Reading is something that I have always loved to do. One of my favorite things to do with my parents growing up was to visit the bookstore. I’d save up a few bucks, head over to my favorite authors, and pick out something new. Then I’d get into trouble staying up late with a flashlight so I could finish that book as soon as possible.
I’ve lost the habit of getting lost in a good book as I’ve grown older. Some of it has to do with the amount of time I spend online. When I’m writing, I try to avoid reading just so I don’t inadvertently copy the work of someone else.
Yet there is a lot of value which can come from reading books. Fictional books take us to new worlds to challenge us. Non-fiction books ask us to set aside our preconceived notions to teach us something new. Every book we read encourages us to read another book. And another. And then another. I’ve found that it is often more important to understand the book than it is to sit down for a few hours to read it cover-to-cover.
Here’s how I’ve started coming back to reading books, at least one per week, and maybe this process can help you as well.
#1. I spend time with the promotional materials. I treat the back cover and the flaps of a book, if it has one anyway, as if it were a 30 second movie promo. I like to picture the plot, see what the character looks like in my mind’s eye, or have a chance to evaluate the learning opportunities being offered to me. If I’m interested, then I keep going. If not, then I put the book down.
#2. For non-fiction books, I cheat and look at the final conclusion. The whole point of a non-fiction book is to provide a fact-based argument. It must have a conclusion to be a valid read. If the conclusion isn’t there, then I put the book down. I do that if the conclusion is a yawner as well. If I’m intrigued, then I work backwards through the material to see how that conclusion was reached.
#3. I skim past repetitive dialogue. Honestly. How many times can a character “smirk” in a book? Using a thesaurus is a lost art today. So is the inclusion of meaningful dialogue that moves a plot forward or helps you as a reader to put yourself into the shoes of a favorite character. If the dialogue is repetitive or the descriptions pointless, I just skip them. Sometimes you can skip entire pages and not lose your place.
#4. Focus on the Table of Contents. I love books that have a thorough Table of Contents. This is another test that lets me know if the book I’m thinking about reading is going to be worth my time. I’ll linger over particularly interesting phrases or even skim through a specific chapter to check out what the author has to say. If I stay intrigued, then I finish the book. If not, it sits on the bookshelf unread.
#5. I engage with the text. I’ve started to take notes as I read, both fictional and non-fiction books, because this helps me to “experience” the text in a different way. I’m doing more than absorbing information or using my imagination when I’m writing down key points. This allows me to retain more of what I read so that it becomes useful data I can recall if needed.
Reading books like this is definitely a change from what I used to do in my youth. I’ve also found that I tend to remember details more clearly with this process and that helps me get through books more quickly.
Do you love books as much as I do? If you read on a regular basis, I’d love to hear about your reading process and how it has helped you.