How Much Time Is Enough Time For Reading?

The other day I was waiting for the bus and I found myself doing what I call “booktime math”: checking the transit schedule and quickly calculating do I have enough time to start reading? Or should I just goof around on Twitter?  It got me thinking about what I consider “enough time” to read, or more specifically, enough time to crack open the book I’m currently reading.

My ideal amount of reading time, of course, would be hours. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are hunkering down with a book early on a Saturday afternoon and eventually looking up from it only to think, “Oh! Where did the sun go?” Sadly my full-time job and other adult responsibilities mean that those kinds of reading binges are now few and far between. I still prefer to read books in longer chunks, though; for me, the minimum acceptable duration of book-reading time is twenty minutes.

If I have some free time that I know will be shorter than my preferred amount of book-reading time, I’ll read read an article or blog post online. With books, and especially with fiction, I like to really immerse myself in whatever I’m reading, and five minute chunks here and there just ain’t gonna cut it. I prefer to read a few chapters at a time if they’re short and at least one if they’re long. I find this type of reading helps me retain more of the plot and generally connect more with the story and characters (fun fact: I am also one of those people who can only read one novel at a time. I have managed to get two degrees in literature while only ever reading fiction consecutively. I miiiight be a bit of a fussy reader).

My partner is the opposite: whenever he has a spare moment he cracks open a book, reading a page here and a paragraph there, with no ill-effects on his ability to retain or process what he reads. Unsurprisingly he reads circles around me, easily racking up a dozen more books per year on his tally. I have always been enormously envious of this, just as I am enormously envious of speed-readers. But rather than (okay, in addition  to) bemoaning that there are so many books and so little time, I decided to try and maximize my reading time with this One Weird Trick: I made it one of my 2015 reading goals (alongside partaking in the Read Harder challenge) to step away from my desk and read during my lunchtime.

I’m lucky to work my 9-5 with a small, close-knit, congenial team, but friendly as we are, our different schedules mean we don’t always eat lunch at the same time. I figured that since my lunch hour was not going to be a social time, I might as well use it for some productive reading, rather than idly online window-shopping at my desk (my #1 biggest time-waster). This way I took a longer chunk of time I already had set aside in my day and devoted it to reading books.

The results have been great and they’ve kind of turned me into a lunchtime reading evangelist –  I haven’t started going door to door with my pamphlets YET, but I might. “Excuse me, have you heard the good news about lunchtime reading? A single, totally non-scientific experiment has proven that it makes you less tired at the end of the day, more productive in the afternoon, and thanks to the change of scenery and break from computer-screen-reading, your eyes won’t feel as strained (experiment was performed using paper, but a good quality ereader should produce the same eye-relieving effects).” All this, of course, is in addition to the primary result I was hoping: getting good quality reading time in, fussy habits and all.

So follow-up questions to you, Rioters: how much time do you consider “enough time” to crack open your book? And how do you maximize the time you have?

 

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