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How do you make time to read for the fun of it?

Graduate Students

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Jun 5, 2007, 11:02am Top

I'm in the sciences, and spend most of my day preparing for lectures (reading textbooks), trying to implement some ill-defined algorithm (reading code), or trying to figure out what the "literature" says about these kinds of algorithms/problems (reading lots and lots of conference papers and journal articles).

But, I also like non-academic reading.

My only problem is that I spend my whole day reading "other" work, and that by the time I get home, I don't want to read anymore. I have followed some of the previous threads from English Literature M.A. grads and their enormous reading lists, but in my mind they still cover some ground of "fun reading" by the proportion of fiction involved. Sure the criticisms and analyses are really tough to follow and are written in the usual academic tone, but still.

I'm basically asking how everyone that loves reading (either fiction/non-fiction) fits "reading as a hobby" into their "reading for a degree" schedule? Or maybe I'm the only person with this problem :-)

Jun 5, 2007, 11:14am Top

To make time for reading, I just put off graduating. ;)

Jun 5, 2007, 11:26am Top

i like #2's answer.

seriously, though? i use leisure reading as a reward for myself - finish this lecture, get to read for 30 minutes or an hour. finish reading some god-awful dense 80 pages of theory? spend an hour with a good book.

of course, i get a lot more leisure reading done in the off-time of summer than during the regular school year. right now i'm finishing a few (leisure) books a week, whereas when everything's in full swing, i'm lucky to finish a good novel once a month. the things we do for an education, eh?

Jun 5, 2007, 6:35pm Top

I always read a few pages before I go to sleep. Sometimes, if I enjoy the book very much, I will sacrifice sleep for reading time. Otherwise I do it like #3, reward myself for done work with a chapter of fun reading.

Jun 8, 2007, 5:19am Top

I read during commutes and while waiting in line for the bus. I read while I eat or take my morning coffee. i also make it a point to read before going to sleep.

Jun 15, 2007, 7:23am Top

when do i read for fun? in the bus to work, weekends, or in a fit of rebellion, ditch the 'serious' stuff and have fun for a while with many good books (usually after going wild in a recently discovered book store). Ha ha ha!

Jun 15, 2007, 9:39am Top

I read for fun literally every single day, even if it's just a few pages. I love reading so much that I make time for it. I usually read before bed, sometimes sacrificing sleep. Mostly I lie down earlier than I need to be asleep so I can use the time to read. Weekends are also good times to read.

Jul 3, 2007, 5:55pm Top

as others have mentioned, commuting is good reading time - I listen to audiobooks in the car, as well as in the lab doing mindless work. it's really amazing how useful that time can be - i listened to all of Truman either in the car or in the lab. I'm in the sciences too, and have this problem as well, as I work through many meals and weekends are often busy as well with either work or travel.

Jul 4, 2007, 1:15am Top

I've pretty much given up reading books in chunks or at one go and have turned to reading in bits. And sometimes, I just make the time to read. I figure, if other students somehow squeeze in TV dramas in their busy schedules, well I could darn well fit a book in there somewhere.

10silouan92 First Message
Jul 4, 2007, 5:41am Top

I've found that a little bit of personal/pleasure reading actually greatly enhances my reading for classes. Plugging into something I want to ready gives me a shot in the arm and helps me get through what I have to read.

Jul 4, 2007, 8:43am Top

I just do... If I don't I go crazy, but then I almost read in my sleep...

At the moment, the problem is finding books in English... reading in Chinese is too taxing after 20 minutes.

Jul 4, 2007, 9:51am Top

I know exactly what the OP means in terms of reading burnout. I never thought someone who loves to read as much as I do could ever have that happen, but I'm in a humanities PhD program and when I'm taking 3+ seminars at a time (yes, because I have no sense of proportion), I am doing hours and hours of prep per day - which is all reading.

When you are reading 4+ books per week for class already, and then doing the reading for the class you're teaching on top of it, I've found that you (or I, rather) burn out very fast.

My solution has been to find things that are very different from what I do all day. Much as I'd love to read more feminist theory or literary analysis, I have to steer myself over to my more rarely addressed interests like popular science, history of areas that I don't study for school (I admit to being a vietnam war junkie for example), contemporary novels, and most importantly things that are written for an average audience rather than for an academic audience. I admit to a Vogue subscription for mental health purposes too. :)

As for finding time, I just have to put my foot down and make the time. I also purposely moved to an area where I can commute by bus, which is 45 mins each way but gives me the wonderful opportunity to budget in 1.5 hours of reading time per day if I want it. It's good to trap yourself where you have few other options.

Jul 4, 2007, 9:53am Top

Also, if you commute by car or walking and go to a relatively good-sized university, it's likely that they'll have at least some audiobooks available in the library. (Or if not, the public library is the best place for it.) I have found them so expensive that the library has been a lifesaver for me in terms of listening material for long car trips, etc.

