An Inconvenient Reading Truth

It occurred to me the other night while discussing and recommending fabulous books with friends that having a love of reading is actually a double-edged sword. It means that you are never properly satisfied (or at least not for long) and that you are eternally on the hunt (a kind of pen-and-paper quest as opposed to a swords-and-sandals epic) for the next good read. Which means that you encounter the inconvenient reading truth that life and work wait for no good book.

There’s an abundant amount of leave that people can take these days—with the dropdown list that one can select from on electronic timesheets boggling the mind, not least because once you’ve exhausted the usual bereavement, parental, and without-pay leave, there are such other, more bizarre options such as those for pet vet visits and weddings (no word on whether it’s a one-off or applies for serial wedders).

What I’d like to see added in, though, is an ‘I’ve discovered an excellent book and won’t be in until I’ve finished reading it’ leave option. Or even better, an entirely acceptable option to send an email that says that you’ve ‘been up reading a fabulous book until all hours and will be in late or even not at all’ as you plan to wake up from your few hours of sleep and continue reading.

I think that would do wonders for fake sick calls and might also open up the channels of communication and increase connectedness between employees and your employers. One could even recommend a few titles to them in said email and they, on days when they’re seized by the need to finish their good book, would do the same.

Because c’mon, we’ve all been there. Some of us have ditched work to finish the last third of a book or simply because we’re completely sleep-deprived because we’ve been up all night doing so. Some of us have ditched parties in favour of reading, although we’ve invariably lied through our teeth about it lest we lose friends. And we’ve all battled with our need to read and our need to sleep—two mutually exclusive but equally fun activities.

You know how it goes. You tell yourself you’ll just read until the end of the page. The end of the page comes and you can’t possible finish mid-sentence. So you promise yourself you’ll just read the next page. But while that one ends with a complete sentence, it’s in the middle of the action. You tell yourself that you’ll read to the end of the chapter and will then definitely close the book and go to sleep. Of course, the book has been cleverly edited to finish each chapter with a mini cliffhanger and you know you won’t possibly be able to sleep without knowing how that mini cliffhanger pans out. And so it continues, until it’s 3am and the only reason you stop reading is because you’re only reading through an over-tired fog and you physically can’t keep your eyes open.

When your alarm goes off just a few short hours later, you wish you were dead and spend the day in a kind of semi-conscious, book-reading hangover. You have a headache, you can’t concentrate, you feel ill from being overtired. And yet work and life lack sympathy nor even slow down their pace and deadlines for you to recover. I vote for a book-reading kind of leave for those days when good books have kept us up until all hours. And I vote that we should be allowed to be out and proud when we’ve found a book good enough to do so.

Published by

Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.