Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thoughts on reading quantity vs quality

Every month when I do my reading roundup, I get comments on the number of books I read, and at least one person comments on how they need to get moving on their TBR because they haven't read nearly that amount. I have a different take on it.

I read because it's how I relax. I'm fortunate enough to have two very self-sufficient kids who are more than old enough to take care of themselves when I want to relax for an hour with a book. Plus, they are never home in the evenings, and stay up far later than me!

I'm also a very fast reader, and always have been. A category romance usually takes me about 2 hours to read. There have been vacations where I've read 4 categories in a single day. But my husband reads about a book a month. And he's good with that.

Having said all that...

I went through a period of several years where I hardly read at all. I was too busy with my kids, too busy with my job, too busy to interact with anyone, much less have time to sit around reading when the house needed to be cleaned, the dinner needed to be cooked, the laundry needed to be done, kids needed to go to play dates or one sport or another... oh, and a marriage to keep on the front burner. Sound familiar to anyone?

At some point in the last few years, I realized that I need to take some time for myself, and that makes all the other relationships easier to manage. Of course, it didn't hurt that my boss actually wrote it into my yearly goals that I needed to work less and take more family time. Cool boss, no? But it's an indication of the kind of time I was devoting to my job and not to my family or myself.

I never, ever pay attention to the number of books other people read. As long as they feel happy and are satisfied that they get some "me" time in their busy lives, then I think whatever they read is awesome. In addition to not paying attention, I also never compared my reading quantity to anyone else's. Yes, I missed reading. A lot. But I found ways to sneak some in.

When the kids hit a grade in school where extra reading became required, we had family reading time. Everyone would grab a book and we'd all sit in the family room and read for a half hour.

When sitting in the stands waiting for a baseball, basketball, football, volleyball (fill in your sport, although they all apply to me) game to start, I snuck in a few pages.

When I got to school to pick up my kids and I had 15 minutes to wait, I read a little.

I don't think a day has gone by when my kids haven't seen me with a book in my hands. But some of those days, I was lucky to fit in a chapter in total.

But back to the comparison thing... I love books. As I know all of you do. But I also love my family. As I know you all do (ok, your own family, not mine! But why don't you love mine?!). There's a time and a place for every priority. And once I stopped to realize I needed me time, I slowly began reading more. And the more I read, the more I realized how much I had missed losing myself in a great story. I also think that while I will finish out the year with my monthly wrap-ups, I doubt I'll do it again. I'm only going to review the books I felt strongly enough about. I don't need to track my reads, I've come to realize. I just need to know that I'm reading enough to make myself feel good.

So my hope for you is this: that you are able to read enough that you feel you've satisfied your "me" time - even if it meant that the dishes went undone until morning. That you feel good about taking the time for yourself, even if it meant that your child needed to entertain themselves for a half hour. (Honestly, that's ok. They need to learn how to do that, and they need to realize that while you love them more than anything, if you're happy, they're happy, too.) That you feel like you've done enough to recharge your batteries, even if it meant instead of watching TV with your hubby one evening, you buried your nose in a book.

Whatever it is, it's not about how many. It's about why you read, what you read, and making yourself happy.


  1. I would love to be able to feel like I have enough time to read as much as I need (yes, I mean "need") to. It's good for my soul and is a way I get the quiet time that's so hard with kids, job, husband. Even if I'm not actually in a quiet place, somehow my brain feels like it is when I'm reading.

    Like you, I squeeze it in however I can--one reason I love audiobooks so much.

    And, while I count how many books I've read at the end of the month, I make a point of not setting numerical goals for reading. This helps me remember that it's not another job.

  2. Nice post, Lori :)

    LOL, seriously, it's hard not to be amazed by the number of books you read. I consider myself a fast reader and still :P

    You're absolutely right saying that quality is more important than quantity and as long as we've enjoyed ourselves, all is good. I'm glad you learn to have "me" time :P

  3. Bravo!

    See? Didn't I tell you she was the best? She KNOWS these things.

  4. I think that lovers of books always want more time to to read that's why when faced with your huge list :) we feel bad.

