A Time to Read…

Do you love reading? Are you a book lover? How important is reading to you? Would you feel bad or starve if you miss your daily dose of words and stories?

If the answer to the above questions is affirmative, then please answer the next question. Do you get as much time as you want to read?

If the answer to the above question is negative, then kindly answer the next question. What are you doing about it?

Sam Sattler in his blog Book Chase asked the following question:
What would you give up to keep reading? He lists some of the activities that he has given up to make more time for reading.

People who are passionate about books and who love reading would somehow find time to read; at least a few pages or chapters every day. For them reading is like eating. If they don’t read they starve. I started reading at the age of 5 and have never stopped. During school and while in college, I used to find time to read. When I was doing my M. Tech., I used to cut classes to read!

While I was working I used to stay up till the wee hours of the morning with mugs of black coffee and pack of cigarettes reading my favorite books. The only furniture I had in those days was a reclining chair, as I spent most of my time on that. I never thought it necessary to buy a cot and a mattress. I was used to sleeping on the floor and only thing I need was a couple of newspapers. Anyway, I slept only for a few hours and so it really didn’t matter. But for reading, I needed a comfortable chair as I used to spend hours on it.

I bought books, loaned them from libraries, or borrowed them from friends and colleagues. If I liked a book I borrowed or rented, then I would go and buy them. Most of my salary was spent on books and by the second half of the month I had to write home for money. My dad always used to ask me what I was doing with my salary. But he knew about my love for books and used send me money.

After my accident, I started writing. My reading increased. You need to read if you want to write better. The more you read the better you write. This has been said again and again by many masters of the craft from William Zinsser to Stephen King. To me reading and writing are two things I can’t do without.

Now coming back to Mr. Sattler’s question. What would you give up to keep reading? I have given up television. I rarely watch it these days. I don’t go out. That gives me a lot of time. Even though I miss going to good bookshops and browsing the books, the proliferation of good on-line bookstores have made buying books easier. But it is not the same as going to the bookshop, looking at the books on the shelves, taking out the ones that interest you, browsing through them and buying the ones you like.

I read whenever I get some free time. I always have a book with me. So even when I get a few minutes of free time, I read. I am sure that most book lovers like me read whenever they get time. Some read on the way to the office, on the way back and often in the office. Others read while waiting for the bus, train or flight and while traveling. When there is a will there is a way. So if you really love reading, then you will somehow find time to read.

But most of the kids these days are not interested in reading. I have a good library at home containing books of all kinds and for all ages. I ask the kids who visit me whether they like books. In 80 percent of the cases, the answer is a ‘no’ or silence that can be interpreted as a ‘No’. But I have met a few, who genuinely love books. Their eyes lit up as they see the books and they start asking questions about books, characters, authors, etc. It is a pleasure talking to them.

I have been trying very hard to convert my nephew and niece to book lovers. So far I have not been very successful. Now what I do is read books to them. Once they are hooked to the story, I will stop. Then I will make conditions like if you read a page, I will read the rest of the chapter. But the progress is slow and success is not guaranteed.

A few days back I asked Ahswin: “What would you give up to keep reading?” He didn’t answer my question but asked me a question. “What do I have to do to get more TV time?” I told him that whatever he does is not going to buy him more TV time. He was not happy. He gave me a look which said, “Whatever you do is not going to make me read more.” But I have not given up hope. I have banned TV on weekdays and restricted TV viewing to 2 hours on weekends. I am thinking of disconnecting the cables, so that there won’t anything interesting to watch.

TV is the number one enemy of reading. With so many channels and programs, the books are no match for the TV. From my experience, Oliver Twist, Peter Pan, Tom Sawyer, or Charlie Bucket are no match for Ben 10, Transformers, Power Rangers and the like. I don’t think even the magic of Harry Potter and genius of Artemis Fowl can compete with the allure of Samurai Jack, Johnny Bravo, Powerpuff Girls, Aaron Stone, or American Dragon!

So this Christmas, when you are buying gifts for your kids, nephews, and nieces, instead of buying fancy toys or video games, buy them books. Books appropriate for their age. Do make sure that the kids read the books rather than keep them unopened on the bookshelf.

Take the kids to the local library and get them a membership. Make the habit of going to the library at least once every fortnight. Next time, when you go to the bookstore take the kids with you. Now most of good bookstores have reading areas that are really nice where the kids can browse through the books while having a cold coffee or ice cream. Talk to them about books and do whatever you can to make them interested in books and reading. Don’t forget to disconnect the cable of your TV.

Inculcating a love for books and a passion for reading are two gifts that you can give your kids. If you want some professional advice then get the book ‘The Gift of Reading’ by David Bouchard and Wendy K. Sutton. I wish you success.

Happy reading…

I wish all of you a merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2010.


  1. Dhanya said,

    December 21, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Yeh I also love books.. I always keep one in my bag so that i don’t get bored during travel/wait n such.. but to be frank i was not a book lover when I was small except for the comics n balarama/poompatta type of books.. but I got converted during high school or so.. So i guess the kids ‘ll also realize it once they grow up..

