How to read more when you aren’t good at reading.

If you aced English in year 12 this isn’t for you. If you romped through university and read more books than George Bush last year this also isn’t for you. This is for you, if you struggle to read books.

Back in primary school I used to read a lot. I didn’t get massively into classics but I read a good deal of novel trashy stuff. Then puberty happened and I started reading Asterix and Obelix, Tintin and assorted magazines much to my parents despair. Soon I began to struggle to read whole books. During my time at University I had barely read a whole book (I read the main parts) and battled get the minimum reading done for my subjects. It’s been like this ever since.

(Books beside my bed I'm reading... or trying to)

So one of my aims last year was to read more. And I succeeded. So if you are a struggler like me here are some helpful hints and tips.
  • Reading with someone else. Heavy theology and brain stretching stuff is best read with someone who can help you understand the terms, what is actually being said and can prod you when you nod off. Mikey and I read some of The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology And Worship by Robert Letham. It was powerfully awesome.
  • Finding an author. I read books by Keller, Driscoll, Miller, Dickson, Jensen and Clarkson. They write clearly and can easily be understood. I finished most of these books because they were interesting and well written. I searched out other books they'd written and bought them and read them too. I recommend these authors if you aren't a good reader.
  • Reading books for a purpose. I find that I’m better at reading a boring book if it’s for a particular purpose eg there's a book that addresses a particular heresy I'm interested in. I think sometimes people read “classics” not because they want to, but rather they want notches on their theological reading belt. Sometimes reading classics can just leave you bogged down and feeling depressed. Just a hunch.
  • Not feeling guilty if you can’t remember what you read. I used to smash myself up and try make my self take notes when I read Carson. It made reading a horrifically painful experience. I think talking to someone about what you’ve read is just as effective and less painful.
  • Not feeling guilty if you don’t finish reading a book. If you get the gist it’s totally ok to put the book back on the shelf. (Repeat that sentence as you do it).
  • Reading Multiple books at once. This was a revelation. I have about 10 books on the go at the moment. I pick up whichever one I feel like reading at the time. I have a book for every mood.
  • Reading on the toilet*. I’ve never been able to read the Bible on the toilet (it just didn’t feel right) but The Briefing and Wheels make for excellent trashy toilet reading (I enjoy both). More reading will help you get better at reading and make going to the toilet a more pleasant experience.
(Toilet reading; Wheels, Pulse and The Briefing)

*Safety first kids. Keep the lid down when you flush and always wash your hands.



Benny said... 1/08/2009 5:55 pm  

Fair advice indeed, Mike. The many books on the go I can relate to, though I tend to have about 50 :).

My further advice is to start with short andreadable, then work your way up. Many years ago, when I hadn't read much in a while, I started reading Steinbeck novellas - short and easy to read, and they get your confidence up.

But then it's good to read harder stuff, slowly but surely - kind of like a training regime.

mike said... 1/08/2009 6:03 pm  

Helpful comments Benny. