When Reading Feels Like a Waste of Time

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Marcie Stokman

As Bishop James Conley from Lincoln, NE recently said in an interview: “All of us who wish to bring forward a renewal of Christian culture in our world should begin on our knees, in prayer. But we must also begin with books in our hands, being formed in the great tradition of the classical mind.”

You acclaim the benefits of reading; in fact, you’re convinced that as a society we need to read more. Yet, in the secret recesses of your heart, there is tension. For a woman wearing many hats and juggling many activities, reading a novel seems like a waste of time.

Isn’t there more important work for a woman to do than read Frankenstein or all 985 pages of The Brothers Karamazov? With everything we have going on, maybe next month would be better for tackling Dostoevsky.

Yes, of course, next month! The hammock that has been lodged in an upstairs closet for twelve years due to missing hardware will magically be hung and call my name! Next month, the weeds won’t grow, and the milk won’t spill. Next month the long-awaited reading reprieve will materialize!

Don’t be fooled. Do you want to know the secret to being a reader? Here it is. When you don’t have time to read, read. It’s that simple. Reading is a decision.

Without this decision, we fall prey to the deeply held belief that as women we must keep moving and doing. We fall prey to what Piper, author of Leisure: The Basis of Culture, calls “total work.” Our tendency is to overvalue the sphere of work.

Because of Well-Read Mom, I’ve been more faithful than ever before to reading. Yet still, every month, the inner wrestling begins. It’s work to pick up Frankenstein. I struggle to focus, concentrate, and comprehend. Gradually, however, I enter the story. I see Victor Frankenstein lured into the zone of “total work,” leaving leisure time and meaningful relationships behind.

In the world of great literature my imagination is educated. Through Victor Frankenstein, Piper’s idea of “total work” takes on flesh. I see myself in a new way and realize that I need time to read, think, grow, and thrive. I recently said to my daughter-in-law, Lisa, “Moms need a space where Choo-Choo Bob can’t enter!”

What a gift it is to be accompanied by courageous women willing to persevere against the cultural tide in order to make time to read classics and worthy books from our tradition. Our member’s letters verify that reading is not a waste of time, but instead a renewal of time.

Marcie Stokman is the founder of Well-Read Mom. She speaks and writes to encourage women. Marcie and her husband Peter have seven children and ten grandchildren and live in northern Minnesota where she is homeschooling their youngest daughter and teaching literature, writing, and Christian Studies as part of a local academy. 

This article was originally published in the ‘Year of the Worker’ Newsletter.