Writers On Reading: Stephen King

Stephen King

Imagine you’re in a train station or a doctor’s waiting room.

If you prefer, imagine you’re standing in a queue to get your passport renewed, pay your parking fine or buy theatre tickets.

Are you:

  • frantically texting on your phone;
  • glancing at your watch every few seconds;
  • staring into space;
  • glaring at the back of the person in front of you, somehow thinking this will make the queue move quicker or
  • reading a book/magazine/newspaper?

If you picked the last of these options, you are in a minority I suspect.

Take a look around you the next time you’re in one of what Stephen King would call “dead spots in life”. How many of the people around you are reading? Very few I suspect.

For reasons I won’t bore you with right now, I’ve spent many hours in hospital waiting rooms in the past few years. They always run late so I make sure I have a book or an e-reader with me.

I’m often the only one. I’ll see the occasional person with a magazine or a newspaper. But the majority are just sitting, either looking at the blank wall in front of them or reading dog-eared notices about the myriad of problems the body can throw at you.

How can they do this? I find the prospect of being stuck in a place for even 15 minutes without anything to read as highly stressful. No-one wants to be in these places but if you can lose yourself in a book for a while, it makes the wait slightly more manageable. But there these people sit, sometimes for more than an hour, with absolutely nothing to occupy their minds.

I’ve not reached the level of Andy Miller who, during his Year of Reading Dangerously, would find an excuse to go to the post office just so that he could read.

But I do tend to have a book with me almost every time I step out of the house. They help keep me sane.

How about you? Do you always carry a book with you or are you happy sitting in a Zen like state while waiting?

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on August 3, 2019, in Writers on Reading and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 52 Comments.

  1. I take my kindle to work and read on my breaks, we take lunch breaks one at a time, so I am not being anti-social!

  2. Agreed, although I seem to have more mini-USB cables than I have devices. I think maybe they breed…

  3. I spend a lot of time in my car for work, and ALWAYS have an audiobook playing wherever I go. I have a little Sony Pocket e-Reader that I’ll take with me when I know there’s a wait in store for me. (With case and nightlight, it’s not exactly ‘pocket’ anymore, but still…)

    • Its the same with a lot of devices isn’t it – in themselves they are portable but then you have to have all the paraphernalia to go with them. And of course none of the cables will ever fit the other devices

  4. If there’s even a slight chance I might find myself in a dead spot I always take my Kindle with me. It has saved my sanity on numerous occasions.

  5. Great post. I really enjoyed it. I try to carry a book if at all possible.

  6. Sometimes I’ll carry a book – depending on what I’m reading at the time. If it’s a novel with a reasonably straightforward plot I’ll carry it where ever I go until it’s finished. If it’s something that requires a little more concentration I’ll leave it at home and finish it in peace and quiet. But if I am waiting in a line or waiting room I’ll have my phone open so I can access WordPress to check on my own blog or others that I am following.

  7. I ALWAYS carry my Kindle paperwhite with me wherever I go. As of today it contains 624 books – so I guess I won’t run out anytime soon. I too have had many medical appointments recently and couldn’t imagine not having my Kindle with me.
    My husband says it will have to be surgically removed from me soon. LOL

    • That’s more than double the number of books on my TBR in total (physical and electronic) so you’ve just made me feel better…… I have a lot on my Kindle app too but because I don’t physically see them I tend to forget they are there

  8. I always carry a book with me and I’m always reading in these dead spots in life!

    I remember attending an interview for my very first full-time job around 4 years back. It was a huge process with multiple tests and interviews for about 7 of us. Every break between interviews, every dead spot, I was reading.

    Interestingly, my final interviewer was a voracious reader himself and we mostly just talked about books the entire interview. I also got the job. ❤️

    • I suspect a few things happened. The reading meant you were not too tense going into the interview. And also that the discussion with that last interviewer made yiu memorable.

  9. I always have a book on my when I leave the house because I like reading. One thing that concerns me is the way people fill time mindlessly, such as playing Candy Crush on their phones. I don’t mind the person staring at the wall. In fact, he/she may be imagining mindless, something studies show we don’t do enough of for good brain health.

  10. E-readers became my life saver in hospital waiting rooms. At last I could have more than one book with me without having to carry an entire library along. I have been caught out far too often without sufficient reading left in the book that I was currently engaged with and before the advent of my kindle always took at least two along with me.

