Reading Journal (28 October): Thoughts on Read-a-thons and Eye Strain

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I don’t think I’m meant to join a read-a-thon: I’m constantly reminded of everything else I need to do instead!

On Saturday morning, I thought, “I’ll go write some comments on read-a-thon-ers’ blogs.” I started, and even got advice on how to be a good commenter, and then my son got up and I got busy. I think I commented for about 30 minutes.

On Saturday at about noon, I thought “I have some time. I’ll sit and read along with the read-a-thon-ers.” Just after I sat down, I decided to get up and open the blinds so I’d have more natural light. That helped me notice the horribly dusty blinds, so I decided to dust them before I sat down to read.

Needless to say, I didn’t get any reading done. Dusting the blinds led to starting a load of laundry, which lead to cleaning the kitchen, going grocery shopping, and otherwise going on with my Saturday chores.

I’m incredibly impressed with all the reading you were all able to do, and while I still hope to someday join in one of these “read-all-day” events, I’m okay with the fact that I got a lot done this weekend. At some point, I’d just love to let it all go and sit and read, but I do plenty of reading already, so there you go.

I did get Moonstone finished on Friday night. It was a mystery, and I can’t say I loved it: Woman in White is still better in my mind. I’m enjoying North and South but my main problem this week is eye strain (yes, even without the read-a-thon!).

You see, my version of The Moonstone was a cute small-sized volume with incredibly small print (8 point font, probably). Since I read all 550 pages in less than a week, my eyes have been sore. I’ve had headaches for more than a week now.

I went to the eye doctor, who told me that I don’t really need reading glasses: just let my eyes rest and/or read with reading glasses for a week until the headaches go away. He also told me that reading a lot does not ruin eyes. Also, reading in low light does not ruin eyes. Eyes may become strained, but bad eye sight is genetic, not created. So, despite what my husband says, my bedside reading with a small lamp is not making me go blind. (The doctor actually laughed and said, “That’s an old wives’ tale!”)

That’s a relief to me. My fear is the eye doctor will say someday “Sorry, you’ve got to stop reading so much if you want to save your eyesight.” What would I do without my reading? Watch TV? No, thank you. What would I do without being able to see? Audiobooks are nice, but it sure takes a long time to get through one book!

In other books news, I went on a Spice of Life kick in the library and brought home a number of food memoirs and cookbooks. On top of all the other books I have to read (the Victorian novels, my upcoming book club read, the long nonfiction book, and my children’s books project), I’m not sure when I’m going to get to all my food books. I’ve enjoyed going through some of the cookbooks in the past few days looking for interesting recipe ideas. (My husband is getting tired of me cooking the same dinners every week, so my cooking repertoire needs some originality.)

I’ve been reading a lot this month. I think letting myself off the hook in terms of reviewing for the blog has helped me to enjoy my reading more. I still want to get reviews up, but I don’t have to write so much or as frequently. This is supposed to be fun, right?! Lessening my posting schedule certainly does feel more fun. I’m reading.

Abandoned/Finished Books

While I didn’t participate in the read-a-thon, I certainly have been getting a lot read.

  • La Casa en Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (115 pages; Spanish translation, fiction). FINISHED! For Hispanic Heritage Month.
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (115 pages; fiction). FINISHED! The original English.
  • Macbeth by Shakespeare (180 pages; drama). For the RIP IV Challenge. FINISHED! I was going to listen to the audiobook, but it was a fully dramatized version by Americans with horribly fake Scottish accents. Hey, I could read it like that!
  • The Stories of John Cheever (about 25 of 61 stories, 820 pages total; fiction/short stories). Abandoned. Although this is part of my Pulitzer Challenge, I’m finding Cheever rather depressing in bulk. Besides, each of the last three or four stories I’ve begun have bored me from the beginning. I’ll hang on to the book and revisit some of his stories next year. Then again, I may just cross Cheever off the list: I feel I’ve had enough!
  • Jane Austen: A Biography by Carol Shields (5 CDs about 5 hours total; nonfiction/biography). FINISHED! For Martel-Harper Challenge and Everything Austen Challenge.
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (550 pages; fiction). FINISHED! For the RIP IV Challenge (mystery).
  • Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonas Lehrer (200 pages; nonfiction). FINISHED! For the Science Book Challenge. LOVED this!
  • Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda (324 pages skimmed; nonfiction). I can’t really say I “read” this book: I mostly skimmed through it at random, reading Dirda’s basic impressions of the books he discusses. I have to return it to the library, but I picked this up to get ideas for The Classics Circuit and it helped me get some! This is a book I intend to revisit. (P.S. Make sure you submit your own ideas for future tours!)

Currently Reading

Each week, I list my progress so I can see how my reading compares week to week.

My Books

My books are slow and steady ones.

  • Our Latter-day Hymns: The Stories and Their Messages by Karen Lynn Davidson (80 read of 350/455 pages; nonfiction). Bookmark: BYU Bookstore Education Week schedule from many years ago.
  • Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter by Seth Lerer (254 read of 330 pages; nonfiction). I read one chapter this week. Bookmark: Nathaniel Hawthorne (with a metallic book on the end of it).
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (20 read of 196 pages; children’s fiction). For My History of Children’s Literature Project.

