It’s taken me a long time to become a grazing reader; that is, a reader who can pick up a book and read a page or two and then put it down and continue on with all the other quotidian tasks of life that don’t involve reading.
I used to think reading was an occasion. I felt like I couldn’t read until I had everything else done. Only then could I sit down (or lie down) to gulp, usually at bedtime when my energy was at its lowest.
At some point in my life, I had inadvertently absorbed the lesson that day-reading is a sign of sloth. Or worse, a sign of decadence. I sort of viewed day-reading like day-drinking: It’s great fun, but you don’t want the neighbors to know you do it.
These days, I’ve decided it’s okay to day-read, whether grazing or gulping. If I have time, I’ll sit down and gulp IN BROAD DAYLIGHT. I don’t even close the curtains.
During the school year, when I’m teaching, I have less time to day-gulp, but I still graze. I can read a page or two before class or while I’m waiting for a student or while I’m eating lunch or while on the bus. (I used to fill that time with email until I realized, after noisily complaining about how much email everyone sends, that I send more than everyone else combined.)
The trick to grazing is having a book that you can dip in and out of easily. I save more complicated books for gulping. (And the hardest books are for day-gulping). Here are some books I read recently that are great for unapologetic day-grazing:
You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
Short stories are always good for grazing. This collection is a funny and thoughtful meditation on gender, love, and sex, among other things. My favorite thing about Curtis Sittenfeld as a writer is that she isn’t afraid to create characters who are embarrassing and awkward.
Dark Matter by Black Crouch
This one is an excellent yarn with short, propulsive chapters. It’s two parts thriller and one part sci-fi about a guy who sees how his life would have changed had he made different choices. Fun and exciting, but not at all taxing on the brain (and I mean that as a compliment).
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Everything Kent Haruf writes feels as comfortable and quietly profound as a porch swing at dusk in June. This novel is about a widow and a widower who find something incredible together. Kent Haruf died a few years ago, which means I’ll have to be satisfied re-reading his work for the rest of my life.
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
You don’t need to know anything about the plot for this one. It’s just riotously funny. Perfect for laughing out loud.
So what kind of reader are you? What are your favorite gulps and grazes?