Rules for making reading fun and personal again
You are doing it wrong. You’re doing it wrong, and I know you’re doing it wrong because I was doing it wrong too, until a friend of mine threw my copy of Anna Karenina out the window and slapped some sense into me. This is a guide for those of you who choose your next read off Modern Library’s “Top 100 Best Books Ever Written” list, who start books and never finish them or who have ditched books all together for Cosmopolitan and Buzzfeed.
1. Make it personal
First, understand that reading is like eating ice cream. There are books that everyone usually likes, chocolate and vanilla books, but those also tend to be the most boring. There’s also really sophisticated fig-tree truffle asparagus ice cream that you can appreciate on merit, but is just too much when you’ve had a bad day and want to simply stuff your face. As a reader, you need to find your flavor — the book that speaks to you on a personal level, that is relevant to your life in some capacity (even if it’s fantastical or from a different era) and lights up recognition inside of you.
2. Read at least 50 pages
Next, give every good book a good try — that means at least 50 pages. That gives you enough time to decide if you could really get invested in its characters, or if you regret picking it up and want to just go watch Netflix instead. As my mom always says, “If he can’t make you happy, he doesn’t deserve you.” The author needs to win you over. That said, sometimes it just takes a little bit to see where things are going. Remember, Harry didn’t even get to Hogwarts until, like, a third of the way through the first book. Every novel deserves a shot.
3. Invest in the process
Next, once you’ve decided you’re definitely going to read whatever book it is, make it worth your while. You have the capacity to read only so many books in your life and, well, you chose this one, so make it a part of you. Write all over it, underline quotes and doodle in the margins. Think about it when you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep. Learn about the author. Talk to friends about the book. This is not to say you should add a bunch of work to the reading process, just that a healthy excitement about what you’re reading will ultimately make it more worth your while, and you’ll get a lot more out of it.
4. Drop the obsession with being “well-read”
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be “well-read.” While this is a noble intellectual pursuit, it can be done better by spending four to five hours on SparkNotes, and it runs the risk of removing the personal aspect of reading, which is often times its greatest joy. As your third grade teacher’s annoying motivational posters said, lose yourself in a good book. It’s a nice place for an escape.
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