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Dave Astor

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Finding Time to Read More Novels

Posted: 04/ 4/2012 11:46 am

There are 24 hours in a day. Perhaps you spend eight hours at a job, seven hours sleeping, three hours with family or friends, two hours commuting, two hours freelancing, and five hours watching TV, emailing, "social media-ing," exercising, doing errands, etc. Grand total: 27 hours.

Yup, that's the problem. There aren't enough hours in a day -- or in a weekday, at least. So how do you cram in the pleasure of reading great (and not-so-great) novels? This is one person's tale of how I managed to carve out time for literature.

As a kid, teen, and young adult, I read books voraciously -- mostly fiction, but biographies and other nonfiction, too. Forty or so books a year, with about 80 percent of them novels. Then, from roughly 1985 to 2000, I managed to finish a grand total of two or three novels most years. My reasons? They included a time-consuming job and commute, family responsibilities, and watching too much TV.

By the turn of the millennium, I was feeling deeply dumb when it came to literature. I couldn't participate in most conversations about recent novels, and the content of classic novels I had read two decades earlier was fading from my memory. I was missing out on a great way to use my brain and learn about "the human condition," if you'll pardon that pretentious phrase. Clearly, it was time for a self-intervention.

So I pulled the plug on cable TV (which had the added bonus of saving me lots of money). I eliminated about 99 percent of my sports watching (and enjoyed no longer rooting for spoiled, rich athletes and very spoiled, even richer owners). I began skimming newspapers and other media rather than reading every word.

I also found additional ways to increase book-reading time. I perused novels during my train commute (before I became an at-home freelancer in 2008). I now "devour" novels while eating, if I'm alone. I read novels while on my exercise bike, in waiting rooms, at the wheel when stuck in a traffic jam, and in bed before going to sleep. A few minutes here and there, but it adds up. (I'm still working on reading while asleep....)

In addition, I now read a greater number of books by mostly limiting my choices to those novels shorter than 500 pages, with some exceptions. And although I love to re-read favorite novels, I've significantly cut down on that in order to experience more authors and titles I haven't tried before.

Also, I started taking full literary advantage of vacations and the few other days I don't work. One thing I haven't taken advantage of is the audiobook option; perhaps I should.

The result of all this was having the time to finish 40 or so novels a year again. I got a chance to read authors from Atwood to Zola, Alexandre (Dumas) to Zora (Neale Hurston), (Dame) Margaret Drabble to (Sir) Walter Scott, Colette to Cormac, Junot to Jhumpa, F. Scott to L.M. (Montgomery), and many others -- while enjoying almost every minute of it.

My increase-reading tactics aren't rocket science, but they work for me. How about you? What do you do to carve out more time for books?

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Dave Astor's new book Comic (and Column) Confessional is scheduled to be published this June by Xenos Press.

The part-humorous memoir is about Dave's 25 years at Editor & Publisher magazine covering, interviewing, and meeting notables such as Arianna Huffington, Heloise, Hillary Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Coretta Scott King, Martha Stewart, Ann Landers, and Abigail Van Buren ("Dear Abby"); and notable cartoonists such as Gary Larson ("The Far Side"), Lynn Johnston ("For Better or For Worse"), Mort Walker ("Beetle Bailey"), Charles Schulz ("Peanuts"), Stan Lee ("Spider-Man"), Bill Watterson ("Calvin and Hobbes"), Garry Trudeau ("Doonesbury"), Berkeley Breathed ("Bloom County"), Scott Adams ("Dilbert"), Jim Davis ("Garfield"), and Herblock. The book also chronicles changes in the media, discusses personal stuff, and more.

If you'd like information about ordering a signed copy of the book, contact Dave at dastor@earthlink.net