How much do you read? This was a question posted on Facebook as a comment on my review of Theodore Roosevelt’s The Bully Pulpit. The truth is, I read a good deal, but even so, it took me a month to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book. And the truth is, I enjoyed every minute of it! That might be as good an answer as any for how much to read — as much as you enjoy without interfering with other obligations in life.
Teddy Roosevelt found time to read for several hours most days, interspersed through his days. He was known to read a book or more a day. The Art of Manliness has an article on Roosevelt’s reading list — some of which he read multiple times.
What do I do? Most days I try to read for 60 to 90 minutes in the morning in a couple different books. On evenings when I don’t have commitments I do the same, usually with a mug of something hot and listening to some good music. I read most of Sunday afternoons, unless the weather is so inviting that you just have to get out. I usually have a book or two (or my Kindle) in my bag and will “snatch read” when I have some spare moments. I have several books going at once. (You can see what I’m reading on the Goodreads widget on my home page.)
This may be thought odd, and if so, guilty as charged. But is it any less odd that watching three to four hours of TV a night, or a number of two hour or longer movies every week? Or what about the time we spend on the internet or on our smart phones (doing something other than reading)? My point is not to criticize those choices. We choose what we value. One of the things I value is good literature. If you decide to read more, it may mean deciding to do something else less.
I try to read when I can best concentrate. I don’t try to read something overly heavy if I’m listening to music. That is a tug of war. I think I read relatively quickly, although speed is not the issue. If someone is taking a lot of time to elaborate a point he or she has made, I will read that more quickly.
How much to read is as individual a choice as your favorite flavor of ice cream. Years ago, so, someone told me that if you read 15 minutes a day, you can read 15 books in a year. (I probably average 120 minutes a day, and I read about 120 books a year, so this might be a good rule of thumb.) It’s not good to read beyond your ability to absorb what you are reading. It ceases to be enjoyable at that point. For me, that usually comes after an hour of uninterrupted reading. That’s a good time to do something else, or at least refill the coffee mug. So in the end, I come back to the idea I began with, read as much as you enjoy without interfering with the other obligations in your life.
How much would you say you read?