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.
- 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?)
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.