While reading the post below on Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen at 5:00 a.m., I was struck by how similar part of his remarks echoed what I preached to my economics classes for decades about wise use of time and resources. That spark prompted me to begin this series of comments about "things I don't have time for." Please don't correct my grammar. We speak in that fashion, not in the more grammatically correct "things for which I don't have time (for). "I don't have time for this." "I don't have time for that."
So in the spirit of not having any time, I begin this series of "not having time fors" with the perennial "I don't have time for reading." I can't tell you how many times I have heard this comment in answer to my nosy question, "What are you reading?" I'm always interested in eyeballing the books in bookshelves when I visit another home, in watching people read in waiting rooms, on planes, park benches, or anywhere else just to see what they are reading. But when people say they don't have time to read, they mean, "I don't want to make time to read." "Reading is just not important enough for me to find a few minutes here and there to read."
Some of the famously most prolific readers in history were and are some of the busiest people on earth. Like Teddy Roosevelt. The biographies of TR tell stories about how many books he read on a continuous basis. Some of the most intensive readers I have known throughout my academic career were also among the busiest. They were also among the most productive. Is there a possible correlation? .
I began my extra-curricular reading in graduate school at Montana State and began my fatal propensity for joining book clubs and then not mailing back the "don't send" notices. Though I liked economics and economic policy, the world beyond economics was simply too big, too interesting, too full of lessons to learn, to ignore. So I plodded through War and Peace at the direction of my master's thesis advisor at Montana State. I read through the three volumes of Arthur Schlesinger's Roosevelt trilogy when I was working at the Treasury in Washington, D.C., books that forever left an indelible impression on my mind about government, politics, and the evolution of public policy. I read Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" while I was waiting to be diagnosed with MS (an illness that went into remission). I read "Nicholas and Alexandra" and "Dr. Zhivago" during a cold and icy stretch while I was at the University of Wyoming. Books I read, in long lists, forever became linked to times and places and milestones in my life. I can remember countless books and the links to those times and those places because these books became an indelible part of my life. The 900 Days and the Siege of Leningrad. Charles Dickens. Dostoevsky. Tolstoy. Yes, and Louis L'Amour and Sue Grafton and on and on.
Through the years, I acquired thousands of books, much to the consternation of my wife. Though I have disposed of hundreds, if not a thousand or two, my book piles continue to grow just like magic. Many, of course, are unread, and will likely forever be unread. But I have worked my way through an amazing number of them while carrying a heavy teaching, research, and consulting load, along with Church assignments and raising a family. I always kept several books in various stages of completion around the house, grabbing five minutes here, ten minutes there. Now that I am retired, I find it more difficult to maintain my reading pace as I have become addicted to blogging and photography, not even taking the necessary time to read my camera and photography manuals.
What I have learned is that when one gains an infatuation with reading, reading becomes important in one's life. When reading becomes important, we read, even though here and there, in bits and pieces. Whether we read to escape the harshness of our lives and the reality of our existence, to daydream about other times and places, to learn about history and art and drama, or for whatever reason, we live in a myriad of other worlds, times, and places when we become a converted reader. We read when reading becomes important to us. And we will never know whether we will feel this way about reading until we start, a paragraph here, a page there, and then a chapter. And then we usually admit that we never knew what we were missing all those years when we were too busy to read.