    • I have this fantasy image now of you settling into your seat in the waiting room, opening some voluminous bag and hefting out multiple books.
      I get panicked too about being in a place where I run out of reading material – so this week when taking my husband for his appointment I had a physical book and an ereader, just in case…..

      • It’s no fantasy, believe me. I learned the lesson the hard way when I packed enough reading matter to see me through an appointment that I thought might run an hour late; it ran two and I finished my book half an hour prior to going in. At least two books after that and sometimes three.

        • Baden Powell would have been proud of you. I’m teasing you but I was just as bad when I travelled overseas for work – I’d agonise over what book to take on the plane. Get to the airport and go shopping for another just in case the one I had chosen proved to be a dud or I finished it before the flight landed. Then I would get sucked into the 2 for 1 deals so then had to lug three books and a big newspaper around the airport….

  11. Kindle helps but I like paperbacks…

  12. I always carry a book. I am in the minority though. Everyone around me seem to be tapping away on their phones, or listening to music, or horror, watching movies on their phones.

  13. I always have a book! I was recently on a train – a rare occurrence since I usually drive everywhere – and was amazed that everyone seemed to be busily texting rather than reading! No-one ever sends me texts that are half as interesting as a good murder mystery…

  14. I think you’ve proved everyone who reads Lit.Blogs always carries a book. I certainly do and have a dozen odd in the truck at any one time in case I break down – though if I’m anxious I tend to play Killer Sudoko rather than read.

  15. I always have a book with me, even if I’m just nipping out to the shop – you never know when you’re going to have a few minutes to kill, and I get fidgety if I have nothing to do.

  16. I have his book On Writing (Memoirs of the Craft) and I reread it now and then. Learning a lot from it.

  17. Rachel Bridgeman

    Always take a book with me! There is the Kinlde app on my phone or my Kindle itself but I always have a physical book with me. Travelling back and fore to placement sometimes means as much as 2 hours each way on buses/trains etc..that’s a lot of reading time! Amazing as well how many people on break would regard reading as anti-social when as soon as they sit down they whip their phones out..

    • I’ve never had to resort to reading on a phone – it’s hard enough on an ipad screen but on a phone screen I’d be constantly flicking pages.

      You bring up a great point about people using their phones when they are with others. It seems perfectly acceptable to go out for an evening with a friend/relative/partner and to spend the entire time texting others who are not there. i don’t get it….

  18. I’m the same, I always have a book with me as well whether a physical one or on my phone.

  19. I always have my books or magazines on my phone apps. Sometimes being in a quiet waiting room is a good place to read. I often wonder how people can sit in them staring at the walls.

    • I’ve seen loads of people board an international flight without anything to read. I suppose they rely on the seat back entertainment which is fine as long as it works…..

  20. I can only read if I’m relaxed. If I’m in a stressful situation such as a hospital or dentist waiting room I probably wouldn’t be able to concentrate on a book. As much as I like reading I don’t feel the need to be constantly reading.

    • Thats a fair comment Jonathan. Magazines/newspapers would be ideal in those circumstances but if you are comfortable without, no reason to feel you HAVE to be reading

  21. I tend to always have a book. If for some weird reasons I don’t have any, not even my kindle or nook, I can always read a book on my phone through my Google Books Library – right now, I have Don Quixote there, so I can access it from several devices, and keep reading where I stopped. I have also sometimes read ebooks from my library on my phone, with overdrive.
    This past year, I have spent many hours in hospital or at the doctor for my husband, and actually, I often see others reading as well, also on the train going to/coming back from work in Chicago. Many many people are reading. Which always gives me the temptation to ask them what they are reading!!

    • Before the days of electronic devices it was easy to see what someone was reading. You can’t exactly look over someone’s shoulder to see what is on their screen can you?

  22. I tend to read books in hospital waiting areas and always clock others doing the same, though as you say, they’re far from common. I do, however, use my phone to read online articles and reply to comments on my blog. I can’t imagine leaving home without a book (or Kindle) in my bag. How do these non-readers cope? Perhaps some of them meditate to pass the time!

  23. I often take a book, and only go to cafés with newspapers in them. I also carry around a series of tatty bits of paper with book suggestions on, to use in the library. My mother, always organised, even had a notebook with suggestions in alphabetical order, and ticked them off as she read them. I treasure it!

    • Golly your mum was super-organised. I try to keep lists but keep switching handbags so my bits of paper were lost. I’ve switched to keeping the list on the phone now.

  24. Kaggsysbookishramblings

    I never leave home without a book… 😁

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