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  • Writer's pictureToby

Reading is good work

I'm embarrassed to admit I couldn't find the author who wrote this, or the exact quote, but it goes something like this:

"You need time to read the things you need to read."

This impacted me on a deep level. Before this phrase I never thought I "needed" to read anything. Then I learned a friend's partner was stricken with stomach cancer. At his memorial his father talked about how his last days were spent as much with family as they were with movies and books. There were things he needed to read, too.

Unsolicited Press, who is publishing Dark Roux (out 8/9), asked me in an interview if I have suffered from reader's block. I'd never heard it called that, but I definitely have. I caught myself answering that it happens when I've "been doing a lot of living and not enough processing." That answer had so much surprising truth in it. Of course we should all be living to the fullest. But it turns out I must believe that the slow processing moments are crucial to making that living mean something.

While reading New World Coming (Torrey House Press, 2021) I was reconnected with the idea of non-productivity being invaluable. A grandmother touches her indigenous activist granddaughter's hand and reminds her to just "be." If she can say that to her, someone busy doing something so important, then why can't I just be? Our addiction to productivity, letting it define us and validate us, makes sure we don't consider reading a good book important work.

But it always is. And you know it. The best books change you. They leave you pondering for days, swimming in their ideas and connections. And when you finally come up for air you know you are different. Because work has been done. Good reading is good work. Read. Then be.

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