How to Read

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - Hobbies, Me, Thoughts
How to Read

This post is inspired by a reply to one of my comments on a youtube video.  I watched a video a few months ago entitled “How Many Books Will You Read in Your Life?” from user cropperb.  He has a ton of videos, and maybe they’re good, I don’t know.  I haven’t watched them.  I did watch this video, though, while Googling for something about books.  I really can’t tell you what specifically I was searching for because I don’t remember, but here is his video.

I won’t lie, it annoyed the snot out of me.  Especially the coughing.  Now, the video is from 2006, keep that in mind.  Anyways, I disagreed with him on a few key points.  I’m going to just post my comment (really, comments because I had to split it up due to character limits) here:

You’ve made me laugh my butt off. First, I wondered why you didn’t video this without all the coughing. That just about killed me. But really? You’re 27 and haven’t even read 100 books? I realize that the video is four years old, but still… That’s sad. I didn’t start keeping track of books I’ve read until late last year and, while there aren’t too many classics on my recently read list, I’ve read several thousand books over the course of my lifetime so far (I’m 27) and I average at least 250 a year if not more. This year I’m aiming for 348 and I’m keeping track of them with reviews on my website. Sadly, I keep procrastinating on writing the reviews, but I’m still keeping track of what I’ve read so far. Audio books are cheating, in my opinion. You’re getting the story, sure, and they’re entertaining, but I don’t count it as reading. Assuming that I read 250 books a year for the next 40 years, I’m still at 10,000 books. Compared to the numberof published books each year, it’s not a lot, but it’s a whole lot better than “six or eight thousand” in a lifetime because it doesn’t take into account the books I’ve read in the past, only what I *will* read in the future. I watched the video hoping it would be something interesting, but instead you’re just reading audio books and trying to make people feel guilty for not reading as much as you do when you barely read anything! Shame on you.

A few days ago, I received a reply to my comment from joker52mlb:

 That’s amazing! I’ve been reading for about 4 years, and I’m still under 100. I too, keep procrastinating. But I wish I could find more time as well. Could you give me some tips, as to reading speed and time conservation? I’m still a pretty slow reader :(

Well, when I started to respond to this post, I realized that I was going to run into the same character limit problem as before…  I was kind of inspired.  So, joker52mlb, here is my response.  I can’t guarantee that this is perfect or the best way to read faster or more, but it is the way that I manage to read as much as I do.

Tips for Reading

Always have your book!

Always, always, always have your book!  My husband got me the Barnes and Noble nook last Christmas (the original black and white, plain jane, no 3g, no color games and apps, wi-fi always off) so that I wouldn’t have to carry around several books with me all the time.  I’ve loaded it up with a few hundred books and I *always* have something to read whenever I have a minute.  Waiting in line at the grocery store – pull it out and read a few pages; sitting at the doctor’s office – read a chapter; stuck in traffic (parked, not continuously moving) – read a paragraph, check progress!  Read at least ten minutes every night before bed.  Set your alarm clock ten minutes early and read for a bit before getting out of bed.  Read while eating breakfast or lunch or dinner (assuming that you aren’t being rude and ignoring people).  If you absolutely cannot miss an episode of your favorite show, read during the commercials.  If you have the book (or ereader) with you, make it a habit to pick it up whenever you have a free minute.  Even if it’s only a minute.  Developing the habit of grabbing the book will ensure that when you actually have time to read a chapter or two, you will actually read them instead of staring at a wall, watching TV, fiddling around with Angry Birds on your phone, or things like that.  Also, if you have a smart phone, you probably have an ereader, too – just check for an app!

If you are going to buy a dedicated ereader, though, I strongly recommend a black and white ereader (with the e-ink display) instead of one of the backlit readers.  Your smart phone will be backlit, which is fine for those quick minutes of reading while waiting in line, but when you want to get some serious reading done, your eyes will start to hurt.

Practice makes perfect!

