So Many Books, So Little Time to Read

tea. book, reading, relaxingFunny thing, but I thought that when I retired I would finally have a lot of time to read. After all, I was going to reclaim all the hours I once spent working as well as commuting there and back again. Also, no more time-sucking yard work. I would read instead of raking, edging, mulching and shoveling.

I pictured myself sitting in the sun or by a warm fire, book in hand, cup of tea nearby. I would be able to keep up with new books and maybe hunt up the old releases that I never had time for when I was working full time.

Hah! In three words: Not. So. Much.

Filling the Time Available

There’s just so much else to do, you see. Author Erma Bombeck once that that “Housework expands to fill the time available.” A corollary to that is: “Free time fills up with things you never had time to do before.” Once I let go of the work/office community, I found myself both doing more for existing communities and becoming included in new communities.

I have Boston By Foot, which includes giving tours, giving lectures, learning/writing new tours, attending committee meetings and participating in continuing education activities. BBF was a post-retirement community—six years already—that I joined only when I could give it the time required. Then there’s my church, the First Parish of Sudbury, Unitarian-Universalist. They saw someone who could make a contribution and pulled me in after years of on-again, off-again attendance. So, now I’m on the Board of Trustees, serve as Treasurer of the Landscape Committee, sing in the choir, and bake periodically for coffee hour. Yeah, I do have to learn to say no.

A Saturday with No Books

time drain, time sink, wasted time, free timeOn Saturday, usually a good reading day, I spent much of the day giving a Back Bay tour to some of the new docents in training from this year’s training class. I got home just in time to change and head to the Service Auction at the church. By the time we returned, I was too knackered to do anything but catch up with an hour of TV and hit the pillow.

My writing group, Spacecrafts, draws on my time periodically to read and critique the creative works of other members, plus writing, submitting and revising my own stories. and the second edit on my novel. Also, I’m at the gym nearly every day. Usually that involves a morning water aerobics class with a pretty social group.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my communities. I am grateful for all my friends and supporters, for all the opportunities they provide to give to others, and for everyone who reads this blog — which also occupies my time.

More Than Enough to Read

So, when do I read? Not often enough. I always have a library book or two in process. Right now, I have four.

Provenance, Ann Leckie, science fiction, novelProvenance” by Anne Leckie is the living-room book. I read and loved her Ancillary series: “Ancillary Justice,” “Ancillary Sword” and ‘Ancillary Mercy,” so I pounced on this latest work when I saw it on the library shelf. It has too much politics to hold a candle to the trilogy but I’m still enjoying it.

A Perilous Undertaking” by Deanna Raybourn is the second in her Veronica Speedwell series of Victorian mysteries. It sits on my night table and I clear through a few pages a night. The independent Ms. Speedwell, has a tart wit, a powerful intellect and a very modern approach to a woman’s place in the world.

Hyeonseo Lee, The Girl with Seven Names, North Korea, escapeThe Girl with Seven Names” by Hyeonseo Lee, the book of the month for our book group, travels with me. I’m trying to power through it before the April meeting next Monday. This is the non-fiction story of a young woman who defected from North Korea. As with any account of what goes on in the Hermit Kingdom, this one shocks with its depiction of daily life there and the total brainwashing of its population. It’s not just that the ruling Kim family and its officials systematically destroy basic human values. They also violate what most of us think of as essential family relationships. The older Ms. Lee gets, the more her story pulls you in.

The Liar” by Nora Roberts keeps me occupied when I’m driving, especially on the trip to and from Boston. It’s a real beach book but it doesn’t distract me from my primary task and I just can’t listen to NPR or the news all the time. This story of a young woman who married a con man and finds herself a widow with crippling debt and no clue who her husband really was, keeps things moving while I’m behind the wheel.

The Advantages of Audio Books 

Audio books let me try out new authors and some books just work better on audio than in print. These include the Masie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear because of the narrator’s wonderful accents and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. It really helps to hear those Scottish names pronounced properly instead of sounding them out from the page. How else would one know that Laoghaire is pronounced Lirry? (Now you can watch the TV series on STARZ but they haven’t caught up with the books yet.

audio books, listening to booksThe same applies to Jo Nesbø’s mystery series about Oslo Police Inspector Harry Hole and the Lisbeth Salander books by the late Stieg Larsson and continuing author David Lagercrantz. I would much rather listen to someone else pronounce those Swedish and Norwegian names than makiemy own phonetic attempts.

Several of the libraries around me have excellent audio book selections so I just stop by the nearest one when need a replacement and browse the stacks. I’ve made some good finds that way, like Robert Galbraith’s (J.K. Rowling) Cormoran Strike crime fiction novels. “Cuckoo’s Calling,” the first of three (so far) will soon appear on Cinemax as C.B. Strike.

What Books Come Next?

It’s going to take me a while to clear through this literary logjam. When I do, I’ll be looking for Susanne’s recommendation, “The Memory Thief,” at the library. I usually check through the recommendations in People magazine while I’m in the check-out line but I rarely get to read any of them. And I have noticed that the Sunday papers all tend to review the same books. Coincidence? I think not.

Plus, there will be a new book club selection to get my hands on and read before the next meeting.

So many books, so little time. Who’d a thunk it?

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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