Thursday, January 19, 2006

Do we have time to read?

I have always considered myself a reader. I did get off to a slow start. In third grade I was reading at first grade level. Then around fifth grade my father read The Black Stallion to me, and I was hooked. Over the next year I read the rest of the series and moved on to other books. My father had collected a ton of science fiction books. The books were stored in boxes up in the attic. Through high school I often read a book each day.

In the late 1990s I realized that I wasn't reading lots of books. I was reading tons of stuff on the internet, various magazines, and the newspaper. For some reason I thought it would be worth while writing a review about each book I read. I soon realized I was reading a book a month, or even less frequent. Since then I've focused more energy and attention on reading. I find that if I'll check a book out of the library I'll force myself to read it before I return the book. Books that I buy often just sit on my bookshelf.

How to Read a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler, has several good points about how to be a more effective reader. If you haven't read it, check it out of the library. It is very worth reading. One of the points Mr. Alder makes is there are different types of reading.

David McCullogh (author of John Adams, 1776, ...) in a speech he gave in 1999 tells about Teddy Roosevelt:

". . . Once upon a time in the dead of winter in Dakota territory, with the temperature well below zero, young Theodore Roosevelt took off in a makeshift boat, accompanied by two of his ranch hands, down-stream on the Little Missouri River in chase of a couple of thieves who had stolen his prized row boat. After days on the river, he caught up and got the draw on them with his trusty Winchester, at which point they surrendered. Then, after finding a man with a team and a wagon, Roosevelt set off again to haul the thieves cross-country to justice. He left the ranch hands behind to tend to the boat, and walked alone behind the wagon, his rifle at the ready. They were headed across the snow covered wastes of the Bad Lands to the rail head at Dickinson, and Roosevelt walked the whole way, 40 miles. It was an astonishing feat, what might be called a defining moment in that eventful life. But what makes it especially memorable is that during that time, he managed to read all of Anna Karenina.

I often think of that when I hear people say they haven't time to read."

He goes on to point out that the average American makes time to watch an average of 28 hours of television a week. He says that if a person gave up television for a week they could read (reading 250 words a minute) all of the following:

The complete poems of T.S. Eliot;
Two plays by Thornton Wilder, including Our Town;
The complete poems of Maya Angelou;
Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury;
The Great Gatsby; and
The Book of Psalms.

The real question is not do we have time to read, but is it important to us to make the time to read. Consider blocking out some time each day, or on the weekend, where you will read a book. A good book can be the most effective way to learn a new principle.

Authors spend hundreds, maybe even thousands, of hours learning something, and in just a few hours you can capture the essence of their knowledge and wisdom. This is a great investment of time.


Anne said...

I've been wanting to get Adler's book for the longest time, so I was thrilled to find it at my library's used book sale yesterday for 50 cents!

Great post, by the way.

HowGreatADebtor said...

Thanks for the encouragement to read. Well-written thoughts.