• Carolyn Steele Agosta

To Read, or Not to Read. Oh, get real.

This morning, my sister Debra Lail and I ‘chatted’ on Facebook, about finding the time to read. I think we all cherish the fantasy of sitting on a porch swing with a cup of coffee nearby, reading a fascinating novel – and sometimes this is an actual reality! – but more often, it’s in snatched moments, when we are stuck waiting for something, or maybe when we guiltily know we should be doing something more productive.


I am and always have been the proverbial ‘bookworm’, with my nose stuck in a book no matter what else is going on. As a kid, I would even read on the school bus, with all that noise surrounding me. I early on learned the art of selective hearing. It was a survival technique that served me well, growing up in a household of eight people, and later raising my family in a household of six.


My family might not agree that it was a good thing….


I blame my mom. When we were at the age of potty-training, one way she kept us on the pot long enough to ‘go’ was by giving us books to look at. To this day, I have to keep magazines in the bathroom.


Later, we read the backs of cereal boxes while eating breakfast. To be fair, they were entertaining in those days, full of pictures and descriptions of toys you could send away for. I do remember my mother once giving in to my fevered pleas, and allowing me to get a doll with a complete wardrobe for an amazing bargain price. She turned out to be a pretty nice ‘little girl’ doll, about a foot tall, and with three or four complete outfits. But this kind of thing didn’t happen often.


As a result, I still like to read when I’m eating. Usually just at breakfast and lunch when I was alone anyway. Nowadays, I’m rarely alone at mealtimes, since my husband and sister are stuck in the house too, but I still read because they like to watch the news – and I don’t. It ruins my appetite. So, having selective hearing is once again a blessing.


As a kid, I became notorious for sneaking away at family parties to go read a book. As an adult, I’m sometimes still tempted to do so, but since I’m usually the hostess, it would be considered rude. (Sigh….)


And I’ve never NOT read. Even if it means I only get in a couple of paragraphs at a time, I have to read. When my kids were young, I could read while they played in the family room. Or read in the car while waiting to pick them up from school. Or, of course, read after they went to bed, but by that time I was usually a bit catatonic.


Later, when my husband and I were able to travel a good bit, I always brought a book to read or – even better, several books via Kindle. There’s always time to kill waiting at an airport, or during downtime between activities, so a book fills up the void. And is as necessary as food to eat and air to breathe.


I do enjoy watching TV too, and watch some pretty much every day, but it’s not the same kind of necessity as reading. Well, except maybe when Downton Abbey was on…


It used to be that my favorite time to read was early in the morning, before everyone got up. It was the only time I could be fairly sure of no interruptions. Later, when I began writing, early morning was the best time for that. Still is, when my brain is fresh, but nowadays, reading and writing seem to produce the same kind of endorphins, so I’m cool with doing either.


Since the quarantine began, I’ve been spending more time outdoors on my porch or back deck. Quite often, I read, but lately I’ve also been listening to a CD series about the history of the United States. Each lecture runs 30 minutes, broken into 5-minute sections, and I enjoy thinking about the ideas they present while gazing at the lake and watching the trees toss in the breeze. Or – on the front porch – watching birds swooping about from place to place. It’s like that fantasy reading I mentioned in the first paragraph, but without the book.


I can’t read for long spells these days. 20-30 minutes at a time is the best I can manage before my eyes get tired. But I’ve always read very quickly, so it’s possible for me to cover a lot of pages in that amount of time. I make up for it in frequency of reading during the day.


One thing I don’t do, strangely enough, is read in bed.


So, today is Wednesday, April 29. For me, it’s the 48th day of quarantine. I am up to the beginning of the second World War, in those history CDs. I’m currently reading The Constable on the Hill by Nicholas Rhea on my Kindle. I’m halfway through Possession by A.S. Byatt in paperback (for the bizillionth time) which is my book of choice for reading outdoors on the gazebo. There’s a copy of Our State magazine in the bathroom. I’m working with an editor on story #17 of my next book (1975 – The Yankees). I’m writing this blog post. And probably later today, I’ll finish Constable on the Hill and begin The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer, having recently read the previous book in the Clifton Chronicles, Time Will Tell.


In addition, I plan to work on a scrapbook (2018, mostly pix of my grandkids!), sort through some art supplies with my sister, go for a couple of walks, and (sigh) do some housework, laundry, and cooking.


Note: The above list is definitely arranged in order of importance, if not actual sequence.


So – what’s planned for YOUR reading time today?

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