My grandfather started teaching me to read when I was about two.  I don’t know how well that worked really, but I know that I’ve always loved to read.  I can’t remember a time when I was ever not reaching for a book instead of a television remote.  I’ve always had books at my disposal.  They are one of the few things that were never forbidden to me as a child.  Sure, I would get grounded with “no tv, nintendo, computer, music, and whatnot,” but my books were off-limits even to my parents.  Well, until my dad sold all my Babysitters’ Club, Great Illustrated Classics, Sweet Valley, and Goosebumps books at a garage sale when I got older.  I don’t think he understood that I wasn’t just saving them for myself, but also for my future children.  *sigh*

Anyways, the point of that little trip down memory lane is that you have to keep reading.  The more you read, the quicker you’ll be able to read and the more you’ll absorb.  You don’t have to read classics, just read.  Pick up Dr. Seuss for all I care (I recommend “The Lorax” personally), but read.  Start small, if necessary.  There is no shame in reading a children’s book.  I still feel a sense of accomplishment every time I finish reading a book whether it’s a cardboard toddler book with eight pages or an eighteen-hundred page epic novel.

If you’re having trouble staying interested, read to someone.  Grab your son or daughter, niece or nephew, brother or sister, random stranger’s baby off the street and read them a book!  <Do not actually grab a random stranger’s baby; it could be construed as kidnapping!>  If you remember any old favorites from when you were a child, reread them!  There is no shame in rereading a book.  I reread Harry Potter regularly along with other favorites.

Read along with an audio book!

Despite the fact that I mock cropperb for considering his audiobooks as real reading, audio books are useful for people who are having trouble staying interested long enough to get through a book.  (This doesn’t refer to a book being boring, but more to the fact that people are so intent on “multi-tasking” that they are physically unable to control themselves and sit still longer than two minutes.)  Get the audio book and the physical book (your library probably has both for popular books) and read along.  Remember those old storybook records?  You popped the record in the player, grabbed the sleeve which was also a book, and read along while looking at the pretty pictures?  No?  Just me?  Damn I’m old!  (I’m not actually old, but we had a working record player and tons of records when I was growing up.  For my 18th birthday, my grandmother got me a new record player and I regularly listen to my favorites.)

Anyways, there is no shame in reading along to a recording of the book.  There also isn’t much shame in listening to books while driving, but don’t say, “Oh, I read the entire Dune series,” when all you did was listen to them.  (Also, the Dune books are awesome!)

Read what makes you happy!

I’m sick of people who try to talk down to you when they don’t approve of what you’re reading.  Especially when they haven’t read the books!

Bobby:  What are you reading?

Mary:  “Twilight.”

Bobby:  What?  Those books are crap!

Mary:  Well, I like them…

Bobby:  You and about fifty million pathetic little twelve-year-old fangirls who wouldn’t know literature if it slapped them in their faces!

Mary:  Um…

Bobby:  I’m so sick of people reading all this garbage and thinking that it’s good!  Why can’t you people read the classics so that you don’t kill off the only brain cells you have left!!!

Mary:  Have you read the books?

Bobby:  No, why would I read crap like that!

Mary:  Well, how do you know if it’s garbage if you haven’t read it?  Are you just parroting what other people have said?

That being said, there are books I will happily trash.  The “House of Night” series, for instance.  I will not, however, trash a book I haven’t read.  I don’t even trash the trashy romance novels because they fill their own little niche.  The trashy romance novels are supposed to be trashy!  And I’ll even pick one up occasionally when I want some cotton candy for the brain!

Also, don’t trash a book without reading it.  If you’ve read it and it sucks, let us know!  If you’ve read it and it’s awesome, let us know that, too!

Read a book!

Read a book!

Graphic novels are your friend!

Comic books aren’t just for the stereotypical kid that gets crammed into his locker, flushed down the toilet, and dropped face first in the trash can anymore!  There are some truly incredible books that have been adapted into graphic novels.  “The Last Unicorn,” for instance, and “The Hobbit” which I can’t wait to get!  There are also books that simply are graphic novels (not an adaption) such as “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.”  There are also a couple Fraggle Rock graphic novels!  My grandmother got me one and I’m going to get my hands on the other one(s) when I can.  I can’t wait to read the one from my grandmother!

If you’re looking to ease your way into reading, are a more visual person, or just want to try something new, swing over to your bookstore and ask them to show you their graphic novel selection and maybe recommend one.  The gentleman at my local Books-A-Million is always happy to help me with any questions I have about graphic novels (or any of the books, really) and the day I got “The Last Unicorn” graphic novel, we had a fantastic laugh because I was so excited I couldn’t let go of the book.

