Friday, October 19, 2007

Top ten reading hacks or how to get back into reading

To follow up on Ten ways to hack your local library, I will attempt to provide ten hacks to get back into reading. 1 in 4 people did not read a book at all last year. If you are one of those people and feel guilty about it, there is a way to get back into reading. Reading has untold benefits not just for your vocabulary or comprehension, but it provides a better quality of life. It enhances everything you do and creates the sharpest mind possible. Here are some tips if you have wanted to read, but run into roadblocks.

1. Find out about you
The hardest part about reading is actually finding something you like. If you haven't read in a while, you have no idea what you actually like to read. Think about some of your favorite movies or TV shows, chances are there is the book equivalent to them.

2. Get recommendations
Go to your local library and speak with a librarian. They have numerous resources that they can personally recommend to you. You can also find some lists on your interests. For instance, if you like Arizona history, you can just Google Arizona history bibliography. For fiction, you can Google Western readalikes. You can also try many of the library's databases like NovelList or

3. Start Small/Short is a resource for finding short books that are 200 pages are less. Start with something easy. Mitch Albom is easy to read and a great way to start.

4. It doesn't matter what you read

You shouldn't feel like you need to read the classics, or what the NEA considers "real" literature. You can enjoy reading with anything. A romance novel, a comic book, it doesn't really matter. In fact, most of the romance novels are jam packed with high vocabulary and they certainly keep your attention. Read what you want, just read!

5. Don't read the classics
I will re-iterate this point. This will often kill your desire for reading. Don't read something you think you should read. This is a big mistake. You are not missing anything if you skip George Eliot's Middlemarch or Henry James The Wings of the Dove. (The movie is better in my opinion.) In fact, many people have described reading these books as looking through a glass darkly.

A brief story
One of the best lines about the classics comes from The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime by Mark Haddon. "I do not like proper novels. In proper novels people say things like, 'I am veined with iron, with silver and with streaks of common mud. I cannot contract into the firm fist which those clench who do not depend on stimulus.' What does this mean? I do not know. Nor does Father. Nor do Siobhan or Mr. Jeavons. I have asked them...” In an NPR interview, the author Haddon said he got the quote from The Waves by Virgina Woolf. This is a classic indeed, but very obtuse. This stops the protagonist from reading "proper" novels and it would really stop anyone.

6. Get more than one book at a time
You can check out numerous books from your local library. Sometimes up to 50 at one time. It is best to have variety if one doesn't work out.

7. Keep track of what you read/write a review
Many libraries can keep your reading history if you ask for it to be kept. Not every library does this. Libraries that use Polaris can keep your reading history that you can access online. also can help you keep track of what you read, what you are reading, and what you would like to read.

8. Read first thing in the morning
Read your book when you first get up in the morning. It will invigorate you and wake up your mind.

9. Don't read before bed
I know everybody does it, but it is a bad habit. You are teaching your mind that reading=sleep and that's bad. Next time you need to read a long document you will fall asleep. You will have more difficulty with prolonged reading if you do this. Some can do this and not have a problem, but if you are just getting back into reading, this is something to avoid.

10. Know when to give up/Move On

It's ok to give up on a book. If it just isn't for you, then you shouldn't continue to read it. If you find you have difficultly picking up the book to read, or are constantly distracted while you read, it may not be you, and it may be the book. If the book hasn't sucked you in by the first 50 pages, drop it like a hot rock. That's the Nancy Pearl rule.

(An Alternative) Listen to books
You are not cheating by listening to an audiobook. This exposes your mind to the same vocabulary and comprehension requirements. Most of the time, the professional reader has a compelling voice that may help you stick with a book longer than you would if you were reading it yourself. Take one on a long car drive.

I hope this gets more people back into reading. I know everyone struggles with finding the time. Keep in mind that if you make the right selection, you will need no encouragement to read.


Anonymous said...

Quote *In an NPR interview, the author Haddon said he got the quote from The Waves by Mrs. Dalloway. This is a classic indeed, but very obtuse. This stops the protagonist from reading "proper" novels and it would really stop anyone.*

This made me :) and very :( at the same time but I tore up Siobhan's list of smilies and cannot rember the other moods it made me feel.

Anonymous said...

You mean The Waves by Virginia Woolf? Mrs. Dalloway is another novel by her. ;)

Jeff Scott said...

Fixed, thanks. I was reading Mrs. Dalloway at the time. :)

Hannah Carlson said...

I agree with everything, but the classics part. I'm eighteen, and I began reading classics when I was fifteen, starting with Jane Eyre. It is still the greatest book I have ever read, and I didn't even mind the writing- it was beautiful and deep. It has taught me better vocabulary and has opened my mind up to the cream of the English language as well as foreign classics like Crime and Punishment. I agree, some classics are hard to get through, but once you start reading the great stuff, you'll never go back to post-modernism.

Jeff Scott said...

Hannah, I agree with what you are saying about the classics as I'm a big classics reader myself. However, I am targeting reluctant readers with this post. For people who tend not to read, I think they pick up a book like Crime and Punishment, can't get through it, feel like they need to finish it, never do, and fall back out of reading. This kind of concept also goes back into the 50 page rule. It's about giving yourself permission to move on to something you like, versus struggling with something that you don't, at least when you first get started. It's easy to fall out of reading and I am attempting to provide some tricks to stay on the wagon. :)

Of course, studies show that more people are getting back into reading by reading the classics on their iPhone, since Project Gutenberg has them for free, so I could be wrong on this.