Do You Feel Guilty When You Read?

Do you feel guilty when you read?

I sometimes feel guilty when I sit and read in the middle of the day.

It feels so unproductive, like I’m doing something solely for my pleasure and not benefiting anyone else. Like a waste.

It’s a bad mindset. I need to change it.

Granted, if there is something that needs to be done, I don’t need to forsake work just for my pleasure.

But if I’m caught up and nothing is pressing, it’s okay to take a little time for myself and read.

It’s often profitable.

  • It teaches me.
  • It changes me.
  • It can connect me back to God.

These are valuable reasons.

But this is another valuable reason, too: Reading is simply enjoyable to me.

I recently finished the new book, Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life by Heather Cass White. It’s about the pleasure and power of reading.

While I didn’t enjoy all of the book (it felt very disjointed; I give it 3 stars out of 5), I did enjoy enough of it to grab hold of White’s message:

“We should move a step beyond our preoccupation with dissipation and luxury where reading is concerned. The price is too high—it makes us read less. Even the pleasant aura of nocturnal dalliance we get for carving our life into daytime duty and nighttime reading, however attractively naughty it makes reading seem, is a distraction from the challenge of bringing our reading into the daylight. In the daylight we can affirm it, even and perhaps especially if only to ourselves, as a mode of living. We also serve who sit and read.

I hear her say to bring our books into the daylight.

Reading doesn’t have to be relegated to the last thing we do if we happen to have time left over. (I fall asleep if I wait that late.)

So if you have a spare moment today and you’re off the clock with no child crying for dinner or no emergency calling your name, pick up a book.

Without guilt.

And read.

“Reading is a morning’s work.”

When is your favorite time to read? Do you ever feel guilty about it? Share in the comments


My thanks to NetGalley + Farrar, Straus
and Giroux for the review copy of this book

35 thoughts on “Do You Feel Guilty When You Read?

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Same here, Michele. IF I’ve got the kitchen clean and IF my to-do list is clear, etc, etc. Those things are never finished, so I’m learning to put READING on my to-do list. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know you’ve been extra busy these days with your mother needing special attention. Some seasons are more open to reading than other seasons. When I’m playing with my grandbabies, I don’t pull out my books. Although I may pull out books for them. 🙂

  1. Joanne Viola

    Like you, I do feel guilty at times when I read. I truly could get lost in a book and read for hours. But the guilt dissipates when I come to realize how deeply I have fed my soul and stretched my heart and mind. I so agree, Lisa, reading is simply enjoyable to me!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ooh, I love your words, Joanne: “But the guilt dissipates when I come to realize how deeply I have fed my soul and stretched my heart and mind.” Amen. That’s what I need to remember.

  2. Barbara Harper

    I do try to keep most of my reading to evenings and Sundays so I can get my regular work done during the day. But I do find little pockets in which to do a bit of reading during the day. I love the thought of thinking of reading as just as important as anything else we do, not leaving it for after we get everything else done.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I like for Sunday to be a day of reading as well–and guilt-free! There are some days that I do the Pomodoro thing…”work” for 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes; repeat. During that 5 minute break, I’ll read. It really refreshes me even in the midst of a busy day. Granted, I don’t always have the disciple for that though. 🙂

  3. David

    Very. I used to fall into a book at every opportunity. I remember a flatmate joking to someone that I knew exactly how many pages of Finnegans Wake it took to grill my morning toast. Marriage and child stopped that as there is always something else I should be doing instead. My fantasy holiday is a hotel somewhere hot (not too hot – northern Italy should be perfect) with excellent food, absolutely nothing to do, and a pile of books.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I relate to the hotel scenario. Not everyone understands, but sometimes when I used to travel with Jeff on his work trips, I’d take a stack of books (now I can just bring my Kindle) and spend my days reading in the hotel room while he worked. It felt like total luxury to me. To other people it sounded like complete misery. lol.

  4. Debbie-Dabble

    I had such a hard time when I retired to just sit and do nothing else but read… It has taken me 2 years to conquer that feeling…I have just now started my 9th book since the end of May…I am so proud of myself too!! I don’t fall asleep when doing so either….LOL!! Thanks for sharing!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Good for you, Deb! I’m wondering if, when my husband retires, I’ll feel less guilt to just sit and read if he’s working on a hobby or something. 🙂 And yes…reading in the day means I stay awake while I’m reading! lol.

  5. Kym

    I do sometimes feel guilty when I read – usually when I get so caught up in my book that I keep reading long into the night or can’t put the book down after my break is over. I suppose it’s good to manage my time and not neglect other things I need to do, but I should be able to enjoy reading without feeling bad about it!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Exactly, Kym. Too often I categorize reading as a selfish activity I can splurge on when the “work” is done. But reading can actually be profitable for many things, including a sense of rest and refreshing that the Lord can work in us.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I need to take lessons from you, Linda! 🙂 I’m learning to release the guilt, but I’m not there yet. Jeff has begun reading more, so when he reads at night, it’s great to read together (well, at the same time, ha).