Never be ashamed of your book choices.

Ever.  Pick a book you think you will like.  If you don’t like it, fine, but don’t be ashamed of the books you choose to read.  I’m psychotic about my physical books and I don’t like them out of my library especially now that I have a nook to tote around.  Before I had my nook, though, I constantly had books (yes, more than one) with me and sometimes people would pick on me for what I was reading.  I remember when one of my aunts decided that I was old enough for romance novels…

She gave me this huge garbage bag filled to bursting with the trashiest, raunchiest, most dirty books I could imagine.  And I read every single one of them.  I brought them to school and would sit at my desk with my book on my lap reading instead of taking notes, on the cafeteria table instead of eating, on the bus instead of paying attention to my stops…  Well, basically doing the same things I had been doing with my other books.  Only these had raunchy cover art and provocative titles like “Playboy McCoy” and “Sweet Savage Love.”  To say that I got teased was an understatement.  For a week straight, even after I had finished “Playboy McCoy,” other girls were saying things like, “I thought only boys read playboys.  Are you a boy?  Gross!”  Eh, I developed a thick skin.

Well, I really have very thin and sensitive skin, but I was speaking figuratively.  :-p  The point is, those books were what I wanted to read at the time, so I read them.  I didn’t let someone else convince me that I shouldn’t read them just because of their own opinions when they had never even heard of the book let alone read it!

If you want to read it, then read it and enjoy it!  If you’re a seventy-eight-year-old man and you want to read “Fallen,” “Bumped,” or “The Constant Princess,” do it!  Don’t let someone else make you feel ashamed for reading what you enjoy!

Keep track of your reading progress!

Join Goodreads (and add me as a friend!) and let everyone know what you’ve read, how far in you are, what you think of the book, and how well you rate it!  You will be amazed (or appalled) at how much you are actually reading once you start tracking it!  If you use the “currently reading” shelf for the books that you are, you know, currently reading, you can tell us how you feel after each chapter.  Or after a particular event.  Or just why you quit reading the book if you gave up halfway through.  A social reading site is one way of having others encourage you to keep reading.  It’s also a fantastic way of getting book recommendations.  :-D

Take care of your books and/or ereader!

You would be surprised at how important the look of a book is to deciding whether or not you’re going to read it.  Now I’m not just talking about the cover art.  I’m talking about whether the book has pages falling out, there’s a dried pepperoni stuck between the pages, or the book looks like it’s been nested in by rats.  If you’re scared of catching the plague just by looking at the book, you aren’t going to want to read it.

Keep your books on a shelf.  Organize them however you see fit, but keep them organized.  Dust them when necessary or vacuum very, very, very carefully.  If necessary, replace damaged books.  Try to repair any damaged books you have.  There are plenty of resources online to walk you through certain types of damage.  Google is your friend!

If you have an ereader, clean the screen when it gets smudged.  Get a case for it and take care of the case!  Never leave the ereader outside unattended in case of surprise animal attacks or rain storms.  To keep your ebooks organized, I recommend calibre and strongly recommend that you make use of the metadata features.  Trust me on this.

Build your library at your own pace!

Adding hundreds of books to your library all at once is ridiculously simple to do with an ereader and not too much more difficult with dead tree editions provided you’re willing to hit up Goodwill and book trade stores.  Try to keep pace with the books you add to your library though.  If you add a thousand books to your library and you’ve only read two books in the previous year, you’re going to be so intimidated by your own library that you’ll run crying from your books and procrastinate even longer.  As a personal library, mine rivals almost every other person that I actually know.  Recently I completely reorganized, separated my books in a way that made sense to me, put them in order for myself, added another book shelf, and then bought some more books.

I use the Book Database Software to keep a digital catalog of all my books.  (I use their movie version to keep track of my DVDs.)  The software works great, but it’s not free like calibre.  I don’t do much with that software other than put in the ISBNs where possible (I have a good number of older books without ISBNs) so I don’t particularly recommend it, but I won’t trash it either.  I will say that when I get the chance and want to take the time, I will be transferring my database of real books over to calibre and use that software exclusively for all my book cataloging needs.  :-D

Have a to-read list!

