“I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows.” -Stephen King, On Writing
My Passenger’s Seat…
When I go to fields, I drive an F-150 with a twenty gallon tank (like every good farm business, Blue River Hybrids has a hand-me-down pickup). It takes roughly two-and-a-minutes to fill that tank and on my recent trips, I found that I could read four to five pages of Body Surfing by Anita Shreve. It was an ideal book for waiting-in-line reading, as it was divided into three or four sections on each page. I can’t get that kind of reading time in when I’m filling my own Pontiac Sunfire eight gallons at a time.
Throughout my life, I’ve been obsessed with filling the time that I wait. My chemistry teacher in high school suggested flipping through flash cards of the periodic table while we were in line at the cafeteria. This lead to me spending my college career doing my Hebrew and Greek flashcards whenever I was waiting on something, or on break from work. Post-college, books came to replace flashcards, and I would often read when I eat or when I was waiting in the drive through. Oh, how modern American literature is so suited to be consumed two paragraphs at a time.
It is really a mark of impatience. We get so much so fast, even e-mail has become antiquated form of communication (recently, I met an older man who chose Facebook communication over e-mail). Now, we get e-mail on our phones, and we download our favorite radio voices on-demand. Why not read a book five pages at a time, while the doctor pours over his chart?
Even though I’m a slow read, I can’t leave the house without taking at least two books, one of which I’m not even reading. If it’s a long trip, good luck getting me to take less than five. I leave books in my car, by my bed, even by the toilet (yes, there). It is as if I can’t stand the fact I will get stranded someplace without reading material and fear I won’t make progress on the gigantic bookshelf filed with books I haven’t read.
The aforementioned book case
But more often than not, what I do is take books along for the sake of taking books along. It as if I want to fancy myself as smart and sophisticated by reading the latest Grisham or Crichton novel (may the later rest in peace) but I really just want to think while I’m there. I’m a slow reader. Even when I devote an entire afternoon and evening to a book, I seldom get through more than a hundred pages a day. TV has rotted out my brain.
Thus, I’ve developed a new strategy toward reading. Read five to ten pages of important or heavier books at a time until my head starts to freeze up (or until I feel inspired to write about something). Then indulge in some cheap novel like a Shreve or a Nick Hornby or Ben Mezrich that I read faster. At least that way I get some reading done every day, or when I’m on the road.