Just in case you're short of resolutions to make this year, let me add one more to the chorus. Vow to read more in 2015! As a person who reads a couple hundred books a year and probably needs to read a few more (It's my job! Poor me!), I'm often asked by friends and acquaintances what to read - and how to find the time to read it. Here, then, are some of my rules for the read:
- If you're out of school, stop doing homework. (If you're in school, ignore me.) By that I mean stop reading what you "should" read, or what somebody you think is "smart" said is "good." Read what attracts you. Check out blurbs on the back of the books or on the Internet detail pages; let yourself be swayed by a great cover or a fun interview you came upon with the author. Be omnivoracious.
- Don't "define" yourself as someone who "only reads fiction" or "hates sci fi." (A corollary to the above) I used to tell people I "hated short stories" and then I fell in love with Jhumpa Lahiri's The Interpreter of Maladies and my whole self-definition had to change. In other words, don't box yourself in.
- Let yourself STOP reading. This may sound counterintuitive, but wasting precious reading time on stuff you don't really like, that you're reading because you think you're "supposed to," (see above) has potential to turn you off reading altogether. Better to read 50 pages of something you decide you don't like - and then give the time to something else that you may love - than to slog through.
- If you're really determined to get into a book that doesn't seem to grab you at first, skip to someplace in the middle. (Do not do what a friend of mine does and jump to the end, though. Especially if the book in question is a mystery.) While I do think it's the author's job to grab you in the first page or scene, some books don't get going until a few dozen pages in. If you like pages 50-75 enough, you'll probably be compelled to go back and find out how the author got there.
- Ignore reviews that tell you a book is like another book, especially if you haven't read the "other" book. I generally try to avoid making these comparisons in reviews that I write, partly because I think it's off-putting to readers who haven't read as much as I have (I mean, it is my job to read a lot!) I also think it's the book equivalent of playing a song over and over until it gets stuck in a listener's head. If you tell people what to compare something to, they'll be harder pressed to come to the book with a fresh perspective, and maybe compare it to something even the reviewer never heard of.
- Figure out what movie you want to see, and then read the book first. Reprising that song-stuck-in-the-head philosophy...the whole point of reading, in my opinion, is to be able to put your own pictures to the story and the characters. Isn't it more fun to then go see the movie and see if the director saw the characters and story the same way you did? It's like a private, and secret kind of book club between you and Hollywood. The only exception. Read Unbroken. Either before or after you see the movie, I don't care. Just read it.