Sunday, July 28, 2013

life skills: How to Read and Enjoy a Good Book

     Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to read something. When I didn't know how, I wanted to learn. I remember the day I learned to read quietly to myself too. And it seems like there's always been books I want to read. It's a rare month when I don't finish at least one book.
     I love reading as I'm sure you've gathered, and it's easy for me. It doesn't matter what it is usually, as long as it is well written - classics or moderns, theology or poetry, mysteries or romances, Dickens or Austin, Dostoevsky or Hugo - I'll at least give it a shot.
     But, as I am discovering, I am among the few. Many people don't read books at all if they can help it, and as a result, they hardly even know what they're missing.
    So, if you're not a reader, or you are but you haven't ventured into the realm of good books yet, there's hope for you! You don't have to start with Dickens or Dostoevsky, you can work your way there. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.
     Here are a few tips for starting a habit you won't ever want to kick.

1. Get books from the library. If your library doesn't have it, inter-library loan it. Or, better yet, if a friend recommends a book, ask if you can borrow it. You don't want to buy a book before you've read it, as a general principle.

2. As you read, ask questions. Try to figure out what the author is trying to communicate. This is usually pretty easy to find in non-fiction, fiction is sometimes harder. As questions like:
  • What does the author want to prove?
  • What does the author believe about human nature?
  • What does the author believe about justice vs. grace?
  • What is the author communicating about good and evil?
  • What does the author believe about choice vs. free will?
  • How is the main character developing? What traits are they acquiring and what does that say about them?
  • Is the author condemning or condoning certain actions or behaviors?
These questions will put you on the track to understanding the point of a book. Not all fiction has a point to prove, but much of it does, especially the good stuff.
For example:

The last slide is the point. Both of the books, whether you like it or not, have a point. And whether that point is legitimate or not, there is a point.
Most books have something to say, whether it's good or bad.
3. If the book does belong to you, write in it! Especially if it's non-fiction. Underline it, bracket parts you like, star things you want to remember. If it makes you think of something, write a little note in the margin. This is especially helpful when you want to remember something you read and you go looking for it. Plus, the physical act of underlining it will help you think about it more deeply, read it more closely, and remember it more clearly.
4. Write stuff down. Write down anything that sticks out to you, even if you aren't sure why. Keep a notebook just for things you've read in books. If a section strikes you as being really beautiful, copy it out. If a section is speaking to your heart, write it down. Include the book name, author's name, and page number, that way, if two years later you remember it and want to use it for a paper (or a blog post!), you'll be able to find it again. Write down sentences, or paragraphs, poems, theses, whatever it is that will help you engage with the book.
5. Re-read. C.S. Lewis and Sheldon Vanauken agreed that the sign of a true book-lover is re-reading books. If you loved a book the first time, re-read it. If a book is really good, you'll get something different out of it the second time. There are books that I re-read every year (C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia) or every few years (L.M. Montgomery's Anne and Emily books) and I get something new out of them every time.

Need something to read?

     Stick around, tomorrow I'll give you some suggestions for where to start. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you! Are you a reader? What would you suggest to help a new reader? If you're not, what keeps you from reading?

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