“What I Need Is a Deadline” (for Reading)

Choosing my next book sometimes feels like a complicated dance. With so many books to read, how can I possibly decide what to read? What to read now? What to read next? There are many factors to juggle, but I’ll tell you this: I agree with Duke Ellington, the jazz great who famously quipped, ‘I don’t need time. What I need is a deadline.’

A deadline – apologies to my library patron friend – isn’t an obstacle to my reading life. (My fines might tell a different story, but never mind those.) In the face of overwhelming options, a deadline clarifies what I want to read right now.  It focuses my attention on what I want to happen next. Just like a journalist who lives and dies by their deadline, a reading deadline ensures my books get read sooner, not later.

I often tell myself I’ll get around to reading a certain book one day. But good intentions are worth only so much, and sometimes one day never comes. A good deadline forces me to ask myself if I’m ready to read it right now. (If I’m not, does it even belong on my To Be Read list?)

…It hurts my children’s feelings not to read what they want me to read, and so I do, on deadline. Duke Ellington understands: ‘Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.’ Without a deadline, Duke, I wouldn’t do nothing – but I wouldn’t read as much either. And, baby, I love to read.

rather-be-reading-bogel-2018Taken from a good summer read I recently bought at Baker Book House. In I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, lifetime reader Anne Bogel reflects on the paradoxes of readers and bibliophiles like herself. The chapters are short and packed with great insights and encouragements about the literary life – the highs and lows, the tears and triumphs of reading.

The above quotation is taken from chapter 12, “What I Need Is a Deadline” (pp.80-85).

Published in: on September 16, 2019 at 10:26 PM  Leave a Comment