  6. Jean Wise

    I seem to wait to evening then can’t concentrate. So I have been trying to read 20 minutes or so in the morning. Not consistent yet with this routine but when I do it, it makes quite the difference.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s me, Jean. I have big plans to wake up early and read before I even get out of bed every morning, but I often get distracted by other things first. But when I do read first, it’s always enjoyable. My mind is most alert then.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yep, I’m the only one that judges me for reading during the day too. My husband encourages me to read anytime, but I’m a harsh taskmaker on myself. 😉 I’m working on it though. Thanks for sharing here, Lauren.

  7. Shelbee on the Edge

    Lisa, I really needed to read this post right now! I have been struggling big time recently with guilt around doing these types of activities that I so enjoy. Reading being the main one! I love to sit on my porch and indulge in a great book, but I often deprive myself of it because I “should” be doing something more productive. I forget that self care is also productive! Thank you for this gentle reminder!


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We’re cut from the same cloth on this, Shelbee. 🙂 I do find that I can indulge more with no guilt on the weekends, but why do I consider Saturday any different than Friday? ha. I have picked up a new novel this weekend and have enjoyed having time to just sit and read.

  8. Barbara

    Never feel guilty! Reading feeds the mind and informs the soul. I read for my research that forms the basis of my writing whether it be for my books, book reviews, or just to expand my mind. Knowledge is power. The words we read transmit those thoughts to the brain.

  9. Joanne

    I don’t often feel guilty for sitting down to read but have definitely mastered the art of multitasking when it comes to reading. I prop open my book while brushing my teeth or styling my hair, a use the laundry basket to hold open my book while I fold clothes, and even use the napkin holder to hold it open while I eat breakfast or lunch; that way I can still accomplish things I need to do and read which then frees me up for more reading time later.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m so glad you shared that you multitask when you read, too, Joanne–it’s nice to know I’m not alone in folding clothes while reading a book! 😉 I’ve found that I can add in a lot of reading that way. There are several things I do throughout the day that don’t require much thought so having a book handy is pleasant. And no guilt with that.

  10. Donna B Reidland

    I don’t remember who said it, perhaps Donald Whitney, that even as a young couple with little money, books were never thought of as a luxury by him and his wife. They added them to their budget. I think the same can be said for budgeting our time where reading is concerned. I think books, like so many other good things in life, can be a blessing or a curse (when we use them simply as an escape from responsibility). But fear of that can keep us from the blessing. Thanks for sharing and reminding me that reading truly is a blessing.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your measured response, Donna. We can take even good things and turn them around into idols or bad habits. I’m due to increase my reading “budget” since it’s still within the healthy range. 🙂

  11. Anita Ojeda

    I’ve gotten pretty good at reading guilt-free ;). I usually only feel guilty if I stay up too late at night reading and miss out on sleep–especially now that getting a good night’s sleep is harder (darn those hormones!)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Last night I had one of those (darn those hormones!) night. I had the hardest time going back to sleep once I woke up at 2 a.m., so I finally reached for my Kindle and read for about an hour. But if I try to read from 9-10 p.m., I can barely keep my eyes open. 🙂

  12. April Harris

    I do feel guilty when I read, Lisa! I love Heather’s admonition to bring our books out into the daylight, and I’m so glad you shared it – and her book! Thank you for continuing to encourage us to read and for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul Link Party. I’m featuring it at the party tomorrow. Take care and I hope you are having a lovely weekend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for stopping by, April. I appreciate you sharing my post at the party tomorrow. It seems that many of us feel more guilt than we should when we take time to read. May we learn to feel less guilt!

      The weekend here is a quiet one so I’m happy with that. Hope yours is going well also!

  13. Hilary S

    I grew up in a house where getting lost in a book whenever you wished was the norm for all of us. When I got married, my husband couldn’t understand why I apparently ignored him when he spoke (I hadn’t heard him) nor how I could read when there were jobs I could be doing. Then children came along and there was very little time for personal reading! Over 40 years I’ve gradually read less and less and definitely feel guilty at reading, except last thing at night when I do fall asleep after only reading a few pages! But as several people have said, if reading is important for you then it is important for one’s well-being and should become a priority in the day not an afterthought.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hope you’ll learn to read more with less guilt too, Hilary! Even in the day. 🙂 I remember seeing both my mother and my father reading as I was growing up. It’s a good memory. My husband used to never read books, but he is learning to enjoy how fun it is. That helps me read more myself when we can read at the same time. Guilt-free for sure at those times! 🙂

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