I hear the title phrase of this blog a lot, such as in the recent BBC article, and I’ve spoken to friends and family about it a lot. Here’s my opinion on it:
You’re not too busy to read. You’re too lazy.
While I don’t know other people’s lives, I do know that at least most of you will have some free time in the evening/whenever work finishes for you. You could spend this reading. You choose not to.
I’m applying this to myself as well, don’t worry. I have always been a voracious reader. Exhibit A: I can read books one-handed. I taught myself this when I was younger to enable me to read while eating, brushing my teeth and showering.
But my evenings these days largely consist of browsing the Internet before tea (that’s dinner for you southerners reading this), then sitting in front of the TV with my parents until it’s bedtime. Unless I’ve got a brand new book to enthrall me I read while I’m in the bathroom or getting dressed, and when I’m lying in bed at night. That’s about it. Me of ten years ago would be appalled.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still reading while I’m online. But it’s bits and pieces. I’ll read articles, forum posts and blog posts, have the multi-media experience of scrolling through Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. Occasionally I might have the more traditional reading experience of starting a new fanfic. But even there I rarely read more than two or three chapters in one go these days.
That’s where the laziness comes in. More precisely I could choose to read: to spend a long period of time exclusively concentrating on one book. We could all choose to do this. We don’t. I know that I don’t because if I’m a bit tired, and after work I’m sure we all are, then the short attention span required for articles and suchlike, or the minimal attention span required for most TV programmes, feels like the much more appealing option. Reading a book can feel like hard work. It takes concentration.
I know ways around this: sheer stubbornness, and careful book selection.
I have an example of sheer stubbornness: for his birthday last year I gave my youngest brother a copy of I Am Pilgrim. Which is exceedingly long – nearly 800 pages if I remember rightly. You could definitely hurt someone with it. I’m pretty sure he’d never read anything that long in his life before but he is stubborn and determined and plowed through the first bit. Later he started to enjoy it, and I’m confident that by the end he was looking forward to picking up the previous terrifying book.
So if reading a lot seems like too much effort, then keep a book next to you on the sofa, or bed, or in the loo, and just read a chapter at a time. Maybe you’ll find yourself getting drawn into and slowly reading more of it in the evenings. Maybe you won’t, and that’s ok because even at one chapter or two pages, or whatever you can do, a night, you will eventually finish. And then you’re reading. You’re a reader. You’ve learnt how to start incorporating reading into your daily life so that it doesn’t feel like a massive effort.
The other way around this is to pick the books you want to read. You can read in that BBC article I linked to above how people claim they’ve read books that they haven’t. It frustrates me to the nth degree.
Your reading list shouldn’t be a status symbol.
You aren’t extra clever if you’ve only ever read “the classics”. Children’s books, choose-your-own-adventure books, comics, fanfiction, Mills and Boons novels: these are all fantastic reading options. Reading should be fun, above all else, or else why would you do it??
There are books about almost every single subject out there if you Google well (or ask me). If you’ve never read a book which interests you, well, think about what does interest you and aim for that.
Whatever you do if you’re trying to stop being “too busy to read”, please, please don’t pick up a 19th century classic or the like just because you believe that’s what “real readers read”. Some people do read them, because they enjoy them. Some people don’t.
Read to your interests. Go to the library to refresh your stock, so that you’re not like me complaining that she has nothing to read in a house bursting with books.
Just … read.