Jul 4, 2007, 10:26am Top

Oh yeah, how can I forget audiobooks? If you're a perpetual lab rat (like me), they can help you keep awake if you're stuck at the bench doing something tedious in the middle of the night.

Jul 9, 2007, 4:19pm Top

My first order of priority for the day (after checking e-mail accounts so that I stay in communication with anybody who needs me) is homework for the next class meeting, plus any other business that has to be taken care of on that day. After I finish that, I check other websites and/or read a certain amount. When I start a book, I determine how much that amount is going to be. If I can finish that amount of reading, then I get started on assignments with longer deadlines.

This doesn't mean I get to read every day, particularly right now when I'm taking two, six week summer classes at once. The only reason I have the time to be doing this right now is that I have an assignment on social networking sites for my intellectual freedom seminar. But sometimes I am down to readings and assignments that require the use of a computer, and that's when I get to read for fun whenever I'm somewhere without my computer.

Also, because my schedule is pretty flexible (commuting to class two days a week, sometimes only one when one of them is meeting online), I manage to get to the gym several times a week, and then I read for fun on the exercise bike. Textbooks tend to be too big for it to be practical to read for class there.

Jul 9, 2007, 4:47pm Top

I know exactly what you mean about reading burnout. I'd like to read novels, but I often just can't bring myself to do it. That was especially true last academic year when I was reading two books a day for prelims.

I get around it by reading a lot of magazines--mostly the New Yorker--and newspapers. That way I'm reading things that aren't for my work, but are good for short attention spans.

Jul 17, 2007, 2:29pm Top

I'm also a 'before sleep reader.' I've convinced myself that theory can't possibly be read after 10pm, so there is always something non-academic or not even remotely related to my field of study next to my bed. That half hour to an hour of uninterrupted personal reading time before sleeping is one of life's absolute neccesities for me.

18learneronajourney First Message
Jul 18, 2007, 3:56pm Top

Same as # 17. Even if I'm completely exhausted, I make a point of reading something unrelated to my field, especially if I'm enjoying it... And, of course, there's always the summer when I go crazy and devour as many novels as I can. I still do some research, but not as much as during the school year.

Jul 24, 2007, 9:35am Top

I download books onto my iPod and listen to them while on lunch breaks or when I am out walking. I usually try to read a few pages of light fluffy reading before going to bed. I keep a paperback in my backpack just in case I get some down time (the line at the grocery store, doctor's office...). I agree with others about reading things that don't have anything to do with what I have to study it's like a mental vacation.

Jul 26, 2007, 11:41pm Top

Short stories before bed have worked for me, especially during the semester when I am teaching + my own work. I get a jolt of fiction and I don't have the need to stay up for hours to find out what happens. This summer I've made a deal with myself. If I put in 6 hours of work into my dissertation during the day, I get to read whatever I want in the evening. Lately, this has meant a lot of children's and young adult lit.

21nadadeh8 First Message
Jul 30, 2007, 3:12am Top

I apologize in advance if this is too bawdy for LibraryThing:

I always keep a fun book or magazine or two in the bathroom and read a page or two while on the toilet. :)

Aug 3, 2007, 8:20am Top

I can't read light stuff before bed. I guess it comes of being a Night Owl but I do almost all my actual work between 10pm and 2am then I'm all read out - music & the internet and bed.
I go on reading binges: I factor in a day or 2 off and read as many books then as I can.
I also read while I work, standing behind a busy bar is no good for intellectual reading (I have tried) but novels can vanish and you rarely remember them 2 weeks later so you can start again.

Aug 7, 2007, 6:46am Top

I have exams in eight weeks. I should really put reading for fun on hold. I should. However, I bought the first three books of The Vampire Chronicles, so... i dunno...

Aug 7, 2007, 7:40am Top

Timi-- Something has to be said about the things we do to AVOID our studies! Not only do I read more fun stuff when I have papers/exams coming up, but my house is cleaner, I cook and eat more, the dog gets walked and my parents hear from me!

Edited: Aug 8, 2007, 5:27am Top

So...avoiding studies is a good thing? Oh dear, don't encourage me, or i'll never study! You should say lock up those books till October!

As a graduate, I should be 'adult' about some things. When i was in university and even secondary school, i used to read 2-4 books a day. Now with work, studies, plans for world domination, sleep,....if i can get in one a week i'm blessed!

Aug 8, 2007, 5:31am Top

Avoiding studies IS a bad thing, it just seems that there is wicked pleasure in it :-)
I am a straight A student and I always do everything earlier than is really needed (I am an anxious student), so I talk a big game about avoiding studies, but I don't really do it all that often. If I read at all outside of school work it is the few minutes that I get in before I fall asleep at night or the audio books that I have on my iPod.