    Btw wishing you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂

  2. Paresh said,

    December 22, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Great writing! My reading was virtually zero for the past few years. I’m trying to catch up now 🙂 Yes, reading is essential if we aspire to be better writers. 🙂

  3. binerry said,

    December 22, 2009 at 12:16 am

    I love to read. I always have a book that I’m reading. I have 50 mins train ride to work, I read on the way and back. Read before going to bed. Weekends Morning I spend a good 2 hrs reading. I so agree with you, it is like an addiction. I hate to admit it, I’m reading the twilight series now.

    Merry Cmas.

  4. Dhanush Gopinath said,

    December 22, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Alexis, Great writing and more importantly feels great to see you back here.

    “You need to read if you want to write better. The more you read the better you write.”
    That’s really perfect. I have realised that I can cook up more stories and plots once I started reading more. At the same time I read different types of works. I will have one novel, which I will read steadily. Then I have a lot of short stories and screenplays which I keep for reading in a jiffy, like early morning 1 story a day, then at office by the time system restarts I can finish 1or 2 scenes from a screenplay.
    That’s how I read these days. But I definitely make time to read :-). You are nothing without Reading, this is what I believe.

    Happy Xmas and New year Alexis. I shall visit you soon sometime.

  5. Aman said,

    December 22, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Hi alexis!
    was just going thru ur site to check out if u had written anything lately and was in for a gud surprise!

    Just yesterday i was talking to my bro abt the pathetic reading habits of kids nowadays.

    I have come home for xmas and have a joint fly wih 6 kids. Cudnt figure out wat gifts to buy for these hifi kids. My bro suggested ps3s. I was in favr of books but guess books will remain on the shelf till next xmas.Also i can imagine their disappointed faces if i giv them bks.

    TV sure is an evil..I wholly agree.when i was a kid, tv viewing was just 1/2 hr cartoons at tea time and weekend childrens movie. Reading was the main pastime.Thank God and my parents!
    Nowadays TV is the main pastime and reading is restricted.
    Moreover the TV shows too are of hardly any gud standards.The language does no gud for the kids vocab. But sure the only relief is the fact that there r channels like ngc and discovery, but frankly speaking i have seen very few kids watch these channels.

    Reading ur article,i felt gud just knowing dat there were other ppl who felt the same and i am not the ice age wierdo still stuck with bks…

    Thank u for r time and wish u a merry xmas and a happy new year!

  6. Romilla Dalal said,

    December 22, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Alexis,
    Good to see your write up after a very long time. Books are our only friends and we indeed take out time to read them. Even if today’s kids don’t read them, I always try to tell them to read some article which they might have liked or inform them what that article contains. At least it is still much better than watching idiot box!! Wishing you and ashwin a merry christmas and a wonderful new year with more of your write ups!

  7. Thulasy Mary Elizabeth said,

    December 24, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    I too read, whenever I feel like.Not a voracious reader.Now reading Mary Karr’s – Cherry.A memoir.Her first book ‘The Liars Club’ is an excellent memoir. Whenever I read writers memoirs, they mention book names in their writings and I try to get that book if the mentioning about the book or the author interests me.I love to read memoirs as I always like to know more about people from their own experiences.

    Nice Post. Toys are good, if it adds up element of creativity of his/her.

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…..!

  8. Alexis Leon said,

    December 28, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Dhanya : Nice to know that you too are a bibliophile. I also loved Balarama/Poompatta till I was in 12th. I hope the kids start reading instead of watching the junk on TV.

    Paresh: Thanks Paresh. But I think you read a lot. Happy reading…

    binerry : I really love your reading habits. It is a good addiction. How is Twilight saga? I have not touched it as I don’t like vampires :-). But if it is really good then I ought to read it. Since you are a J.K. Rowling fan here is the link to her 2008 Harvard Commencement address: http://www.vimeo.com/1711302?pg=embed&sec=1711302.

    Dhanush: Thanks Dhanush. It is a nice idea to have different genres at the same time. So depending on the mood and time available one can choose the one that is appropriate. “You are nothing without Reading, this is what I believe.” I completely agree with you.

    Aman : PS3s and TV will make the kids obese. I was reading a medical alert a few days back and it said that TV viewing and Video games slows down the metabolic rate and promotes obesity. On top of that snacking while watching the TV adds up the calories and that junk food is not good for health. During my childhood days, there was no TV to distract and hence I could read a lot. TV appeared in the scene while I was in 12th, but by then I was hooked to books. Regarding the standard of the TV programs I agree with you. The vocabularies of kid who watch the Cartoon channels consist mainly of attack, kill, run, etc. And hardly anyone watches NG and Discovery.

    Romilla Dalal: Thanks for the wishes and I completely agree with you.

    Thulasy Mary Elizabeth : I read anything that crosses my path. I don’t have any favorite genres. But finding a balance between reading technical and non technical books is my problem :-).