"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

On Reading: Tips on How to Get Going

You could say that I was born to love books. We keep a log in our family cottage, and this past summer I started reading the entries from when I was a child. I had to smile at my Grandpa's words from August, 1981: “Margaret is a budding bookworm.” I was 11 months old, so it's funny to see that even then I was interested in books. It's probably in my blood, as my mom and dad both love to read, and actually my father is one of the most prolific readers I know.

On the other hand, many people don't grow up with readers in their family, and struggle to find time to read. When they do pick up a book, they may feel discouraged at their pace, or else just have trouble getting motivated or deciding what to read next. Even born-readers like me sometimes need encouragement to branch out into different categories, or to read books that are complicated or hard to get through. While I certainly don't have the answers, below are some of my best tips to get reading and to increase the depth and breadth of your reading. I would be remiss, however, if I neglected to pass on some advice from a person who reads (much) more than I do. Tim Challies is a well-known Christian blogger and a fellow GTA-resident, and you should probably check out his tips for reading before reading mine!

Maggie's Reading Tips

Befriend your local library
Many cities (Toronto and Ottawa included) have excellent public library systems. You can find almost anything if you are willing to put books on hold and wait a while for them to come in. Otherwise, just take a walk over to your local branch and browse around for a while. Take time to look at any titles or covers that catch your eye. You're sure to find a writer or subject you've never tried before.

Join a book club
I tend to be a “lone wolf” reader, because I don't need the motivation of others to get me going; however, a book club is a great way to meet new friends AND get introduced to some new books. If you don't know where to start, try your local library. Many libraries hold monthly book clubs. You could also check the bulletin board at a local coffee shop or even look at Craigslist or Kijiji. No luck finding one? Consider starting your own with some friends or colleagues who also enjoy reading. In fact, this fall, a group of friends and I started a book club and I've already been introduced to some books that I never would have picked up otherwise.

Keep lists of the books you want to read
I do this on my iPhone and have a more extensive list on my computer (with both books that I have and those that I aim to get at the library or elsewhere). Keeping a list means that when I finish a book, I already know what I want to pick up next. (The challenge, of course, is choosing just one!) It also helps when reading something that's feeling dry or slow-paced, because I know that when I'm done, there's an inviting book waiting for me. This also means that if I get a gift card from Chapters, I have an idea of what I want rather than going into the store and buying the first thing that catches my eye (which could end up gathering dust).

Check out other peoples' lists
You don't need to be indiscriminate and read books off of “RandomDude's 15 best zombie novels” list on Amazon just because, but it is worthwhile checking out the to-read lists of other readers. About five years ago, I discovered this extensive list online. I copied it onto a Word document and periodically read books from this list, not because I want to pat myself on the book for being well-read, but because many of these books have impacted our society and culture. I've also been introduced to amazing works through this list... Sure, there have been others that I could take or leave, but they have so far been the minority.

Keep lists of the books you read
You know how they tell dieters that writing down all of the food they eat motivates them to eat less? This works kind of the opposite way. For a couple of years now, I've kept track of the books I finished. It helps me to be able to see the breakdown of what I'm reading (fiction/biographies/etc.), and it also prompts me to be somewhat discriminating in what I read because it'll all go on the record. In fact, while writing this series, I took a look at this year's list and realized it was heavy on fiction, so I've decided to balance things out a bit to the end of the year. Keeping a list also helps when you're trying to remember the name of that book about _____ you read two winters ago.

Set personal goals
Setting goals can be anything from “I will read 25 pages of this book each day” to “I will read 6 books this summer”. Setting a number of pages or minimal time limit per day can help when you're trying to get through a slow-moving or dry book, or when you need to have something finished by a hard deadline.

Find books relevant to you (right now)
Before we went to Poland on vacation, I picked out two WW2 spy novels, one set in Warsaw and another featuring a Polish military officer. They weren't great works of literature, but they were an enjoyable accompaniment to our trip. There is no rule that to be well-read, you need to read long tomes that bear no relevance to your actual life. If you're having trouble getting into books, maybe you're not reading the right books. If you're into soccer, check out fictional books about soccer players, or books on the history of great soccer clubs, or books on how to improve your physical strength and stamina to improve your game. If you're going on a trip to France, there are a plethora of books on French cuisine, French lifestyle, French history, etc.. For traveling, I find the “travel literature” section especially enjoyable, like most of Bill Bryson's works and A Year in Provence and its sequels. You may find that reading on certain subject gets you into the habit of reading more in general.

Look around your home
I'm willing to bet that many of our homes are an abundance of riches when it comes to books. We get books as gifts, pick up books on sale, buy books with a birthday gift card that we really did want to read one day. Sometimes jump starting your reading habit is as easy as picking out a few books off your shelf that you've never actually tried reading. I mean, you did buy them for a reason, right? Bonus: This can double as de-cluttering; you may realize that you are unlikely to read them again, so you can give them away to others.

Now I need your input, friends: What are your tips on how to read more? Do you keep track of what you read? What good books have you read lately?

1 comment:

  1. Could you please post the link for “RandomDude's 15 best zombie novels"? Thanks ;)