Aug 14, 2007, 12:42am Top

Good Lord, with a full time job and a small child to wrangle, along with a PhD in the making, I feel a sense of a achievement if I get through the latest copy of The New Yorker before the next one arrives!

I can't really complain - I read a lot for my (paid) work, and a lot of the writing on my thesis topic is actually not that hard going. And unlike a lot of graduates seem to do here, I don't have to do seminars/coursework, which means I just have to have the discipline to write my thesis ...

Aug 14, 2007, 12:10pm Top

Alrighty, exams have gotten...closer. I have not read The Vampire Chronicles - not because i'm a good student but i actually quit horror, and then bought those books on a whim. However, I have read the odd chapter of some old favourites.

And watched much more movies ;-)

Some of us will never grow up.

Aug 23, 2007, 12:46am Top

I'm a night owl, too. Thus the short stories. I can't handle much else by that time. I'm not sure if the ghost stories before bed were such a great idea, though. The children's and YA lit works well, too, because I can read it fairly quickly.

Aug 23, 2007, 12:51pm Top

Hi all! I'm a bedtime reader and I have a long commute so I've been doing the audiobook thing for about a year now -- what a lifesaver that is. Makes bad traffic so much easier to sit in.

I must say that since joining this site, I've been much more inspired to take time to read for fun and not just schoolwork.

Aug 26, 2007, 4:54pm Top

I read books whenever I need to take a break from journal articles. I've found that I DO NEED to read fiction so I don't drown in all the journal articles that I have to read for a seminar, or for writing my dissertation.

I try to put in an hour of reading before going to bed.

Aug 26, 2007, 5:04pm Top

Audiobooks are a lifesaver. I listen on the bus, walking, driving, cooking, washing dishes, folding laundry, and ESPECIALLY when I'm doing labwork.

I spent a huge chunk of last year doing really tedious labwork for 7 days a week, 7-9 hours a day. That plus everyday life stuff didn't leave a whole lot of time for sitting down with a paperback, but I could get through an audiobook every day or two. I wound up reading more last year than I ever have before in my life. Thank god for my iPod and my wonderful, wonderful public library.

Aug 30, 2007, 2:04am Top

Who needs sleep when you have reading? hehe j/k
If I'm not completely swamped, I'll do pleasure reading while eating or in the fifteen minutes before class starts.

Sep 4, 2007, 5:56am Top

#32, on that note, podcasts are great as well. There are some great poetry ones out there as well. I get to listen to several great readings in my morning jog.

Sep 18, 2007, 10:41pm Top

The harder my academic reading gets, the trashier my personal reading gets. The two are inversely proportional. My brain can only handle so many big words, I guess. Since I'm not far along yet, it horrifies me to think how much lower I will sink.

As for when to read, I embrace my antisocial graduate student tendencies and read during lunch.

Nov 3, 2007, 5:36pm Top

I read for enjoyment by making it a daily priority. I know that at the end of the day, I'll spend at least twenty minutes reading in bed. If I happen to know that will be difficult because of late-evening schedule conflicts, I make the reading time happen during the day. It's simply that important to me.

No matter how busy one is, no matter how many responsibilities they have, if they aren't taking twenty minutes out of their day to do something important to their personal development, the other areas of their life which seem so important will suffer.

Oh, and don't rule out audiobooks. Almost half of the books I read in a year are during my commutes to grad school and work. Check your local library.

Nov 11, 2007, 12:57am Top

Personal reading has become a form of procrastination, or a needed distraction or clarifying tonic as those other parts of my brain process the dense academic texts I read for school.

I read in the little spaces of the day: over meals (if solo), in the bathroom, before bed, before naps, and on the commute.

One trend I've noticed, though: I've leaned away from fiction and more toward non-fiction in my personal reading: memoirs, how-to, essays, self-help, theory. Except for poetry I've all but abandoned the sustained narrative form...

I suppose I'm temporarily dispossessed of that certain willingness to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy fiction. Well it happens when I'm bored or depressed... but right now I think I'm just super busy!

Nov 11, 2007, 4:41pm Top

I find I look forward to getting the next 'installation' of my book before I fall asleep each night. so, yes, I'm a bed-reader too.

I'm reading A Very Long Engagement right now (in English) and the fact that it is entirely different from the Audrey Tatou movie makes me even more excited to read the next few pages once my head's hit my pillow.

Nov 14, 2007, 5:44am Top

I thought maybe I should post an update since I originally asked the question a little over five months ago. I appreciate everyone's suggestions, and look forward to hearing what anyone else does to read for fun.

Since posting the original question, I started reading over breakfast in the local campus restaurant. I figured, it takes them at least 15 minutes in total to prepare food and arrange the bill, and nothing stops me from reading an additional 15 minutes or so after eating, giving me a total of at least half an hour a day to read. This has quickly become the time I look forward to the most every day!

