This quote from Stephen King came across my Twitter feed the other day, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” I’ve seen this quote many times and it got me to thinking about what I am currently reading. Recently I’ve tried to let go of my habit of finishing one book before starting another. While this is a good habit in the respect that it keeps me specifically focused on one text, it also limits the amount of books I can read during the course of a semester or even a year. While it can be confusing to read several books at one time, I tend to have a wide variety of tastes in terms of books, so it isn’t proving to be a problem at the moment. Mr. King would be happy with the fact that out of the four books I’m reading right now, his work occupies two slots:
1. 11/22/63, Stephen King
2. Dr. Sleep, Stephen King
3. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
4. Fire to Fire: New & Selected Poems, Mark Doty
In addition to these four, I also have Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward lined up and ready to go. These books are in addition to the articles and blog posts I read on the internet and the copies of The New Yorker & The Atlantic that come in the mail. Admittedly, I’m currently involved in a complicated relationship with my subscription to The New Yorker. I love the articles but at the end of the month, I usually find myself buried in issues and I hate when that happens.
I know it is important to read work that interests you, work that you love and work that you don’t love because you learn from all three. In addition to trying to read multiple books at the same time, I’m also trying to get over the fact that if I start a book and don’t like it, I don’t necessarily have to finish it. This happens often with book club selections that I’m less than enthralled with, but then I feel obligated to finish because we will eventually discuss the book in a group setting. I continue to feel this way, despite the fact that many of the people in said book club don’t ever finish the book, so I should probably get over it.
I do run into the problem of reading for “leisure” during the academic year. It isn’t a lack desire, but more an issue of stamina. I teach writing courses, which means I spend a lot of time reading the essays, poems, stories, plays and research papers of my students. It is interesting work but it is also labor intensive. Sometimes I just don’t have the brain power to pick up a novel or poetry collection after an afternoon of reading composition essays, but I also think I know what Mr. King would say to that complaint: “Suck it up.”