I Don’t Have Time to Read

I don’t have time to read any more. Ironic, isn’t it?

All my life I’ve been a reader, starting with Winnie the Pooh, then graduating to Nancy Drew, and moving on to a broader world of books as I grew older. And when I was in my twenties, I thought I had all the time in the world. Since I wasn’t dating a heck of a lot (like, uh, never?) I had plenty of quiet time on Saturday nights to read—classic science fiction, contemporary novels, and of course, mysteries.

TBR pile 1
The pile next to the bed

I watch Jeopardy now, and I’m amazed by how many older books I read and still remember. After college I did have a life—friends, marriage, a child, travel, home improvement, community activities. When did I read all those books? But I know I did, because I kept almost all of them.

And then after a long time I started writing in 2001. I figured by then I had collected enough knowledge of styles and themes and genres and whatever to try my hand at it, and I was stubborn enough to stick to it until I got it right (it took a while, and (unsolicited endorsement) it would not have been possible if I hadn’t had a working spouse with an income).

I’ve heard many of my writer friends say that they can’t read within their own genre while they’re writing because they’re afraid of imitating what they’re reading. That’s never been a problem for me (maybe because I can’t analyze styles all that well). I love to read cozies. I try to read the new ones that my friends publish—but there are just too darn many of them (the new books, not the friends!), and they keep coming. I applaud their productivity, and their creativity, not to mention their energy. But when do I get to read them?

TBR pile 2
The stack in the hallway

Then there are the books I know I won’t have time to read any time soon—mostly non-fiction—because if I don’t buy it when I see it or read an intriguing review, I’ll forget and never find it again. That stack is about five feet high. Every now and then I actually manage to read (and finish!) one. And I won’t even talk about the books I plan to use for research (such as The History of Underclothes, that might come in handy someday).

There are a few writers whose books I will read as soon as I can. There are a lot more writers whose books I want to read if I can ever find the time. On the flip side, there are writers whose books I reject for purely arbitrary reasons (and I apologize, because I’m sure they’re well-written and interesting, but I have to chop something). For example, I find it hard to read historical fiction, in part because I was an academic and I keep questioning the accuracy of the facts presented. I don’t read science fiction any more. I’ve never gone near YA or new adult or any of the “new” genres—no time. I used to read women’s fiction, and thank goodness it’s kind of disappeared (what? That author is still alive and writing?)

What about you? How do you as readers decide what to read? By genre? Based on past books by an author that you’ve enjoyed, or because someone has recommended it to you?

27 Thoughts

  1. Just an FYI, even though I received this email this morning, the link to comment (actually even from the page directly) the like to this post doesn’t work. I can access the next entry and several other past entries, but not this one.  Joanne Kocourek (mom to Joshua, Annalies and Kristen and Grandma to Gianna and Angel Lilyanna)http://www.caringbridge.org/il/annakris

    1. My apologies–I was so eager to make sure I got it posted before I left last week that I slipped and hit publish too soon. I corrected it quickly. But thank you so much for looking!

  2. I’m in the same boat! And I don’t even watch television. There just aren’t enough hours in the day – plus there the wicked time sink of Facebook… But when I do read, it’s pretty much exclusively mysteries. (And I really hope you’ll make an exception for Delivering the Truth, Sheila!)

  3. I try to read before bed every night, and for me, that means something completely different from work-related MS. Right now, I am reading a short story collection by Stephen King, because my son keeps nagging me about it!

    1. Reading is a great transition from a busy, stressful day, to sleep–if you can stay awake long enough to focus on a page. I do it too, but when the words stop making sense I know it’s time to turn off the light.

  4. Like Ramona, I read every night before I go to sleep. However, these days it seems all I read are submissions for the Level Best anthology and the books of the authors on my upcoming panel. The last book I read for pure enjoyment was Art Taylor’s, and that was weeks ago! Looking forward to summer reading.

  5. I’m happy to hear I’m not the only one who is struggling to keep up with her reading. Now that I am traveling more, I am using my Kindle a lot, which is good for keeping baggage fees down, but I lose sight of my “TBR” pile. There’s something very comforting about being able to look over at a huge pile of books waiting to be read. Something like having a full larder. I’d rather have a five foot stack of real books like Sheila, including “The History of Underclothes,” than a full Kindle. My latest effort to catch up is to read when I wake up with insomnia.

  6. Amen, Sheila! I was just saying this morning that I want to take a year off to read. The closer I get to a deadline, the less reading I do (like right now!) I will make exceptions for certain authors – I’ll drop everything for a new Tana French book in a heartbeat – but my TBR pile is getting higher by the day too. Luckily with my iPad and Kindle I can download something when I’m thinking of it, otherwise I’d forget. But that still doesn’t guarantee when or even if it’s going to get read!

    1. I love Tana French! I collect a really mixed bag of books, so when I need to find a new one, I have a great choice–do I want light or heavy? Fiction or non-fiction? On the other hand, sometimes I forget I have the book. And I’ve been reading David McCullough’s John Adams since 2002.

