I’ve almost finished my month of reading three hours a day. National Novel Reading Month taught me a few lessons about my own reading habits: I don’t read as much as I thought I did, I am more likely to read a lot on weekdays, and I gravitate toward shorter books.
I think of myself as someone who spends a lot of time reading, and while I still believe that is true, I know now that I don’t naturally read for hours a day. During the week, I most consistently read while I’m eating lunch at work. In the evenings and weekends, I gravitate toward movies and television shows. I want something light and easily digested, because I feel sapped after work. So when I started my month of reading, I found myself reading a lot of genre fiction that was fast and fun.
Contrary to my hope, I did not tackle the longer books on my reading list this month. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it also made me wonder about my reading habits. Maybe I want that gratification of finishing a book sooner and checking it off my list. Or maybe I have so many books in my apartment right now that I am compelled to clear things out faster. It could be a little of both.
My hope for this next few months is to focus a little more on reading books that are at least 400 pages long. I still want to read graphic novels and shorter books, but I also want to get swept up by stories that I can really sink my teeth into.
I’m boring myself talking about my own reading habits, so I’ll spend the rest of this post talking about other people’s reading habits.
The History of Reading In Three Articles
Blackbeard Read About the South Seas
This article from the National Geographic reports an archaeological find from the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s ship. Archaeologists recently found fragments of book pages in the chamber of one of the ship’s cannons. The fragments that still had legible text were identified as pages from A Voyage to the South Sea by Captain Edward Cooke (para. 10). According to the article, at least some pirates were literate, and Blackbeard may have kept a diary (para. 12).
James Buchanan Had a Reading-Related Death Wish
Michael S. Rosenwald wrote this article about presidential reading habits for the Washington Post. In light of Trump’s admissions that he doesn’t read, Rosenwald compared his reading habits to those of past presidents. He wrote:
Trump’s reading habits, when ranked against previous presidents, place him about near Zachary Taylor, who may have been illiterate, and far, far away from Republican Teddy Roosevelt, who read entire books before breakfast, which sometimes consisted of 12 eggs. (para. 10)
Twelve eggs? Holy cow.
Rosenwald also discussed James Buchanan, a voracious reader, who insisted on always reading with a candle right beside the page, to the extent that his family was worried about him setting fire to the house. This article made me want to learn so much more about presidents’ reading.
Reading Alone is Dangerous
Finally, I came across this article about the advent of silent reading. Some scholars argue that until the 19th century nobody read silently, but rather shared the text with everyone in the room (para. 3). This in itself may be unsurprising, but the author discussed some of the historical context for this shift, and why it precipitated a change in the content we read. My favorite line:
Silent reading by the late 19th century was so popular that people worried that women in particular, reading alone in bed, were prone to sexy, dangerous thoughts. (para. 14)
Enjoy your reading this week! You’re in good company: Blackbeard read, Roosevelt read, Trump doesn’t read. Read dangerously, and maybe even loudly.