Slice of Life: Time to Read


“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write;
a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
~ Samuel Johnson ~

I thought of this quote when I read “Unbalanced Literacy: Reflections on the Common Core” by Thomas Newkirk in the March issue of Language Arts yesterday. If you have access to this journal, I highly recommend reading this piece. Newkirk includes this quote from Michel de Montaigne, which I love:

“Bees ransack flowers here and flowers there: but then they make their own honey, which is entirely theirs and no longer thyme or marjoram. Similarly the boy will transform his borrowings; he will confound their forms so that the end-product is entirely his.”

Newkirk included this quote to support his view of reading as a “transaction between reader and text,” but it applies to writing also.

Halfway through this month-long challenge, I feel desperate for time to just sit and read, for time to “ransack” a book, to borrow words and transform them into something entirely mine. My morning waiting for the furnace repairman yesterday made me crave this even more. When you have a taste of something delicious, you want more! (Furnace is working again, by the way.) The slices I’ve been reading are amazing and full of inspiration, but I miss having time to read a book. What to do? Write a quick slice about what I’m reading, then go read.

I usually have three or four books going at the same time. Here’s what’s on my nightstand today:

Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal, by Margarita Engle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)


Echo, Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths, by Marilyn Singer (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016)


The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets, by Ted Kooser (University of Nebraska Press, 2007)


What book(s) is/are on your nightstand? Happy ransacking (reading), everyone!

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday throughout the year and every day during the month of March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

12 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Time to Read

  1. So much rich material in this slice, Catherine. I love, love the quote about the bees and now plan to go check out the article you referenced. I also am intrigued by The Poetry Home Repair Manual. I’d love to hear what you think about it.


  2. I love the thought behind your post. That we can ransack our reading, mining it for ideas that become our own. Yes!


  3. I, too, need Echo/Echo as i love the previous books. This quote is so perfect on so many levels (and not just because I also NEED to read)!

    “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write;
    a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
    ~ Samuel Johnson ~



  4. Thanks for sharing the Newkirk quote. I hope I can get my hands on that article to read more. I could go on about how connected I was to your post, but I don’t want to distract you from your book! 🙂


  5. I’m so intrigued by the Newkirk article, thanks for sharing it! I think more time to just read and read and read is the dream, isn’t it? You’ve captured that longing to “ransack” so well–thanks for sharing!


  6. I notice that I tend to think about my reading and writing lives as separate–rarely ransacking (wonderful metaphor!) in the ways that I could. You’ve really got me thinking this morning about how I might use my reading to inspire more writing!


  7. Love the quote, and love Silver People. All Margarita’s books are wonderful. I hope you find the time, Catherine. I understand, much less reading (of books) happens during March. Glad your furnace is back!


  8. Catherine – you and your thoughts and practices are consistently LOVELY. Thank you for sharing. My nightstand is currently BARE! Yes, you read right and this is because I never hit the bed with any time or energy to do anything but CRASH. But soon again, I too, shall rally! Thank you for inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Catherine, I have the Ted Kooser book! We should set up a group to read it together. I bought it when I heard him speak in Seattle. And now I’m off to do some ransacking of my own in my bedside book, Pax.

    Liked by 1 person

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