Monday, September 6, 2010

Some Thoughts on Reading

When I was a kid, I used to tear through Encyclopedia Brown and Boxcar Children books like it was my job. I was a good little reader. This voracious trend continued more or less through high school. My parents always had a number of books and recommendations and I always had a comfy chair in which to sit.

In college my reading shifted. I was reading more magazines, newspapers and websites. Then I basically forsook fiction for the last few years of college. At the time I felt that real life was just far more interesting that novels or short stories. But after college I got back into reading seriously, and the last few years I've been reading books at a clip much faster than even my younger bookworm days. So for what it's worth, here are a few thoughts on how I've gotten back into reading a lot:

* Set A Reasonable Pace - I usually read 50-60 pages a day. This translates into a whole lot of books over the course of a year, but when you look at it on a daily basis, it's generally not more than 90-120 minutes, which most people can probably carve out of their schedule. Just stop watching those Seinfeld reruns for a few months, or bring your book on the metro or read something with your breakfast. It's not too tough.

* Mix Things Up - If I find myself reading something more massive and dense (like currently, this), I'll generally be reading one or two lighter things on the side - a collection of short stories, a graphic novel, a biography, etc. Otherwise I find that I'll get bogged down in the big book and that slog won't be very productive. Plus it's really satisfying to finish up two books within a day or two of each other.

* Libraries Are Great - I had not set foot in a non-college library for years by the time I was out of college, but I have gotten back into the habit. You would think libraries would be full of people at all times clamoring for awesome books, but alas they are not. America, please get your act together.

* It's A Book Not A Contract - You don't have to finish everything you start. If you hate a book, put it down for a while and start something else. Or just return it to the library and let it go. There's no harm in not reading something that you hate.


B.Graham said...

I'm having such a hard time with my current book that I almost wrote a post about it. It's on some of those "50 Greatest Whatever the Hell Books That Were at One Point Interesting" lists, and I've had it for literally *years*, so I'm slogging through it, dammit.

And the worst part is, I know it would be so much more enjoyable if I knew anything about economics, particularly of the Reagan era. But, as I know little more than what my parents experienced in those years, I can only attempt to follow the 438945253587 story lines over the course of the year it's taken me to get through 75% of this book.

That's not the worst part; the worst part is that it's not bad enough to set down and leave down.

Some advice on when a book, like a relationship, is worth leaving/sticking through?

ali d said...

Word. Boxcar Children were the first books I'm ever aware that I read. For years I slept at the wrong end of my bed so I could strain my eyes reading an illicit after-lights out book in the light that spilled into my bedroom from my parents' room across the hall.

I also fell out of reading while in college, but more because I just had so much else to do. Now that I'm trying to get back into curling up with a good book on a night off, I'm finding that my attention span just isn't what it used to. My brain is so used to flipping among six different Internet tabs at once that concentrating on written word for anything more than 8 minutes at a time seems next to impossible.

So here's my suggestion to add to the list:

* Try it as a PDF. I now have a Kindle, which syncs with my Mac, and I occasionally download books from the Internet. I find that my brain is as accustomed to reading down the screen as it is to flipping pages, and if my book is on my 'puter, I don't have to give up my need to check my email every 15 minutes.

As I've gotten more into the habit of reading for long clips, picking up an actual paperback doesn't seem such a foreign idea.

ali d said...

And B - at 75%, unless I'm really not enjoying the book, I'd stick with it, if only for the sense of accomplishment at having finished. If you really don't see yourself enjoying that last 1/4 though, just find an online synopsis so you know how it ends, and call it over. (Or for that matter, a synopsis might help you keep up with the different plot lines and enjoy it more.)

And I'm super-curious what book it is now.

B.Graham said...

@ali - good call on the synopsis, I'm about to cliffs notes the crap out of the first half. btw it's Moo by Jane Smiley. and yes that's real.