Old Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

  • The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins by William Clarke (250 pages; nonfiction/biography). For the Collins Classic Circuit. I have not yet begun this.
  • Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond (425 pages; nonfiction). For the World Citizen Challenge. I have not yet begun this (and I may have to return it to the library before I get to it at all!!)
  • The Neil Gaiman audio collection (about 1 hour on 1 disc; children’s fiction). I started this audiobook for when I drive in the car with my son.
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (on 254 of 425 pages; fiction). Bookmark: Happily Ever After.
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (57 of 386 pages; fiction). Bookmark: Once Upon a Time. I didn’t read this at all this week.
  • Jane Austen’s Little Advice Book by Jane Austen (125 pages; quotes from Austen’s fiction). I have not yet begun this.
  • Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes by Emily Franklin (on 95 of 360 pages; nonfiction/memoir/cookbook). Bookmark: READ! Unfortunately, this memoir is boring me! Too much detail about family busy-ness and not enough cooking!
  • The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert (267 pages; nonfiction/memoir/graphic novel). I have not yet begun this.
  • Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (484 pages; fiction). For the Gaskell Classic Circuit. I have not yet begun this. My review isn’t until December, so I may not read it for a few more weeks.

New Library Loot

I got on a Spice of Life kick this week and picked up a ton of new memoirs and food books.

  • Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl. I haven’t opened this yet.
  • My Life in France by Julia Child. I haven’t opened this yet.
  • Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking by Julia Child. I haven’t opened this yet.
  • Around the World Cookbook by Abigail Johnson Dodge. I’ve skimmed this kids’ cookbook and made a recipe. It is just at my level. J
  • $3 Meals: Feed Your Family Delicious, Healthy Meals for Less than the Cost of a Gallon of Milk by Ellen Brown. I’ve browsed through this. The $3 bit is mostly a joke (she means $3 a serving), but not a bad recipe book.
  • Yum-O! : The Family Cookbook by Rachel Ray. I’ve skimmed through this. Rachel Ray is driving me nuts in print.
  • Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book by Rachel Ray. See previous comment.


While I have been reading your blogs, once again I was awful at commenting and adding books to my TBR this week! I suppose not adding books to my TBR is a good thing?

  • A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt. A Bibliophile’s Bookshelf. I liked the movie, and hadn’t realized it was first a play!
  • The Story of Art E.H. Gombrich. I found this after finishing Proust was a Neuroscientist. The chapters on Cezanne got me wanting to understand the history of art better.
Reviewed on October 28, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I can see how it would be hard to do the Read-a-Thon with a lot of distractions and a lot to get done around the house. I prepared for it mostly in advance – our flat is only tiny – and basically tried not to go in the kitchen so I wouldn’t get the urge to clean up! My husband is not fond of doing the dishes and believes that until I get a job, housework can be my job, LOL.

    I’m glad to hear that reading destroys eyesight is a myth! My eyesight dramatically deteriorated when I was about 13, and a LOT of people have told me it’s because I’m such a bookworm. I also heard it was because that sometimes happens when you hit puberty. I’m glad it’s the second explanation!

  • That is a relief…I always make sure I have adequate light to read in but I did worry that the strain from reading too much (especially when it comes to small text) would cause my eyesight to slowly worsen. I don’t even like to contemplate the possibility of a day I can’t read. A few weeks ago I had a book on hold at the library and it was in large print…I loved it! Tender at the Bone is very good. I hope you enjoy it…along with all your other reads.

  • When I am done with library school if the read-a-thons are still an event, I plan on participating. I always thought too much reading and reading in low light ruing your eyes was a myth. I prefer to read in natural light even if it is dim and my husband accuses me of reading in the dark and ruining my eyes. Now I can tell him otherwise. Thanks! 🙂

  • I am a horrible sitter! Especially during the day. I can’t seem to relax unless the house is spotless. I was a cheerleader this year, which was perfect for me. I could do it in spurts and then do my other stuff when I needed to.

    I’m hoping next spring to participate. I know I won’t really read the whole time, but I’m going to try and make myself sit!

  • What a relief! My father’s family has the “bad eyesight” genes, and I’m just lucky I haven’t got it yet. But have been worried about doing so much reading (thus I never go to the eye doctor lest he tell me to stop reading!). Thank you for telling us it isn’t so. 🙂

    How you described yourself during the readathon sounded a lot like my day, which is why, in 24 hours I only got to do 6+ hours of reading.

  • heheh, I was a bit worried about my eyes, too, with all the reading I’ve done this year. I’m glad to hear that too much reading doesn’t equal worse eyesight!

  • Oh no! You are not giving me high hopes for The Stories of John Cheever. Oh well – it won’t be the first time I’ve had to suffer through a boring Pulitzer…

  • I didn’t know that about eye strain being an old wives’ tale! Makes me feel better. 🙂 I HATE small-print books, so I understand your pain. I agree-Moonstone is my least favourite Collins so far. So glad you loved Proust was a Neuroscientist-wasn’t it AWESOME!? I am #78 on my library’s list for My Life in France, lol. But there are 18 copies, so it’s not a huge deal. I read The Story of Art in January and LOVED it!

