When I go to the football, I tend to travel light, usually preferring to carry a book or a notebook along with my iPod. My normal mode is to pick a book off my considerable to-read pile, though I don’t always get it read. I’ve been trying to finish a book review for months but I have carried the book to at least three games and it’s still not done. Sometimes, though, I have managed to read a book in its entirety on the journey to and from Edinburgh or wherever the game is. It helps that I am a quick reader, even if I don’t read enough.
I suspect I am not the only one. I spend too much time looking at my phone. Twitter musings and Facebook updates aren’t conducive to good concentration, sadly. Just being able to read and not bother to scroll every few minutes would improve my life considerably. I probably still read more than most – I give out books for a living, after all – but most of my reading happens on a screen rather than in print. I don’t think I read the same on a tablet. I flick between pages faster and my eyes dance over the screen rather than lingering on each printed word. The other day I re-read the latest Quintin Jardine novel because the first time I didn’t get a whole lot out of the experience. It’s still reading and still a better way to spend my time than spear fishing or watching Hearts or whatever but it is still a lesser pleasure than actually sitting somewhere nice reading a book.
Recently I took a book with me and read it in full well before I headed home. I read most of it on the train – it was called #girlboss by Sophia Amoruso, incidentally – and was going to go up to Calton Hill to finish it until I remembered that I was in Edinburgh and sitting on a hill to read wasn’t happening with the wind. I still went up to Calton Hill, though, but sat for half an hour in Leith Links instead to finish reading it. I think the best reading moments happen when outside and I don’t do it often enough. I of course live in Scotland, though, so the climate doesn’t always suit al fresco reading even at the height of summer. A few years ago, I went on a day trip to Dumbarton Castle and sat at the bottom of the Rock finishing reading what is now one of my favourite books, Findings by Kathleen Jamie. It felt appropriate to have a sweeping vista of the Clyde before me as I read such a far-reaching book.
So far this current season, I’ve read three books travelling to and from the football. The trip to Alloa saw me reading the wonderfully warped Hings by Chris McQueer, or at least for part of the journey as I was laughing too hard to read any more of the book on the train. Game one of the season, against Partick Thistle at Easter Road, was a re-read of My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir, a reminder of past work and hopefully a prompt to future travels too. The League Cup game the following Tuesday saw me take the memoir of the music journalist Sylvia Patterson, I’m Not With The Band: A Writer’s Life Lost In Music. I even sat and read some of it while sitting on the veranda of a pasta restaurant in Leith, perhaps looking a tiny bit cosmopolitan along the way. Probably not, though.
I’ve read various stories lately about the sales of eBooks going down and conversely people reading less generally due to how busy life is. Planning just how to take time out takes up more time than the time out itself. Reading is a powerful insight into someone else’s world, whether it be biography or a novel. It is in essence a conversation between writer and reader and there are times, like in real life, when the conversation is loaded on one side or another. From the writer’s side, it can be because it isn’t sufficiently clear to make sense to someone else. The reader might be hindered by whatever they are feeling or thinking at the time, as much as how they read it especially if they are like me and in front of a tablet computer screen.
Having time to read is precious. I spend a lot of my life in transit and my life is enriched by being able to read even for a little part of it. Reading makes me a better person and certainly a better writer. Carrying a book is a natural part of my life though mainly they are books to put on a shelf. Being able to get a book for me and really sit down and read it is an ever rarer treat these days. Then again I also have a deep urge to write so a balance might have to come down somewhere in the middle. I might just have to wait for every second Saturday and use the travelling as my weekly or fortnightly reading time, hopefully not during the game itself.