  7. Oddly, when the writing is going well, I read more. We won’t talk about when the writing isn’t going well. Heavy on cozies and historical mysteries and historical romances, the latter two generally only by writers I trust to get the history right. Occasional paranormal or fantasy. I read 154 books in 2015, not counting the ones I skim for historical tidbits. But I only write two books a year and I don’t do many appearances or conferences, nor do we socialize much. Want time to read? Live way out in the country and embrace your inner hermit. 😉

    1. Love that idea! I’m working on an Irish solution, out in the country. But then I’d have to carry a whole lot of books with me. But then again, there are lots of bookstores in Ireland, even in the tiny towns.

  8. Sheila, I try to carve out an hour in the afternoon to read–no matter what. Otherwise, between writing and doing publicity posts, etc., I never get to it. I read mysteries in the afternoon, but before I fall asleep, I try to read something totally different. It’s like exercising: you know you should do it, but trying to make the time takes a plan.

  9. Great post! It really IS so hard to find any time to read– especially when writing! And Liz – I too would LOVE to take a year off to read. This year, I made a commitment to only read the authors I have met either in person or made a connection with out here in cyberspace (like authors who have been on my blog– mainly mystery, thriller.) One thing new I am trying is listening to audio books while at the gym and cleaning the house. This is helping, but I still wish I had and extra 4 hours a day to curl up with a book. One thing I promised myself this year is after I am done with my current WIP, I will take a little writing break, and try to make a dent in my TBR list!

    1. I’d call it a palate-cleanser or something like that. Now and then you have to step back and recharge your batteries. You don’t need to make excuses!

  10. Gang, Sheila just wrote and said she’ll be on a plane most of the day and won’t be able to reply to comments – but she’ll try to pop in after she gets home!

  11. I think we’re all reading less, which is part of the challenge for publishers. Two decades ago, I would never have gone to a doctor’s office or other activity that involved “waiting” without a book in my purse. When I was working, it was a godsend that suddenly I could answer e-mails and do work during that waiting period instead. Now it’s a bit of a pain to be always available.

    Being a working writer, there are a lot of reading “obligations,”–books for blurbs, books for research, books for conference panels you’re moderating, blog posts you’re hosting. A trick I learned from author Kate Flora, I give myself from Crime Bake (Veteran’s Day weekend) to New Years to read whatever I want. It’s so liberating!

  12. Last year, I read more books than ever in my adult life. My TBR list is longer than ever. I just can’t keep up with them all!

    Of course, I’d probably get more read if I came home from work and read instead of watching TV, but I get most of my reading done on breaks and lunch time at work.

    In some ways, it is a good problem to have, but when I see the list of books I’m dying to read and wondering if I will ever get to half of them, it can be very overwhelming.

    1. I salute you! I used to read magazines like the New Yorker when I commuted to one or another city job, but I haven’t been able to do that for a long time.

      It was great to meet you!

  13. I know, it is such a problem! I do have to admit Facebook takes up a lot of time, but that is where I learn about all of the new books I want to read. So I have to spend time there every day, several times a day, okay, almost all day. So I have all of these books to read and I am comforted to know that I will not run out of enjoyable reading material anytime soon. And you guys keep bringing more on. Thank you so much!

  14. So very true! I’m glad to know I am not alone. If I am not writing, I should be working on social media, or researching. Or filing a mountain of household papers. Plus, I have to admit when I am deep in writing, I find tv relaxing in the evening. It just washes over my brain without much effort from me. And so the TBR pile grows and grows.

    1. (We won’t even mention doing housework, right?) I spent half of March trying to file, and mostly succeeded in moving piles from one place to another. I do try to label the piles, but an alarming number are marked “Miscellaneous.”

  15. I am a big warm weather reader, I love to be able to sit outside on the patio and read in the natural light, with just the right amount of outdoor noises; so I don’t read alot in the Winter months. But, to answer the question, when I find an author or series I love, I tend to stick with them. I usually find my authors and series by the setting of the story, or the “theme” of the series or the type of character. Sometimes, I will take a look at a book that others recommend. And, believe it or not, cover art can really draw me in to take a closer look.

  16. My apologies for being AWOL yesterday, but I spent most of the day on a plane, or waiting for a plane. Luckily it left for snowy Boston only an hour or so late, so I arrived home about 1:30 this morning. We Wickeds did some serious partying in Burbank (when we weren’t working hard, of course)!

  17. This was timely! I have started re-thinking where all of my reading time has gone and it has to be social media! I am culling on Facebook- lots of organizations, etc. that I don’t really need to follow and some friends (just unfollowing, not unfriending!). Now, once dinner is all cleaned up and lunches are packed- it’s reading time! I read at breakfast, at lunch, after dinner, and at bedtime. So, for my Goodreads challenge I am six books ahead of schedule. Which is probably pretty good because when I moved into my house 14.5 years ago, I had 42 boxes of books. And I’ve purchased many more since then. And let’s not even talk about e-books!

    Here’s to reading!

  18. All of the above? I actually have a list of books I have been wanting to read, but between job-hunting, working with the UCONN track team, and keeping my house livable its been a struggle to keep up. I totally feel for you! My list is 48 books long at this point and growing! D: Good luck!

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