Even if you’re constantly adding to it or skipping around your list, having a to-read list means that you know what you’re going to read next.  For some of my friends, a lot of potential reading time is wasted try to decide what to read.  My current to-read list has over eighty books on it.  I’ll knock those out sooner or later, but while I’m reading I’ll be adding more to that list.  You will always find another book you want to read.  Don’t forget about it, though, add it to a to-read list and come back to it later!

Knowing when to quit.

Here’s one tip that I struggle with myself.  I constantly read books that I hope will be awesome like “Torment.”  I’ll get partway through and realize it’s as bad as the previous book.  However, instead of putting the book down and moving on to the next book, I force myself to finish it.  I’ll give myself the worst headache ever because I’m too stubborn to not finish a book.  This is a very bad habit of mine, but it goes back to my previous statement about not trashing a book I haven’t read.

The proper thing to do, supposedly, when you find yourself reading a book that really sucks read until you’re either one hundred pages or approximately one-third of the way through the book.  If at that point, you still want to blow your brains out, give the book to goodwill, sell it at a used book store, or give it to a friend.  Don’t waste your time finishing it.  Your time is valuable!  Don’t forget that.  :-)

Speed reading is not cool, dude.

That sounds weird coming from someone who reads quickly, but I think there’s a difference between speed reading and simply reading quickly the way I do.  I haven’t ever learned to speed read.  Over the years my reading speed has picked up, but as the second tip states, “practice makes perfect” and it’s not due to any super secret trick I have hidden up my sleeve.  I know that there are several how-to’s written about speed reading, but they don’t seem to be anything special.  Most of them simply say “follow the words with your finger so you won’t lose your place when you get distracted by the shiny thing on the floor” and “the more you read (ie: practice) the faster you’ll get.”

In Conclusion:

I’m sure I’ll think of some other things later, but these are my tips for reading.  :-)  Let me know what you think in the comments, please!  I would love feedback on this topic and leave your own suggestions, too!

Quick Note: For those who are missing my reviews, I’ve got a few to write and I’m sorry.  The “Series of Unfortunate Events” books gave me writers block.  :-/  I have a few days to myself at the end of this week and I’m hoping to get them knocked out now that I’ve cleansed them from my system…  You’ll understand why I used that phrase when I review them, I hope.

Occasionally Important Information:

Beliefs as an Atheist
Hot as BALLS!

2 thoughts on “How to Read


Wow, I really love your response on the video, and your conversation about Twilight and I totally agree! I love reading, and even though I’m only 13, I’ve read about 100 or more books in the past two years.
I also read that you have a Nook. Is it a good device? Because I am thinking of buying one soon.
I really like your website, it has a lot to explore. But I think you need to change the theme, because it hurts eyes when you read it too long. Other than that, keep reading!

    Alysha DeShaé

    Thank you! I’m glad you liked my response.

    That Twilight conversation is actually pretty similar to one I had with a random person at the mall one day. I really do read everywhere and I was waiting on whoever I was with to get done, so I pulled out my book and was reading. (This was before the nook, but since I had removed the dust jacket all you could see was a black cover.) And it wasn’t a guy who was complaining about my book, but a middle-aged woman. I finally interrupted her to ask what she was currently reading. “I don’t have time to read,” was her response. “Well, ma’am, I usually make the time. That’s why I’m reading right now while waiting on my friend. In fact, in the time it took you to get riled up about my choice in books, you could have been reading a book of your own.”

    She finally huffed off when I started ignoring her. Later I saw her buying a ticket for a nice long movie at the theater. No time indeed. In the time it takes to sit through that 2.5 hour movie, I could have finished a decent book. :-p

    I do have a nook. I have the original black and white one. Personally, I think it’s the best thing in the world. One of these days I’m going to get around to rooting it (or letting my husband do it so that if it messes up it’s not my fault!) and making it even more useful. But I adore it! I can’t say enough good things about it! Also, when you get your ereader, get calibre ( to help keep your digital books organized. The metadata is so useful. And there’s a plug-in for calibre that helps you link your library with Goodreads! I started using the plugin a few days ago and finally put my to-read list on Goodreads because of it. :-D

    I’m sorry that my theme hurts your eyes. I actually chose this theme because it was easier on my eyes. I am looking for a plugin, though, that would allow each user to choose the color scheme that they prefer.


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