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by Cynthia Swanson
Recently I had the opportunity to do something I haven’t done in years: read a 600-plus-page book within a relatively short time frame. The book was Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves, and I read it in less than two weeks–which for me, these days, is pretty much a record.
Reading Thomas’s novel took me back. It reminded me of a life I used to have–a life when free time stretched on endlessly, and was more often than not filled with books. Those were the pre-kids, pre-middle-aged-obligations days. The times when I answered to no one but myself. As long as the rent was paid and I showed up for work every morning, little else was demanded of me.
Reading, back then, was all-encompassing. I gravitated toward big, rich, dive-in books by authors like Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Wally Lamb. I’d read all day on the weekends, late into the evening most nights. If I was exhausted, it was mainly my eyes that were tired, from looking at the printed page for so long.
Things have changed. Now, reading occurs in snippets–usually 20 minutes or so, before I go to sleep at night. I’m pickier about what I read–if I’m not hooked about 25% of the way in, I set a book aside. There are just too many books–and these days, there is too little time.
Allowing myself to read Thomas’s glorious family saga the way I used to read everything–that was an indulgence. I know I can’t do that with every book that comes my way. And yet, thinking about the experience, I appreciate my memories of the old days, when that was my norm.
Watching my kids read the way I did as a child and young adult–curled up on their beds or in a favorite chair, page after page turning as they lose all track of time–I am thankful not only for my own love of literature but for my children’s love of it, too.
I’m grateful for time–any amount of time–spent on books. No matter its duration, it’s time well spent.
Cynthia Swanson is a longtime Lighthouse member and workshopper. Her debut novel, The Bookseller, is coming March 2015 from Harper.
This post is part of our Lit Matters series, in which writers and readers express why supporting and elevating literary arts is meaningful to them. Lit Matters stories will be posted throughout the month of November, leading up to Colorado Gives Day on December 9. Mark your calendar for Colorado Gives Day or schedule your gift now. Thank you!