Research has taken on a different flavor now that I don’t have a teaching post. I’ve started work on my next book after Nightmares with the Bible, and I’ll reveal more about it eventually, but the topic does require research. Much of the reading required for both Holy Horror and Nightmares with the Bible was done on the bus. Those long commuting years weren’t exactly conducive to getting a lot of writing done, but there were hours of built-in reading time each weekday. My research often involves reading big books and I’m a slow reader. It’s a valid question why a slow reader would go into editing for a career. A bit of research on this blog would reveal the answer to that, but the fact remains that big books take a huge amount of time to get through.
Back before any of this was a concern, back when I was a mere seminarian, I had plenty of time for reading. One summer I volunteered for an archaeological dig at Tel Dor in Israel. This involved meetings ahead of time and a lot of advanced planning. One of the questions that naturally got raised was how many books to take. It was a long flight from Boston to Tel Aviv, and I didn’t have much cash for sightseeing. Most people, I was told, take James Michener’s The Source. This is his archaeologist book. In addition to that, it is a long work, just like most Michener novels, which meant you only had to take one book for the entire trip. I decided to buy a paperback of Tolstoy’s War and Peace instead. What a luxury it seemed in those long Israeli days to read such a tale.
In fact, I didn’t finish the book during the flight over, the six weeks at Pardes Hanna, and the return flight. It took me at least until winter back in Boston. These days when I take on a big book I generally read smaller ones alongside it. You see, I have to see some progress as I’m going. I tend to read nonfiction before work in the morning and fiction after work is done. My days are literary work sandwiches, I guess. And the stuff that I need to do around the house doesn’t pause while I indulge in my favorite vice of reading. Yes, my research has definitely taken on a different flavor since being paid to do it. What hasn’t changed is the desire to push knowledge forward, one page at a time.