The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Is it wrong to feel guilty when we spend time reading?

“A new survey from the Pew Research Center reveals that the percentage of Americans who read books has dropped in the past year, but millennials definitely aren’t the ones to blame. The study found that overall, 72% of American adults have read a book in the past year, while the percentage for millennials, ages 18 to 29, was higher: 80%.” – Fewer Americans are reading books, but don’t blame the millennials

A lot of people tell me they don’t have time to read, what with jobs, families and chores. While the news story about the Pew study mentioned in the opening quotation doesn’t report all the statistics we usually see, typically a huge percentage of adults stop reading regularly after they get out of high school and college.

Click on the graphic to see the survey on the Pew web site.

Click on the graphic to see the survey on the Pew web site.

As a writer, I think I should read more than I do. Typically, I read for fifteen to twenty minutes at the end of the day while I’m propped up in bed waiting to get sleepy enough to turn off the light. Where was it that we all got brainwashed that reading was either a waste of time or that it could only be done after we finished doing everything else?

Oddly enough, friends who think nothing of watching several hours of television every night without guilt, suddenly feel guilty if they did in a chair and read. After several surgeries earlier this year, I had to read because sitting at my desk working on my own books hurt my back if I did it more than 30 or 40 minutes at a time. So I got in the habit of propping my feet up on my desk, tilting the chair back and reading: IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY.

pewsurvey2I felt guilty about it, especially since my short-term incapacitation meant that my wife was having to do a lot of the household chores that I normally did. If I snuck around and did chores the doctor told me not to do, my wife got angry. So, I not only had a good excuse, I had a family mandate to take it easy.

Other than feeling guilty, I felt empowered; taking time to enjoy books. It was almost a gift. I caught up with some of the stuff I’d been wanting to read, tried out some authors I’d never read before, and had fun. I still felt guilty for doing it. I think the guilt started when I was growing up:  as kids, we were expected to read if reading was part of our homework. Otherwise, we were expected to pitch in with the real work. Perhaps the brainwashing began there.

As a writer, I should be immune to that sort of brainwashing, but whoever orchestrated it did their job well. Not that I plan to get sick again to have another excuse.

Yet, building in more reading time everyday will make me a better person. Yeah, that sounds good.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Sarabande,” and numerous Kindle short stories.

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6 thoughts on “Is it wrong to feel guilty when we spend time reading?

  1. I really should read more than I do, but I hope it won’t take surgery to get me started!

  2. To try to get me back into writing, my publisher wrote me, “This is literature, the soul’s highest calling.” It backfired. If writing literature is the soul’s highest calling, then it stands to reason that reading is also the soul’s highest calling, because that’s what writing is about — readers. Right? Of course, what I read can hardly be called literature.

  3. I’m in that same chicken/egg boat, Malcolm.

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