I am a slow reader. I don’t know why but I always have been and, at this point, I don’t expect to pick up speed in the future. So given my slow savoring pace with a book, my friends are sometimes surprised that I read so many books each year (averaging about 65 a year). A few years ago I started keeping a list of the books I read just because I find that it helps me to remember them if I jot a word or two about each one — that’s how I know the average number I read in a year, not because I’m competing for some reading marathon award. Unfortunately, I also have a busy work and social schedule so I rarely have time to just sit and read as a pastime, although I hope will in my dotage. For now, I do my reading just before I go to sleep (twenty minutes) and when I wake in the middle of the night, which happens a few times a week. Instead of tossing, turning and worrying I just grab my book and an hour later I’m usually able to drift off to sleep again.
In order to maximize my time with books I have come to utilize other venues – notably, books on CD. On my power walk each morning, or workout at the gym I have a CD player and an ear piece with me. I can “read” an unabridged 500-page book in about 3 weeks. I also have a CD book (a different one) on in my car at all times. Instead of dreading that trip over to the Westside or downtown, I am, instead, thoroughly absorbed in a book that a talented actor has recorded and is entertaining me with. Incidentally, there is nothing as wonderful as having a good book or two on CD for a long road trip. Try it, you’ll see.
Listening to a book is a very different experience from reading one. Granted, holding a real book and smelling the pages and feeling the heft is lovely and sensual and nothing can take the place of that (especially an e-book). However, listening can be an amazingly pleasant surprise and with a good narrator another dimension of expression in tone and emotion can make the characters come alive and give a deeper significance to a storyline. Books that don’t work well on CD are ones that are cerebral and require thought and re-reading of lines, but biographies, history, memoirs, mysteries, and most fictional works are perfect. I even plowed through the Russian classics on CD and found it completely satisfying. There is something so gratifying to me in having a wonderful narrator acting out all the dialogue and drama while I blithely go about my business of working out or driving to work. One must be disciplined, however, because when you reach your destination you must have the will to turn it off no matter how exciting the book is at that point. I always tell myself that I have something to look forward to when I get back into my car or an added incentive to get back to the gym.
If you haven’t yet tried a book on CD I highly recommend that you do. Wecan order one for you at Portrait or you can check with your local library. Start with something simple but entertaining… perhaps a Raymond Chandler mystery, or one of David Sedaris’s hysterical books (just don’t laugh so hard you have an accident).
Currently I’m doing my work-out to Boomsday by Christopher Buckley (very witty piece of fiction) and driving to Ron Suskind’s The Way of the World (a great non-fiction work about America and how we are dealing with the realities of terrorism since 9/11). At home on my nightstand is the “real” book I’m reading – Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom. I feel lucky to be surrounded by my book friends as I go through my busy day.