Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

To Read or not to Read

A friend of mine reads over 100 books a year.  That’s right.  A staggering feat of one book every 3.6 days with about a 40/60 non-fiction to fiction split. To put matters in perspective, he and I both happened to read Paul Auster’s novel, 4-3-2-1, an extremely dense 850-page book that took me three weeks to finish. That’s about 280 pages a week for me…not too bad, right? 

But at my friend’s rate, assuming an average of 300 pages per book, he must read at more than twice that rate, around 575 pages per week or 82 pages per day. And this doesn’t allow for any I-don’t-feel-like-reading breaks. You know, those days when you just want to open a bag of chips, turn on the baseball game and have a few beers? After reading 4-3-2-1 I needed to cleanse the pallet a little, so I took a few days off of reading altogether before diving into a comic book (Doonesbury: The Reagan Years – an excellent read, BTW) followed by the extremely short and entertaining Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris, and now I’m nearly through yet another light read, Seinfeldia. Only after I complete this lightweight morsel will I finally take on a book with more substance. 

So how does my friend do it? His simple answer to me was “I don’t watch TV.  If I have downtime, I read.” Pretty simple, right? I don’t really watch TV either, except baseball and football, but I am an expert in finding other ways to pass time without actually accomplishing anything (I’m doing one right now!). But clearly the practice of turning off the TV or phone or computer to engage in some other pursuit – reading, practicing an instrument, taking a class, learning to dance – really can lead to amazing results.

Like my friend, I log all of the books I read. I’m up to fourteen in 2017 – a very good clip for me. Here are the tallies for years past:

2016 – 21

2015 – 19

2014 – 11

2013 – 13

2012 – 8

2011 – 12

2010 – 8

2009 – 12

2008 – 28 (I’m not sure what happened here, except to say it was my son’s first year in all-day school, so I must have taken advantage of it.)

Things get a little shaky after this from a record keeping perspective, but you get the idea. Except for the outlier of 2008, I’ve been around a book a month guy, though it looks like I might be inching closer to a book every two weeks guy. Not a bad clip, and it might be a good goal to finish around 24 books a year.

I’m also someone who looks up words when I’m reading and logs the ones I think are worth remembering (I have an Excel spreadsheet of about 420 words I’m trying to master), and that slows me down considerably.  One would hope that over time I would become more knowledgeable and not have research so many words, thereby increasing the number of books I read each year. 

One would hope…and yet, last night I once again had to look up the word feckless, despite its inclusion on my spreadsheet for the past eight years. 

How’s that for feckless?

Copyright, 2015, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved