How To Read Good And To Do Other Stuff Good Too

Do you read less now than you used to as a child?

Do you find that when you do read, the books are less complex now?

Do you fill your spare moments with surfing the net, checking Facebook, doing quizzes on which dessert/Disney villain, type of recreational drug you are?

Do you waste time sitting in front of the TV watching shows you don’t care about or have seen before?

The answer is- READ MORE.

The brain is a muscle and as we get older it is used in all sorts of ways  and more often it’s overworked and overstimulated with  what I call, “junk food information”.

I am as guilty as anyone of filling my mind with rubbish but then I complain that I feel understimulated and that the world is filled with stupid people who vote for idiots to be leaders of nations. Why wouldn’t we vote for idiots, when that’s all the information we absorb when that’s so readily available. Idiot ‘reality’ TV shows who bully each other and pander to the public, idiot role models who have done nothing for anyone but themselves, and then complain when they’re made to be  responsible, and idiot parents who don’t understand a child is more than just a toy.

It is up to us to remind others, and have other remind us, that we are better than this. That we are worthy of so much more.

Once the idea of a learned person was someone who had read widely and numerously.  Books were the ultimate status symbol, not a handbag. Being able to converse about the emotion of Dickens and the haunting of Brontë’s work is no longer considered CV worthy, instead, your ‘followers’ are the gauge of your success.

Zadie Smith, author says in her essay, Fail Better

 “A novel is a two-way street, in which the labour required on either side is, in the end, equal. Reading, done properly, is every bit as tough as writing – I really believe that. As for those people who align reading with the essentially passive experience of watching television, they only wish to debase reading and readers. The more accurate analogy is that of the amateur musician placing her sheet music on the stand and preparing to play. She must use her own, hard-won, skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift she gives the composer and the composer gives her.”

When did we stop practicing to read? Reading is an interactive activity. You might have to look up a word, or a place or ask someone else what they thought a particular passage meant. Do you know what happens when this occurs? We expand our minds and our experience of the world. We grow our brains by adding different language,  geography, and meaning.

I read books in two ways. One for learning and one for enjoyment. Sometimes the two modes cross paths and then I am in reading heaven.  I don’t believe one is better than the other as both of them are stretching my grey muscle.

But it’s easy to fall out of the reading mode and end up snacking on chicken nugget sized, online reading.

So in the spirit of teaching you and others how to read good and do other stuff good also, I bring you my list for getting on top of your internet addiction and back into the pages of a book.

  1. Carry a book with you wherever you go. You can read it while standing in line. While waiting during the school pickup,  while at the doctors,  or in line at the supermarket. The greatest gift I have taught myself is how to write and read anywhere. I can block out the sound and immerse myself in the world. It is a blessing (and a curse. Burned dinner,  anyone?)
  2. Have a few books on the go. Maybe you’re enjoying Jonathan Franzen but it’s heavy stuff, and sometimes, after a hard day you just want to read the new Jilly Cooper. Do it. No one is judging but you.  Perhaps the crime fiction is too scary and you really do want to learn about the magic art of tidying up. That’s okay too!
  3. Browse a book shop with no purpose than to look at the beautiful covers, and read the tantalising blurbs on the back. I took a photo of The Sacred Combe to add to my reading list. Mostly because I liked the title. Isn’t combe a wonderful word? If you don’t  know what it is? Look it up!  Learn something new today. Remember the smell of a new book? The touch of the pages? Dive back into the world and enjoy the possibility that the greatest book you will ever read is waiting for you.
  4. Join the library. Browse the shelves and look at what is on the recommended list. It’s so personal, isn’t it?  I once bought a book for a girlfriend, and she was so excited, saying, “I love when people buy me books. It’s like a glimpse into who they think I am.” Isn’t that exquisite? Your book list should read like your Spotify list. (On that note, I’d like to create a website called Bookify, where we can borrow books, and the authors get royalties and we can trade and recommend and enjoy with clubs and make reading lists for health or love, or broken hearts or grief and more. Any funders? Hit me up!)
  5. Keep a list of books you want to read. I write mine in my Bullet Journal but I also take photos of books reviews or covers of books that pique my interest in shops.
  6. Get started again by reading a book you know you love. This is like swimming in the shallow end of the warm pool. I reread The Little White Horse every few years when I forget I love reading. It’s my book buoy. Get safe and enjoy the feeling and when that book is finished, swim out a little further.
  7. Don’t be afraid to not finish a book. My agent reads the first thirty pages before she decides to ask for the complete manuscript. I tend to read fifty pages before I give up on a book. No regrets. There’s always another story to read.
  8. My beloved English teacher, Dawson Hann, always said we must read with a pencil in our hand. It’s still a habit I have more often than not when reading- marking words, and phrases ,and finding quotes.
  9. Read everything you can. I read the local papers, notice boards at supermarkets, the classifieds, and more. I read all the time, and I know my mind is all the better for this.
  10. Turn off the TV. When I read Night Film, I had to finish the last chapter in a quiet room, away from the rest of the house, as I knew I had to give into the world completely. Sobbing at the end, mostly because the story was over, I needed to have that alone time with the book.

And those are my tips for how to read good and stuff in life.

Please read. Reading is how we stop making stupid decisions. We open our minds and hearts to more than our own story, or the one we see online. We owe it to ourselves to read and to learn and do the same for our children.

Stop scrolling and pick up a book!

 

*Kindles, audiobooks also count, so don’t assume I am being a paper snob.  Read, anyway you can, baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weather is here, I wish you were nice.

The US election was disappointing to many and there is nothing else I can add to the yelling on social media right now. The only thing I feel is that women will become louder and more determined than ever and this is a good thing.

Right now I’m back to working three jobs and I’m exhausted but I am about to take my first holiday in 8 years. What? I know, I know. A holiday is what you let pass when  you’re dealing with a shit storm of mental, fiscal and life changing events.

I have the September issue of Vogue to read, which I have been saving for my break. I have a pile of books, and some sleep to catch up on and I am hoping to refill the well and the spirit.

Years ago I watched a TV show where a barber in Marrakesh said he never had holidays. He took one or two days off a year for religious purposes but the rest of the time he worked. No work, no pay, no pay, no food. A simple equation.

While I understand we can survive without a holiday, because I have for eight years, what I have come to understand is the power of the dream. The idea of the holiday is as intoxicating as taking the time away.  The past month Dave and I walk around saying the name of the place we’re travelling to, like a prayer, a dream, a mantra to hold on until we’re in the air.

How often do we forget to make goals and plan when we’re in the middle of the shit storm? I think it’s impossible to plan for a holiday when your loved ones are suffering, even dying, when you can’t plan ahead because you don’t know what the next day will bring.

I also wonder if the 8 years without a break were also partly self-administered punishment for failing, for being kicked while down, over and over, for having to make shitty choices, for hating yourself and your life so damn much.

But things get better. They get better when you stop listening to the crap in your head and just push through. And slowly you are reminded you’re okay and you’re doing okay. My recent dip in my head space was only brief, but it made me aware of how I used to feel like that all the time. All the goddamned time.  That is brutal to bear.

The only thing that got me to where I am now is sheer determination and ignoring the shitty committee in my head. It is the only way. Do anything else but don’t listen to what it says. Clean out the cupboards. Colour code your bookshelf. Do menial tasks. Hand-wash all your knitwear. Iron, Clean your car. Weed the garden. Do anything until it passes because it will pass, and then before you know it, or maybe eight years later, you will be on a holiday, and wondering what the hell you were once so stressed about.

Peace out friends.

xx

 

 

 

 

Before I speak, I have something important to say.

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