LCI Blog: Reading is Fundamental – What’s on Your Nightstand?

Rob FarmerRob Farmer, LCI Director

I get 300 emails a day. Therefore, when considering the task of simply reading through the volume of my inbox, I read a ton. Still, when I find myself in conversations about a great new book or when I happen across the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list, I feel like I never read.

Not one for resolutions – New Year’s or otherwise – I nevertheless resolved to read more in 2013– to read for the pure pleasure of reading. But don’t misread me. I truly enjoy reading for professional reasons. Included in my daily stack of email are at least two dozen newsletters – industry-related, business-related. I’ve ‘opted-in’ for this, and I know what I’ve gotten myself into. I have a system by which I prioritize and make time to read for professional purposes. It’s critical, in my view, to professional success. In PR, if you don’t read you’re at a disadvantage. Whether to be aware of everything going on in the news or to stay in front of industry trends, reading is a key to keeping a competitive edge.

Still, I found myself longing for the days when I read a book, or two or three, per month. I used to subscribe to (and actually read) the New York Review of Books. There was a time when I easily made it through an issue of Harpers and The New Yorker’s Fiction issues. I decided that the only way I would ever get back there is if I applied the same business-like philosophy to my personal reading list. At a basic level, it’s about time – how and where to find it.

My resolution actually began last fall when I was going through a big box of old books (yes, actual books!) and came across a personal favorite: “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. I decided to read it again. I downloaded to my iPhone and got through it piece by piece – on morning bus commutes and in airplanes – over the course of about a month. Sinclair was the original great rabble-rouser.  His expose of horrific working conditions and capitalism run rampant in Chicago’s stockyards is still relevant more than a century later – to say nothing of his vegetarian-inducing slaughterhouse depictions. I loved it. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed it first go-round a couple decades ago. But it also reminded me of how much I miss reading for reading’s sake.

New PictureIn a well-timed coincidence as I was reading the book, I found myself in Chicago last fall at a business event atop the Willis Tower (nee Sears). In the view southward, I could clearly see the former stockyards area. Thanks to my reading experience, I had an entirely different perspective on the moment. I knew then that I must read more for personal pleasure. So far, my goal has been slow in developing. But the magazines are no longer being “marked as unread,”  and the portable devices now have a few new books loaded up – with classics and contemporary alike. Only the challenge of time remains.

So I now confidently ask: read any good books lately? And more important, where do you find time to read them?

Comment to share your must-reads with me, or email me at: [email protected].

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12 Comments

  1. Tarah Reply

    Great blog Rob!

    I love reading too, in fact, I come from a family who competitively reads (we enjoy bragging about finishing a novel in 24 hours or less even if it means pulling an all-nighter). From years of one-upping each other on finding the best reads and conducting informal book clubs that typically end in shouting matches between my brother and I, its become a badge of honor to read leisurely.

    I love reading at the gym when I’m logging time on a cardio machine or before bed (which means less TV/computer time).

    Also, a great social media app for monitoring what your friends are reading and reviewing is Good Reads.
    Best, Tarah

  2. Landis PR Reply

    Thanks for a great blog, Rob! I’m currently reading “The Devil in the White City,” which is a non-fiction book presented in a novelistic style about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

    I agree, it’s very hard to find time to dedicate to reading. In my experience, if I keep a consistent plan to read at least twenty pages/day, it becomes part of my daily routine. Happy reading! Best, Hilary

  3. david Reply

    Rob: I couldn’t agree more. Reading is a requisite when it comes to successful public relations. One learns to expand one’s thinking, but also how to incorporate that one-of-a-kind turn of phrase that will set the proverbial reader’s thinking wheels in motion. By the way, did I ever tell you my grandmother was a single mother who worked in the stockyards in Chicago? Your blog hit close to home – and made me realize I need to re-read “The Jungle.” Thanks for a great blog. Cheers, David

  4. david Reply

    Rob – PS, here are the last 3 books I read: “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore” (excellent); “Last Words,” George Carlin’s autobiography (excellent); and now I’m reading “The Middlesteins” a fictional story about a suburban Jewish family growing up in the suburbs of Chicago (sound familiar?)

  5. Donna Reply

    Rob – great post! I struggle with finding time to “luxury” read too (required professional reading is not in this category), and it feels like I am lucky to plow through my Parents magazines and the Chronicle’s Style section every Sunday. I did read two books last year, and am striving to finally get through Marilyn Monroe’s biography this year, with hopefully more to come! Losing yourself in a book is one of life’s best little pleasures.

  6. Eric Steckel Reply

    I made a similar effort several years ago, and it’s paid off. I’m not up to my previous reading levels, but I take time to read for the fun of reading. I get through a book every 6 weeks or so. My last was “In One Person” by John Irving (a personal favorite). Next up “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy. In between I read the guilty pleasures like Vanity Fair and SI, just because it’s fun.

    • Rob Reply

      Eric, Thanks for the great reply. Have to admit I’ve never read Irving (probably a hole in my reading resume), but I LOVE McCarthy. And, who doesn’t enjoy a good long-read personality profile in SI?

    • david Reply

      Eric – I loved “In One Person.” John Irving has a knack for the unusual, doesn’t he? Cheers, David

  7. Rob Reply

    Thanks, everyone for the great feedback. Glad to see I’m not alone in my journey quest to nourish the mind!

  8. Rob Reply

    Thanks, everyone for the great feedback. Glad to see I’m not alone in my quest to nourish the mind!

  9. Jill Center Reply

    Thanks Rob. I’ve been trying to recapture those years where I just let my fancy wander to the next books/s, and then fall in. Sometimes, I just forget. Current going include … Nonfiction: (How to Live, or A Life of Montaigne … In one Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer; The Swerve; and It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, How the American Constitutional System Collided w/ the New Politics of Extremism…a friend cowrote so please buy). For fiction: latest Elinor Lipman, The Family Man; Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (a fairy tale that was turned into a gorgeous Japanese anime, but is really a meditation on aging); and The Attenbury Emeralds (“new”Peter Wimsey mystery). All these gorgeous books I surround myself with, and then I just get too busy to see. THANK YOU for the reminder of these jolly pleasures right before me.

    • Rob Reply

      Jill — GREAT recommendations! Thanks so much. Will definitely add to the list. —Rob