Books as guides: Fall books: Reading habits

October 8, 2012

I  am seldom without reading material—the Economist is my staple for doctors’ waiting rooms—but lately I find it more difficult to concentrate on reading that requires sustained attention, like poetry. I have to work at making time and a quiet heart. I begin and end each day with prayer, using Give Us This Day. Designed for Catholic readers, it contains daily mass readings and scripture reflections by many contemporary women.

I dislike reading online, but consult my local paper and the New York Times daily. I read the New Yorker, Image and Vanity Fair. I use Facebook to keep up with my nieces and a nephew.

Books are my travel companions. A canceled flight is an opportunity to browse in a bookstore, and when flight attendants instruct me to turn off anything with an on/off switch, I keep reading while the e-readers go dark. I’m more likely to read history than theology, and the latter is often from ancient sources. I’m now reading On Living Simply, excerpts from the sermons of John Chrysostom.

I depend on the New York Times and the Economist for reviews. It was through the latter that I found Alaa Al Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building, a novel set in modern Cairo, and when the Arab Spring erupted there, I felt that it had provided me some perspective on Egyptian culture. Books have always been my guide to a broader world. I prepared for my first trip to Australia by reading Thomas Keneally’s A Commonwealth of Thieves, about the founding of what is now Sydney, and Kate Grenville’s novel of the same period, The Secret River. I have since become fans of other Australian writers: Tim Winton and Gail Jones for her pithy, astonishing novel Sorry.