  • I’m so glad my visit to the eye doctor calmed a lot of people’s fears about our eyes being ruined! I did find it pretty reassuring.

    Meghan, If I do the read-a-thon in the future, I’ll have to plan ahead!

    Book Psmith, I’m looking forward to Tender at the Bone! Glad to hear you liked it.

    Stefanie, I like lots of natural light too!

    Amateur Reader, I read the bulk of those 25 last month. I’ve been trying to pace myself and read a few more each week, but every time I go to pick it up, I just feel like groaning — I like Cheever, but yeah, it’s just time to stop trying for now!

    Tracie, I normally love to take reading breaks but I think Saturdays I’m like you say — I have a hard time sitting still when I know there are things that need to be done!

    claire, I think 6 hours is awesome! I’d have a lower goal if I did it — I just know I can’t stay up all night, for one!

    Amanda, yeah, I started worrying so had to ask the eye doctor! I’m glad too!

    Bella, I look forward to experiencing it through the play — movies have a completely different feeling. Thanks for your review!

    AK, well, after your nonfiction reads (which seem quite dense) you’ll probably enjoy the Cheever stories! I’m just comparing it to my other current reads and being quite bored overall…they are good just not for me this month or next.

    Eva, I’d never before noticed or cared if the print was small — and at first I loved the size of the book I was holding. But now I know I shouldn’t read 500 pages of small print at a go!

    I have so many great things to say about Proust was a Neuroscientist! It’s inspired me for lots of things. And yeah, I think everyone has the same idea about Julia Child! I’m glad I didn’t have to wait for it. Glad you enjoyed Story of Art. Not sure when I’ll get to it, but I felt a little ignorant during the chapter on Cezanne because I don’t know much about art!!

  • I saw that you really liked Proust was a Neuroscientist. I would also highly recommend Lehrer’s other book, How We Decide. I really like both of them!

  • I really liked “My Life in France” , and Reichl’s books, hope you do also!

    It’s good to know about the eyesight thing…whew :-).

    Not all book blog events (including challenges) are for everyone….it’s nice to have the options to do what you want!

  • You’re making me want to join the Spice of Life challenge. I’ve been thinking about food a lot lately since it’s starting to feel like autumn, my favorite season. It’s time for comfort foods. . . Maybe I’ll join!

    Blogging is supposed to be fun. So as long as you’re reading who cares?

    Glad to hear reading so much can’t strain eyes. I’m already wearing glasses! Happy reading!

  • I am so relieved to know that I won’t lose my eyesight by reading too much. Seriously. I’ve been worried that by the time I can retire, and really get to the books I want to read, I’ll be too blind to see them.

    Note to self: Don’t open the blinds. If you want to read. 😉

  • I participated in the read-a-thon as a cheerleader, but not as a reader. I am not sure that I have the patience for reading book after book – or I would end up having read just half a book anyway. But I had a good time going round the participant’s blogs and enjoyed that a lot.

    Hope your eyes get better soon.

  • Oh yes, too much Cheever can make you want to throw yourself onto something sharp. He does have a few masterpieces, but if I’m going to hang around the gin and tonic set, I’d rather watch Mad Men.

    Speaking of all your Spice of Life reading, I have a collection of M.F.K. Fisher’s essays, The Art of Eating, that’s supposed to be wonderful. Have you read any of her work? And just to repeat myself: I loved My Life in France. Once you open it, you won’t be able to put it down (I hope).

  • I love the story about the dusty blinds. I have the exact same problem when I try to sit on the floor to do stretching. You can not only see the cobwebs in the corners on the ceiling but the dirt on the carpet next to you. It’s impossible to exercise at home! Reading is like that for me too, although I can see less, but I do tend to jump around a lot – there’s always laundry to put in or dinner to take out, or something! Amazingly [sic] my husband never seems to have those problems! :–)

  • Marie, thanks for the recommendation! I’ll have to find that one too! Sounds interesting.

    Valerie, I’m hoping I’ll enjoy Julia Child!

    Vasilly, Yeay! there is a “read two books” option. Glad it’s the right season for it!

    Bellezza, yeah, I know, gotta stop thinking about chores if I want to not be distracted!

    Louise, I definitely have the patience to sit and read many books — but not if there are things that “need” to be done, I guess! I’m not sure I have the patience for cheerleading — even easier to get distracted. But maybe someday I’ll figure out something that works for me.

    Priscilla, lol about Cheever. Glad I’m not alone. I’m amazed such a huge thing won the Pulitzer and stayed on the best seller list so long — it’s great, I get it, but who reads 61 short stories by one author at once? I just can’t…

    I have heard of The Art of Eating (esp. love the title). I did read some Fisher for my grad school class and I enjoyed it! Looking forward to all of these!!! Thanks for the push.

    rhapsodyinbooks, yeah, certain things just don’t happen around my house if there are things to be done!

  • hm, listing old library loot is a good idea. I do a post like this on Sunday and I only talk about the new books, but telling what I still have is a good idea, too.

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