloud. Once the kid starts getting ready to talk you may need to put away the Penthouse Forum and Variations letters, and look for the Tamora Pierce and Dr. Seuss selections. But reading to the kids is time that they get, reading novels and short stories develops concentration and patience. (Develops is a trick word – it means that you don’t start getting patience and concentration out of them until they have demonstrated impatience and lack of attention for a few years. Like maybe through high school. Then you sign them up with the Marine Corps and they will be someone else’s problem.)

    Reading to infants and toddlers works much better than TV – reading doesn’t involve the jarring frequent changes of topic or commercials that induce ADD. And, as they get older, your book selections can mature again as well. And you don’t have to keep the Variations hid under your mattress.

    You know, early PC’s had a “panic” hot key switch, so if you were looking at the nekkid porn “touch me” app on your Macintosh, you could switch to a fake screen shot of a spreadsheet in a flash. The Mac wouldn’t actually bring up a new program that fast, it was porn that again drove technology, in this case the multiple programs running that we have take for granted for decades. We even get multiple tabs now in browsers; who knew where that came from, hiding stuff from the boss’ eyes? Anyway, does the kindle have a “kids!” panic switch, to jump from Jane Auel’s steamy scenes to Dr. Seuss or Robin McKinley when the yard apes amble in?

  2. Jay G. said

    You’re gonna laugh at this one, Lissa.

    You know where I, the father of two small children, do all my reading?

    In the bathroom.

    Yep. The only place a dad can get 5 minutes time alone.

    (And with me, the kids don’t DARE come in while daddy’s occupied. They *do* have a sense of smell).

    I’m not kidding, there’s a stack of books three-deep next to the throne in the master bath…

  3. Ian Argent said

    If you get the answer to any of these questions, let me know. Because I really need it (your sentence about happiness has the following changes made by me: replace “husband” with “wife”, “wine” with “cider”, and ‘kindle” with “PDA”. (Baen webscriptions is my fate – and they work on the Kindle as well).

  4. alan said

    Books on tape are evil. And despite what shills for Audible say, listening to an audiobook is not reading.

    I’d rather read a book than do just about anything else that’s not x rated. At some point the real world becomes unignorable and I have to put the book down. It’s a self correcting system.

    Best I have so far.

  5. Minnie said

    Can you get me in touch with your friend with the cocktail-cleaning issue?
    On a serious note; I was just telling BS after reading one of your posts that I can’t even think of the last time that I opened a gun case.
    The grass is always greener Love…

  6. Borepatch said

    Have you run across Project Gutenberg and The Internet Archive? The world’s great literature, free for download. I’d expect you could load it up on your Kindle.

    As an example, the Library of Congress has 30,000 works digitized for download.

  7. suds46 said

    I, too, am a bookworm. Been once since about 1955. In a few minutes I’m going to retire to my bed and resume reading Roger Zelazny’s “Donnerjack” for at least the 3rd time. (Always been a sucker for SF.) I noticed your comment about not being able to diagram sentences. I had a teacher when I was in the 6th and 7th grade in a small town in NE Kansas that taught us how to diagram sentences in such a way that we all enjoyed doing it. We actually had competitions at the blackboard. When we moved to a nearby town the next year, I remember being amazed at how much my new classmates hated diagramming sentences and had a tough time with it. I learned so much from that woman in 6th and 7th grade that I never had to study grammar again all the way through junior college while most of my classmates struggled with it.
    I’ve never listened to audio books myself, but my son, who travels a lot on his job, has made good use of them while driving long distances. Over the last few years he has made it through War and Peace, Moby Dick, Great Expectations and several others.

  8. Lissa said

    Brad, I’m with you on the reading to children part. Those are some of my favorite memories from growing up.

    Jay G, you’re right. I did laugh. 🙂

    Ian Argent, if I learn the secret, I’ll share!

    Alan, same goes for you. But like you, read-until-the-guilt-overtakes-me is kind of the best I’ve encountered so far.

    Minnie, that’s a pity! I’d say the next time you’re in New England to come shooting with us, but 1) I don’t own a gun nor belong to a range, so I’d have to make Jay G take us; 2) I think if you came this way you’d be headed to NY to see family. Priorities, y’know 🙂

    Borepatch, thanks! I have actually surfed through there, but most books there tend to be for free or very-cheap on Amazon.com, and if I download through there they keep it on my electronic library. More convenient storage and re-download.

    Suds46, isn’t it funny how that works? My 6th grade teacher was WONDERFUL — passionate, funny, dramatic. Things that she taught me have stayed with me forever, when the words of many-a-college-professor have faded away.

  9. wolfwalker said

    “In fact, I’ve read shamefully little Shakespeare, something I really will have to remedy some day.”

    No, you don’t. Reading Shakespeare is a waste of time. His plays were written to be watched. Live. On stage.

  10. Ian Argent said

    I know I mentioned this in my original comment, but if you like SF or fansasy; check out http://www.wwebscription.net – Baens’ ebook publishing. Their free library is just that, free books in almost any format but PDF. And for $5 for a single or $15 for a set of 5 or 6 books you can have lovely DRM-free ebooks.

    If the free library isn’t enough, check out http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/ where the inestimable Joe Buckley has made available ISOs of the CDs bound into the first-printing hardbacks (which are themselves free to distribute).

    Cheapest way I know of right now to get Monster Hunter International; and it’s DRM-free and pays the author fairly well from what I understand. Not to mention the Honorverse stuff, John Ringo, etc.

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