Like many readers, I have struggled to find time to read when life gets really busy. It’s easy for reading time to get shoved aside by school, work, and other commitments that have a higher priority on our to-do lists. Countless blog posts and Booktube videos have given readers tips for increasing the amount of reading time in their lives: make reading a part of your daily routine, carry a book with you everywhere you go, listen to audiobooks while doing chores or commuting, and simply prioritize it more. on a regular basis. Though these tips can certainly be helpful at times, I think they’re ultimately missing the larger point to be made here:
It’s okay to NOT make time for reading.
I’ve come to this realization after completing three semesters of college in which I had basically no time at all to read anything that wasn’t listed on one of my syllabi. At first this lack of choice in what I read really bothered me because it was such a deviation from the mountains of books I normally had time to read for fun when I was at home and in high school. Initially I was determined to make time for reading in the midst of my busy schedule of classes, coursework, paid work, and extracurricular activities, but I soon realized that this was nearly impossible. If I wanted to have enough time to study and do well in my classes (not to mention time to socialize with friends and even sleep) then I would have to give up the books on my TBR and hit my academic books instead.
This is a sacrifice that I have made each and every semester that I’ve been in college. Though book reviews continue to be posted on my blog, these are reviews that were written over the summer or during other breaks that I have scheduled in advance to automatically be posted in the future. However, as a rule I don’t read anything that isn’t assigned reading for my classes during the semester unless I’m home for a holiday break.
Before college, the thought of giving up reading would have seemed almost blasphemous to me. Giving up reading? But I’m a reader! It’s what I
have to do! And that’s the problem: too often I’ve felt as though being a reader means always having my nose in a book, no matter what time of year it is or what other commitments I have in my life at the time. I believed that in order to be considered a “reader” I had to read a significant number of books each year– certainly at least enough to surpass my Goodreads challenge goal– and have an impressive number of books on my bookshelves. Being a “reader” meant living the lifestyle of one, which apparently has become a much larger commitment than anyone could have anticipated.
But this just simply isn’t true. Anyone can be a reader, and there’s a simple one-step process to becoming one: identifying as a reader. Once someone says or thinks, “You know what? I’m a reader.” then he or she is a reader. There aren’t any hidden strings attached or pacts with the bookish gods that one must forge. One’s identity as a reader isn’t something that can be judged or approved by others, especially regarding the kinds of books and amount of books one reads.
The brilliant Ariel Bissett actually has several videos discussing this topic that helped me recently come to this realization, though it has been brewing in the back of my mind for over a year now. Two videos in particular, titled “I Can’t Find Time to Read” and “Not a ‘Proper’ Reader?” hit the nail squarely on the head with her thoughts on our obsession with tracking what we read and setting requirements on who can consider themselves a “proper” reader.
All in all, I wanted to share my thoughts on the mythic rule that we must always strive to make ample time for reading in our lives. We should not feel guilty for the reading that we don’t do, nor should we lament the seemingly never-ending growth of our TBR piles. You can choose to NOT make time to reading and still be a reader.
What are your thoughts on being considered a “reader,” making time for reading, and on tracking what we read in general? I would absolutely love to know what you think, so please let me know in the comments section below!