in your abundant spare time

So, I know we all read a lot for work. It’s all I do. And then I do more of it online, because I am a blog addict and F5 refresher hound. I need to do that site-blocking thing Jeremy does.

But what do you read in your spare time? Me? Not enough, and it hurts me, former English lit major that I was. It wounds me to the core. Subquestion: what do you do in your spare time, since you have so much of it?

The Dude wonders how I don’t read enough through the year. He let me borrow 20 books or so, and I’ve only read two. He predicts that it’ll take me two years to finish (since I have another 30 unread of my own), and so maybe by the time I file my dissertation, I can give them back. I tell him that my job is to read, that I am always behind in my reading, and that with a few hours free each evening, my eyes are too exhausted to read more. I prefer to cook, bake, knit, or run–something physical and hands-on. I might try to read the New Yorker right before bed, but more than once I have whacked myself in the face with it as I fall asleep reading (I lie on my back, making reading in bed a dangerous sport). In fact, a lot of my books are unread because I can’t safely read them in bed. A hardcover of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is downright deadly in a mid-slumber face-whacking.

I’m not above watching television, but I don’t have my TV connected precisely because I would watch it, and watch lots of it. Dancing with the Stars! I also don’t have it in the bedroom. The bedroom is for sleeping and fun reading, although I have been known to bring along Gideon Kunda’s Engineering Culture inside, messing up the zen-like peace of the room.

Finally, I don’t want to be all competitive in my off-hours life too. A perusal of academic blogs shows that many read middle/high (depending on how elitist you are) publications in addition to all the high falutin’ journals they “have” to read: The New Yorker, The Economist, Dissent, n+1 (more popular among grad students/hipsters), The Paris Review, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic. Wow, academics sound like a fun crowd.

Of those rags, my limited budget and time means that I only subscribe to and read The New Yorker. I occasionally look at TNR online, and I pick up occasional Economists. I do not subscribe to the expensive quarterlies, not even The American Scholar (which is totally elitist signaling!).

I ask you, Scatterbrains: what do you do in your abundant spare time? Are you really always awesome? Can’t we all, as a collective body of academics, admit to not being “on” all the time, that our off-hours are not always caught up in the esoteric, the same vicious, never-ending intellectual debates? Why do I have to hide all the issues of Vogue or Marie Claire every time a fellow academic visits my house? Why can’t I admit to watching the same episodes of Firefly and Buffy over and over again, because it is comforting and non-challenging to re-watch something, as opposed to sitting down to some three hour foreign movie that will depress me greatly?

I have so little spare time, and in addition to trying to “have it all” and make dinner for for my partner and myself and keep a nice home (way to be against gender stereotype and live your work on gender discrimination law, Belle), I feel constant pulls to be hyper intellectual in my off-hours too. I know that this is just my own insecure neurosis, but blogging has made public aspects of our private life, and I admit, it is my own fault that I have bought into that. I have to post some “serious” posts in addition to silly ones, just to feel better about myself. I can’t only admit to “common” off-hours activities–I must show myself to be interesting and intellectually engaged in my hobbies, too. So much of this is exasperating, and self-created, that I wonder why I still blog, when blogging seems like a lot of work and I keep worrying how I appear to others. If I had no audience, I wouldn’t worry, right? Or would I anyway? Reading other people’s blogs makes you evaluate yourself regardless of any external arbiter. Judge not, lest ye judge yourself.

Anyway, all to say, I hope that in the comments you will confess to your own “low” or “middle” brow indulgences, and own them!

15 thoughts on “in your abundant spare time”

  1. I am a tenured faculty member and have a 12-month adminstrative appointment. I read serious things for my job all the time.

    On the other hand, I have leisure reading material at various places throughout my house. Currently (not at this moment, since I’m at work!), I am reading the latest issue of Sunset magazine (vicarious traveling and cooking!), a mystery by P.D. James (its very calming, somehow, to read about English people killing each other on an island off the coast of Cornwall), and a collection of short stories by Eudora Welty (which I have read before, several years ago).

    I also like watching crappy t.v. shows. My favorite is “The Big Bang Theory”, because of its loving depiction of geeks and nerds. I also can’t stop myself from watching “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, even episodes I have seen before.

    At this time in my life I don’t try to impress people with my taste in reading materials, or t.v. shows.


