Two weeks ago, I wrote about the differences between “supply side” readers — those who set aside times to read, and build reading naturally into their lives in their structural leisure time as a habit, and “demand side” readers. These are people whose inclination to read is more driven by having an engaging book. When they find something readable, the leisure time that exists in all our lives is suddenly re-purposed for reading.
Obviously, many voracious readers have bits of both. And one of the ways that people in the supply camp maintain their habit is making sure that they do have great books on hand. It’s kind of like finding it easier to eat your vegetables if the place you go for lunch every day serves a killer broccoli dish.
Anyway, I fall on the demand side of the ledger. I was reminded of this yesterday, when I read Banana Yoshimoto’s book, The Lake.
Based on advice I offered in my Fast Company piece “How Busy People Make Time to Read — And You Can Too,” I decided to pick up a bunch of books at the library the other night. My main criteria? That they be short (more on this below).
During a slow spot during the day, I decided to read a few pages in The Lake — Yoshimoto’s 13th novel. This is what readers in the supply camp do! They read during breaks. Then they calmly put their books away.
But I can’t really do this. And so I wound up reading all of The Lake yesterday.
I’m not entirely sure why this is. It’s not that The Lake is a particular page-turner. Yoshimoto is a compelling writer, and you wind up caring about the characters, but there’s always something a little strange in the translation — it’s contemporary Japanese, but there may not be equivalent slang words, and so a big chunk of the dialogue sounds cartoonish. Also, not that much really happens until the end. Two lonely people start to fall in love. He has something horrible in his past that seems to preclude complete intimacy, and the heroine wants to figure out what it is. Eventually we figure it out too (hint: a cult is involved!), but it takes a long time. And even then, it’s not fully probed. This may be part of the cultural differences too — like a haiku, what isn’t said in the spaces is as important as what is said in the words.
Anyway, it was decent. It wasn’t the best literature ever. And yet, once I start reading something I feel compelled to keep going until I finish it. Given how I work — usually by myself, at home — I can do this. So I do.
I know this about myself, which is one reason I choose short novels. If I’m going to need to finish something quickly once I start it, then better to choose something short so I can build it into my life. Otherwise I will never get any work done.
I’m curious if other people have this issue, and what you’ve done about it.
In other news: I’m over at Modern Mrs. Darcy today as part of her series on “Other People’s Bookshelves.” Lots of photos of my bookshelves, from my library built-ins to the Land of Nod specials I constructed in the kids’ rooms.
Photo: Cover of The Lake with (look closely!) reflected selfie.