Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Coffee: My Readcation

My Readcation Draws to a Close.
Have you ever wanted to glut yourself on books? Like the character in the Chekhov story "The Bet" who ordered (and presumably read) six hundred books in four years (and learned six languages) I have frequently wished that I could just take a break from my life and do nothing but read books. In fact, I've used this blog to fantasize and wish for a readcation--a time to just stay at home and read books, nothing else.

Well, I finally did it. I took a staycation during our fall break, and turned it into a readcation. October was a particularly rough month. I won't give you the gory details--mostly since I've flushed them out of my brain, replacing those messy little stressors from the month of October with pages and pages of books, magazines, stories--whatever I could put my hands on to read. I read Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant, Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky, In the Woods by Tana French, and selected stories by Joyce Carol Oates ("Where is Here," "Pumpkin-Head," "The Story of the Stabbing,"). I finally finished Howard Dully's memoir My Lobotomy. And I took pleasure in opening up Poets & Writers the day it arrived in my mailbox, reading everything, including the letters from readers (those inevitably send me back to last month's issue, to read the articles I haven't read in that issue).

I don't know about you, but I don't read many magazines. My mother always gives me a subscription to Poets & Writers, which is one magazine I love. Besides helping nurture my writing, Poets & Writers is a great source for finding new writers and new books. I stopped buying magazines in stores because they are mostly ads for things I can't afford, and they cost as much or more than paperback books. But I recently subscribed to two new magazines, Yes! and The Sun.

In between books, stories and articles I puttered around the house, cooked lentil soup, and tidied up. I even dusted my snow globe collection. Am I the only one who finds housework strangely calming? Especially when I actually have time for it.

Friday was pay day, so I felt justified in buying a five-dollar latte (okay, that does make me cringe) and browsing at the local Barnes & Noble. Oops, buy two get the third free? I had to do it: Just Kids by Patti Smith, Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky, and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. And I picked up The Cider House Rules by John Irving because the movie is mentioned in Broken Glass Park and I am highly suggestible. Did I say I felt justified? I meant I was able to rationalize the expenditure. I did violate my basic financial rule of "Thou Shalt Enter No Store". This is a useful rule for impecuious teachers. My other basic financial rule is "Thou Shalt Spend No Money." I'm working on that one.

Monday is back to school, back to reality. Today I will be getting out the big bag of school papers that I stuck in a corner last Friday, and I'll try to wrap my brain around school again. It does make me wonder, though: how many more books could I be reading on a weekly basis if I just decided not to do other things? Obviously going to work is non-negotiable, and so is bringing home papers to grade. But there are still hours of the day that I fritter away on things that are not as important or as enjoyable to me as reading a book. The past few weeks have been full of deadlines, extra duties, and long hours at school--so the blog has suffered. But my reading time has suffered too, and that doesn't sit well with me. Books are a consolation and reading is one of the enduring pleasures of my life--and my readcation was a reminder of that. Maybe my life needs mini-readcations every now and then (a weekend here and there, maybe?).

How much of your time is given over to reading? Where in your day or your week do you find the time to read for pleasure?


Sam (Tiny Library) said...

Glad you enjoyed your readcation!

The only magazine I read regularly is National Geographic, because I'm an armchair traveller at heart.

I go through rhythms with my reading. I'm a teacher so reading falls off during term time but then picks up with the holidays.

bibliophiliac said...

Teaching really does take up all the brain space sometimes, doesn't it? I used to love National Geographic; now I just pick it up occasionally.

christina said...

I love that you referred to your time as a readcation! I might be able to get away with something like that over Thanksgiving break.

Also, how'd you like Howard Dully's book? I found the story interesting, but it's obviously not written by a writer. Does that make sense? Like, his story is unique and has appeal to a wide-variety audience, but I would never imagine him writing anything else. (Hardly like Didion and her memoirs).

*le sigh* On a final note, school does take up quite a bit of time. I'm having minor surgery tomorrow and will be out for a good part of the week. Part of me is looking forward to the forced bedrest (there is something totally wrong with this!) but the other knows the amount of work coming back will be hideous.


bibliophiliac said...

@christina-wow, hope that surgery goes well-sending good thoughts your way! I'm going to post my review of My Lobotomy within the next week, but it defnitely doesn't have those layers of complexity I usually look for in any book. But, that said, his story is moving and important, and I'm glad I read the book.

Scriptor Senex said...

My principal reading time is in bed before I put my head down - it also helps take me away from the strains of the day before trying to sleep. Perhaps a chapter or two over and after a meal if I'm on my own. In fact, now you mention it I'm aamzed I manage to read as much as I do.

I hope ypur stressors don't reappear and that you get more time to read. As for other things around the house - live life like it could be your last week and read all you like. Turning up at the pearly gates knowing you spent the last week dusting skirting boards probably won't satisfy anyone.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

Yes, teaching can definitely take up all of my brain space at times!

Betty said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere! My rule is thou shalt not buy books that thou canst get at the library. Unless you MUST own them or feel obliged to support the author (like buying Driftless from Milkweed).

bibliophiliac said...

@ScriptorSenex-but house-cleaning makes me feel so virtuous! Reading before bed has been a lifetime habit. I can't go to sleep without reading, even if it is for fifteen minutes (but it is usually longer).

bibliophiliac said...

@Betty-I owe the library money! What a hot mess I am-but I borrow huge numbers of books from the library at the high school where I teach. I'm pretty much their best customer, and the best part is that I never pay overdue fines!

Lisa said...

Your readcation sounds marvelous - the perfect break! Great books, the kind of cleaning that leaves you feeling like you've accomplished something and a little book buying splurge - perfect!

Judith said...

What I now call "The Summer of Books" was the most wonderful readcation I think I've ever had and your post reminded me of it. Such nostalgia. (Huge sigh!)

As soon as my teaching life started, I stopped reading--that is, personal reading. I do have one book going and I've been reading it a few pages at a time for weeks and weeks.

Thank you so much for your post,
and I won't give up on myself yet!

Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

bibliophiliac said...

@Lisa-you're right, it was the perfect vacation!
@Judith-teaching has so many ebbs and flows of busyness. Beginning a new class, designing a curriculum, or hitting the end of a grading period all take up every minute of available time...Then somehow, you find a little gap where you can steal some time to read.

Bybee said...

I find that I get a lot of reading done on the weekends lately! Another teacher here. Sigh. Let's hear it for the readcation!