Maureen Corrigan: What I Read

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR's Fresh Air and an author herself, exemplifies the reading life. For her, that means limiting her online reading and getting up as early as 4 a.m. to tackle the more than 100 books delivered to her house weekly. 

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How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts, and the literary world to hear their answers. This is drawn from a conversation with Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR's "Fresh Air," a critic-in-residence and lecturer at Georgetown University, and one of the judges for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Corrigan is also working on a book titled So We Read On, about the way America reads The Great Gatsby

Depending on the day, I will get up as early as 4 a.m.; never later than 6 a.m. I walk the dog (priorities!) and, then, if I'm on deadline, I don't read anything in print or online. I just want to guzzle my coffee and focus on writing my review. When I'm writing, I don't want to hear other voices in my head. If it's not a deadline day, I'll turn on WAMU to listen to Morning Edition as I check my e-mails and Facebook page. I read The Washington Post and The New York Times in the morning, checking headlines, editorial pages, Style sections, and, of course, book reviews (unless the review is of a book I'm going to review; in that case, I don't read other reviews beforehand).

During the day, if I'm not in the classroom teaching or in the library reading or in my office writing or talking to students, I'll have WAMU on to listen to Tell Me MoreFresh Air (duh!), and All Things Considered. I don't do a lot of checking of blogs or other online sources. My overall attitude is that I can either read books—fiction or non-fiction—or I can read blogs, magazines, tweets, whatever. In order to read the number of books I do for my jobs—new books for review; classics and other older books for my courses—I can't spend much of the day dipping into other kinds of writing or media.

In terms of weekly and monthly reading, we have a household subscription to the following: The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, Publisher's Weekly, The Nation, The Atlantic, and Sports Illustrated.  I try to keep up with The New Yorker and make noble, if doomed, efforts with everything except Sports Illustrated. (Once in a while I read a "human interest" article in SI that my husband urges upon me.) Again, I feel as though I can spend my time reading either books or articles, and I just don't have the time to consistently read the magazines. As far as social media goes, I don't have a Twitter account, although I guess it's inevitable that I will this year. I use the NPR podcasts and sometimes watch movies and TV shows online (the new Sherlock series, missed episodes of Modern Family, The Middle, Revenge, and 30 Rock), and I'm on Facebook, though mostly as a lurker.

Before falling comatose into bed around 10:30, I probably will listen to all or part of Rachel Maddow's show on MSNBC (on weekends, I also watch Up with Chris Hayes.) My 14-year-old daughter can rattle off the entire MSNBC line-up, so that should tell you something about our household viewing habits. I don't watch the whole evening line-up (my husband usually does) because I'm, again, reading or planning classes or grading papers, but I do try to catch Rachel Maddow's show.

I usually read a new mystery or suspense story last thing at night (recently, I've read new novels by Daniel Silva and Donna Leon) or reread an old favorite. (I just reread Nora Ephron's Heartburn, and while some of it feels dated, other parts were still so funny and touching.) The other thing I should say is that I receive more than 100 books a week delivered to my house, so there are book mailers being dropped off on my porch constantly throughout the day. That little mountain of books waiting outside my door every day is a constant reminder of how much—and how obsessively—I need to read to keep current in the book world. My life is a great, frenetic version of "the reading life."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.