She gives two primary reasons for why this is so off-putting to true-believers: it minimizes the value of reading as being somehow frivolous, and it implies that time for book-reading is something "found" rather than "made." Her take, one with with which we largely agree, is that the phrasing is condescending, subtly equating reading with "leisure." In a comment on her post, the Ape contributed the following:
Pretty much agree here, though I think the phrasing is more defensive than condescending. If people don’t watch American Idol, they say “I don’t like American Idol.” Saying “I don’t like reading” is culturally gauche, so instead someone’s aversion to reading gets couched in “business.” It’s not that I am a lazy, uninterested, intellectually stagnate gadfly–it’s that I simply don’t have enough time in my busy and important/glamourous life. Had I more time, I would be re-reading Proust for the third time. In French.Upon further reflection, though, we know that there is something else going on here. Readers are not righteous, and non-readers aren't sinning, even if those of us who kneel at the altar of literature might feel it otherwise. No, it seems to use that the defensive/offensive nature of the "I don't have time to read" comment is born of an intellectual paradox; most educated people "know" that reading is somehow valuable, and yet they don't "feel" it. That is, they have been taught, in the classroom or elsewhere, that reading is good and noble, but in their daily lives, the echo of that instruction is not supported by their lived experience of reading; Reading well is always time-consuming, largely isolating, sometimes unsatisfying, and frequently difficult.
The truth of the matter is that the value of reading for oneself, not for a degree or for information or even for entertainment, is elusive. This is a sort of open secret among teachers and scholars of literature. If you ask one of us to list the benefits of being well-read, you'll receive numerous reasons, from cultural history to personal edification, but the plurality of the reasons belies the lack of a conclusive, central one.
So I can't help but think that my frustration at the "I don't have time" phrase stems, at least in part, from my inability to articulate a cogent reason why you should make time to read, why you should fight for time, why you should make reading seriously a core element of your life. I could give reasons, of course, but the main reason is not one I can use--I think you should read because reading makes my life richer and that I feel the lack for those who don't read. I can't make you feel that nor can I call logic to my aid to prove it to you. And that is a frustration that borders on despair.