At any given time I have between one and seven books in my Recent Reading stack marked as current. These are books that I really am reading at present.
At this writing there are six on the stack:
- Washington: A Life (Ron Chernow)
- The Elements of Typographic Style (Robert Bringhurst)
- The Associated Press Stylebook
- Life (Keith Richards)
- Marathon & Beyond – Volume 15 Issue 1
- Jazz: A History of America’s Music (Goeffrey C. Ward, Ken Burns)
In addition to those, I negotiate daily reading of the Bible, and related study materials, which I don’t count because such reading been an ongoing lifetime habit of mine for the past forty years, like showering and brushing my teeth.
Usually I save concentrated, uninterrupted readthroughs for lighter works, such as John Grisham’s The Confession, which I finished in four sittings two weeks ago, while putting other projects on hold. In that case, one reason for the hurry was because it’s a currently popular book, I had a non-renewable two-week checkout limit on my Bexley Library copy, and Suzy wanted to read it, too — and did.
When the list grows to more than two items I think of myself as reading pieces of books in installments. When it’s backed up to more more than three, I almost never get to more than three on any given day.
For heavy-duty tomes of non-fiction (Washington), technical books (The Elements of Typographic Style), or reference books (The AP Stylebook), I view each time I pick them up as lessons, as though I were studying them in school.
Books I own I annotate. For those I get from the library I often collect notes in a series of commonplace notebooks, though doing so slows down my reading.
I’m not exactly slow, but I’m not an unusually fast reader either, but make no apologies for it, since I’m not competing with anyone else; and I adjust pace according to need. At times I can tear through fifty pages in an hour, but at others, in deeply technical material, an hour’s labor can move me no more than six pages ahead.
Just as Indian musicians view some ragas as appropriate only on certain occasions or times of day, I categorize my reading. When I sit down with my first cup of coffee for the day (generally between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m.) is not the time to read a legal thriller or about the insane lifestyles of the Rolling Stones. I wake up quickly and tend to reach my mental peak for the day early, so find early morning is the best time to tackle spiritual, technical, reference, and historical works, often fueling me with thoughts for what I need to accomplish in the day ahead. The evening, when my work for the day is done, is the time for work that is more purely entertaining. If I fall asleep while reading, it doesn’t matter.
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