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.
In 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].