“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.”
As I mentioned earlier, when I was a kid I was a gluttonous bookworm. Sadly, I’m not sure I can call myself an avid reader any more. It’s not that I don’t love to read anymore, or even that I’ve stopped reading – I just don’t read as much as I’d like to. There’s far too many classic works of literature and far too little time.
My first step in attempting to read more was writing “5 Reasons You Should Read More”.
This list of 10 reading tips is my second step.
10 Tips to Help You Read More
1. Understand why reading is important: It’s hard to make something a high priority without understanding why and how it’s important to you. Reading my post “5 Reasons You Should Read More” is a great start. On the individual level consider your goals in life and your values. How does reading help you in your endeavors, and how does reading help increase your values?
2. Choose books that are meaningful to YOU: One of the biggest reasons people stop reading is because they feel like they should be reading monumental, classic pieces of literature. The problem is that many classical works of literature are lengthy and hard to read. Shakespeare’s plays are written in Olde English and iambic pentameter. If you try to get back into reading by picking up a copy of Hamlet, there’s not really much hope for you. Find something you enjoy, something you’re passionate about. Even if your goal is to read the classics, you should get into the habit of reading by starting with short, enjoyable books, then take on heavier books as you go.
3 . Keep what you want to read near you: The saying “Out of sight out of mind” has stuck around for only one reason: It’s 100% true. The more you see the book you want to read, the more likely you are to pick it up and read it. Place them in eyesight – on a shelf at eye level, on the coffee table, on the kitchen table. If you’re feeling extreme do something extreme – tie it with string from your ceiling so it hangs just above your head, or wedge it into the refrigerator handle. Do anything to make sure it doesn’t find a dusty home out of your sight and mind.
4. Don’t sacrifice valuable activities: If you love to fish and you sacrifice your fishing trip to pursue reading (like that would ever happen anyway), you’re not really giving your reading habits much of a chance. You need to develop a positive mindset toward reading, and cutting time from activities you love will make reading less appetizing to you, and before you know it, you’ll have stopped reading completely.
5. Give it time: Getting back into reading (or starting to read) can seem like a chore at first. The time it takes people to really get into the book they’re reading differs, but in most cases you should be able to focus on and enjoy the writing after about 20 minutes of reading. If it takes longer then this, evaluate yourself – Are you just unable to focus on any book in that time frame? Try 30 minutes. Is it the book? Maybe you just aren’t interested in the story, topic, or writing style. There’s nothing wrong with that! You’re a unique individual and you have your own personalized set of likes and interests. If the book is boring, find a different one! But give it enough time to know for certain, otherwise you may end up frustrating yourself.
6. Set reading goals: Start out minimal: 30 minutes a week maybe, or whatever you’re comfortable with. The point of reading is for enjoyment, or at least it should be. Reading that isn’t enjoyable is a chore. Your goals should give you an enjoyable and attainable target that will result in satisfaction, not frustration.
7. Don’t make it a chore: If reading becomes a chore to you, you’ll want to treat it like a chore. That is, you’ll avoid it, and worse yet, you won’t enjoy it. Even if your primary purpose is to better yourself, you’re much less likely to see success in your reading habits if you don’t enjoy what you read.
8. Read about the authors: Different strokes for different folks. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it can add another dimension to your reading that may end up being the grain of rice that tips the scale. For me, many books are hard to read unless you know and understand the author. For me, Hemingway’s writing was hard to enjoy until I learned more about him. Then the pieces started coming together – why his writing is so rigid and harsh at times, then bitterly sensitive at others. Why his focus was on minimalism, how he hated war and despised flowery language. If you’re interested in a writer’s life, chances are you’ll be interested in his or her writing.
9. Read summaries first: Spark’s Notes, Cliff’s Notes, blogger’s summaries – these are great places to start if you’re tackling larger literary classics, and even if you just want to get your feet wet or sound like you actually read the book.
10. Learn to Write: Again, different strokes, but I will say this: There is perhaps no better way to enjoy literature than to become a writer. If you write a book – or even a short story – you’ll gain a new understanding and appreciation for good writing. It’s difficult to write well, and the more you understand about the process and techniques, the more likely you’ll be to enjoy other writer’s work.