Granted, it's not always possible (I don't always eat alone, which is probably a good thing), but in the past five months I've managed to read through Man's Search for Meaning, The life of Pi, The God of Small Things, Of Mice and Men, American Gods and The Catcher in the Rye - 15 to 30 pages at a time. I started with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas today... quite weird (but interesting) to read about drug-induced hallucinations over breakfast :-)

Anyway, just thought I'd give an update. Feel free to keep on sharing your thoughts!

Edited: Nov 27, 2007, 6:25am Top

I majored in Comparative Lit in college so like some of you I had to read a lot of lit theory books and novels. What I did was to go to the library with the books that I need and work. Mind you, I didnt go to the Humanities section - too much distraction. Most of the time, I hole myself in the Stacks section or in the Sciences, which were pretty interesting in their own right.

Since I started work for a newspaper, where my days are filled with work, I only get to read at night. And on the commute and during long waits for Something To Happen. Also on weekdays, when I tend to be a vegetable. When I'm stressed out by work, I go somewhere quiet, like a cafe, and read. But that usually happens at night. Yes, I know, I got no social life.

Nov 27, 2007, 9:06am Top

I read with much guilt. Every page, every word drives home the truth... I really should be preparing for finals.

Nov 27, 2007, 11:20am Top

It amuses me that as a humanities person you went to the Science section of the library to actually get work done, Eyelesbarrow.. because I did just the opposite: As a biology major in college, if I wanted to socialize, I went to the Science Library, but if I actually wanted to get work done, I went to the Main (humanities) Library!

43dinasemrys First Message
Dec 11, 2007, 3:53pm Top

I'm also in science, but I haven't run into reading burnout--I enjoy the literature in my field so far. Since I take the bus most days, I'm actually reading for pleasure a lot more now than I did last summer when I was working (then it was audiobooks and radioplays, but I'm really picky about audiobooks). I can't read scientific lit on the bus, so I don't even feel guilty. I tend to find nonfiction "lighter" than fiction (pop sci lit = my addiction), but I seem to be managing my stress levels enough right now to read fiction again.

But I'm also trying very hard to keep my life balanced and not let grad school completely take over (I'm taking noncredit Arabic next semester, to that end). Fortunately, my advisor supports this. :-)

Dec 17, 2007, 5:29pm Top

I also wanted to add: yay for breaks between semesters! For the past couple of months, my non-school reading has been sporadic to non-existent so I'm using Christmas as an excuse to read like a maniac.

Dec 17, 2007, 10:16pm Top

Same here. I tend to do reading binges like LittleKnife (22) -- I've tried reading just a little in the evenings, but either the book doesn't grab me, in which case I tend to turn back to work instead, or it does, in which case I can kiss the next day or two goodbye.

This semester I was only able to read two "fun" books, both over Thanksgiving, when I got a couple of days off. Now I need to find some balance between catching up and preparing for some research projects that should get underway in January.

Jan 21, 2008, 3:58pm Top

Ditto! I need my "downtime" reading at bedtime or slightly before or I have dreams/nightmares all night about whatever problem I'm working on. While I LIKE non-related non-fiction, while the pressure is REALLY on me for doctoral comps, I've been reading what I previously would have considered at least fluff if not downright trash and making sure that it is FUNNY, too. It helps me get up energized for the new day.

PS -- I'm teaching in a community college with at 5/4/3 teaching load while going to school 1/2time (6 hours per semester) in a PhD program in which professors enjoy assigning 1000+ pages of reading per week. The worse the schedule, the more I HAVE to get in some light reading.

Feb 21, 2008, 7:44am Top

I quit my job with the stockbroking firm, and started my own business. It would be expected that I would have more time to read for my certification exams and for fun, right?

I wish! Now, I force myself to take a day off once a week to get any reading done. Quantitative Techniques by T Lucey or The Icarus Girl are presently on my list. Mrs. Dalloway is next.

Feb 22, 2008, 4:18pm Top

I wake up, brew a pot of coffee, and sit down in my overstuffed chair and read from 6:30 to 8am, Monday-Thursday. And I usually read crappy fantasy novels. I'm working on one right now, Vampire of the Mists, which is actually a Dungeons and Dragons novel. I'm working on my thesis right now, and it's great to take a break from high literary theory and literature. I like my "shchlock" every now and again. Sometimes I'm just too damn tired--to late of a night--and I can't get up until 8:00. Then I just grumble through my day.

Feb 22, 2008, 4:20pm Top

>46 medievalmama: "doctoral comps"

First time through I read that as "doctoral cramps".

Feb 22, 2008, 7:59pm Top

>49 drbubbles: That's funny! And it fits.

Feb 22, 2008, 9:40pm Top

It's funny how grad school can change one's perspective on "trash." :)

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