    I know I never get enough time to read. I'm always running around. I read more during the week. I average around 15-18 books a month depending on what I'm reading..if I read a lot of harlequins..I usually go through one a day. But if I start on a historical like the one I'm reading now, it takes me longer.

    But yes, everything you said is 100% true :)

  5. Great post.

    As long as you enjoy your time reading it doesn't matter how many books you read.
    I'm like you and read fast and a lot. I'm on the train/bus about 3 hours a day and always read in this time.
    My whole family loves to read so it's quiet normal that we all (mom, dad, my sis and I) are sitting in our living room and everybody reads a book.

  6. Lori, I absolutely, positively love this post. So much so that I'm going to point everyone to it one day soon in a post of my own.

    I have to say that I am definitely one of those people you describe in your first paragraph, if not THE one. I know I always come by and "ooo" and "ahh" and "oh wow I wish I read that much" when I read your monthly round up posts, but as much as I do often have "quantity reading envy" of many of my friends, I don't dwell on it or get upset about it. I also know that I divie-up my ME time to several hobbies throughout the day and or week such as exercising, gardening, photography, making homemade jam, etc.. so I do read enough that I feel that I've satisfied the "me" time and I AM happy with what I do manage to read. But ... but ... if Hermoine's time turner thing landed in my lap, I would SO use it to catch up on my TBR! .... did I just contradict my reading happy place?

    Oh, and one more thing. I DO love your family! ;)

  7. Your comments took me back to the times when my kids were little--I have four kids in five years--and the stress and hassle would become overwhelming. I would have a "mother's reading day" when I would just retreat to my bedroom with a pile of short novels. I think then it was more about quantity--as a speed reader I would devour four or five in one day--they were really short novella types. It just seemed that it was a way to get my mind back on balance and I felt like I was doing something for myself. Now I read because I am really a booki junkie, but I don't want "fluff" as my daughter and I call it--I love fiction the best of all but I like complicated, romantic, sometimes mysterious, multi-layered stories that push the mind and are satisfying on so m any levels. Thanks for your discussion...It's been good to think this through.

  8. Thank you for the beautifully written post! I was probably one of those that commented on the quantity of books you had read and you are correct - we all need 'me' time. I also get mine from reading but the kids are younger and more demanding. My time will come.....especially if Santa brings me an e-reader :)

  9. I'm a sloooooow reader, and I can't even blame it on having kids since....well....I don't have any.

    Just a slow reader. It's the way I'm wired. A category romance for me? A day-read. If I'm on a tear, don't get distracted and having nothing else to do? I can read 2 categories or one single title in a day. But that's a rarity. Stupid working for a living. Where's one of those Harlequin Presents tycoons when a girl really needs one?

    My whining about reading so few books? The crushing TBR guilt. Oh, and the fact that I count short stories in my monthly totals. But hell, I figure it's not about the page count. Just the fact that I read and finished something :)

  10. Great post Lori!

    In the past year or so, I've been a reading machine. I used to read a few books a month but now I read when I want to read and what I want to read and I'm ranging anywhere from 10-15 books a month and I love it.

  11. Lori, great, great post. Like you, I remember a time in my life when I didn't have the time to read much. Too many responsibilities and RL issues getting in the way. But I always managed to pick up a book here and there and I remember the joy and relief I felt after finishing those few books.

    These days I have more time and read much more. I think I'm making up for time lost, and looking for books I missed and authors I didn't get to during those busy, busy times. So I feel lucky at the moment that I can indulge my reading passion.

    I don't particularly care about the number of books I read, although I do keep track of them in my blog, I just want (need) to read. I always say this and I'll repeat it again: For me, reading is not a luxury it's a necessity. I'm lucky that my family understands that need. :)

  12. Agree with quality over quantity. I'm much more likely to set a book aside or dnf. With so many to choose from why read something you're not enjoying?

    I've gone through periods where it took me weeks to read one book. When the kids were little & dh overseas, reading time was very limited. I never stopped reading, just not as much. I think life makes us go through reading cycles. Now, I have more time but that could change very quickly!


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