  2. My name is Laura Beth Nielsen and I am a zoo tycoon-aholic. Prior to that, I was a scrabble-aholic. Still hit the scrabble sometimes — but right now it is all about zoo tycoon. In fact, now that I mention it — I am goiong to build a zoo.


  3. “The bedroom is for sleeping and fun reading.”

    Only an academic would come up with reading as the second primary use of the bedroom (not to say that I’m excluded from that category).


  4. Well, I openly admit in my blog to spending two whole days reading a Sci Fi/Fantasy book all weekend instead of working (Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels Trilogy, in case you were wondering). I read Sci Fi because I want to escape this society and go into one created for me. Great Sci Fi does that (speaking of great, check out Name of the Wind if you like this type of novel). I also watch at least 3 shows a week–including reality shows (Top Chef,Project Runway, House, Boston Legal). None of that high-brow crap for me! I also LOVE horrible movies. I mean really no good terrible movies — like Bring It On… that’s right, the cheerleader movie. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.


  5. I prefer Jim Butcher, because it’s interesting and an enjoyable read – I can’t believe SciFi cancelled Dresden Files! Also Charlaine Harris – easy to read mysteries and semi-horror in Southern style. But I only read between semesters because I don’t have time during the semester to do anything but school work!


  6. First you got to read Name of the Wind, then go to facebook, where you can actually friend the author. He even posted on my wall (I’ll never wash it again). This made me almost excited as the picture I got of me with Joel Best!


  7. I would say that the major uses of my free time are: 1. Wii and/or Nintendo; 2. Getting shmammered; 3. Brewing my own beer, to enhance #2. All come highly recommended.

    Also: I really get what you mean about watching the same old shows over and over again. I have probably seen everything on Adult Swim about 3 or 4 times through, but it’s so easy to veg out to after 12 hours of R and student papers.


  8. I am rewatching the entire Battlestar Galactica series in a desparate attempt to figure out who the final cylon is before they announce it on the show. And I have already admitted my addiction to Disney Channel television shows on my blog.


  9. Even in the deepest throes of disseratation writing I read copious amounts of cheap ass mystery novels. I found myself dropping into bed at 1 or 2 or later in the morning and then reading for 30 minutes or more. I have to have something fun and easy to read. When I’m less overworked I add a few serious literature books or memoirs to the mix but mostly I just read crap.

    I also read the New Yorker although I’m pretty behind on this lately. And I just love Law and Order and even a few reality shows.


  10. Yeah of course I don’t work all the time, but a lot of my non-work time isn’t very cute or amusing. Too much mindless unsatisfying net surfing and email checking I don’t have interesting hobbies and I spend a lot of non-work time doing stuff that even I don’t think is actually fun. I work a lot of New York Times crosswords and play free cell — both on computer. Since I took up audio books, I have read a lot of fiction — a novel every week or three, depending on length. I “read” them while working out, while driving to/from work, and while doing non-mental housework or yardwork. I read/listened a lot this past winter while shoveling snow. I read so much that I’m pretty eclectic. When I first got going with audio books I had a taste for trashy romances and mysteries as they motivated my exercising. Then they got boring and I branched out. In the past I read all of the Patrick O’Brian “Master and Commander” etc books (which are GREAT in audio, a wonderful narrator), and I have read all of the George RR Martin books. I like 19th century novels a lot too, especially George Eliot. I’ve been picking up a bit of Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell (who is Ok but not as good as some of the others). Sometimes I have a “book book” going on my nightstand that I shift to at bedtime as a book book is more relaxing for going to sleep, other times I stay with the audio book. Currently I’m listening to Catch-22, which I’d never read and realized I should.

    FYI in the past when my children were young and I was really stressed out, I read the same six books over and over. It was like thumb sucking, I just wanted to be soothed, I did not want any new stimulation.


  11. I watch TV and especially love reality shows that celebrate the worst things about humanity – Next (MTV), America’s Next Top Model, etc…I listen to the radio. And buy the hot songs on iTunes. I paint my nails. I do crossword puzzles. I worry about what to post on my blog. I drink wine. And martinis.


  12. I read a lot of novels and nonfiction. Reading Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives right now, which is strangely addictive. Of course, we also have our regular television shows that we watch – Battlestar, Reaper, 30 Rock, The Office…


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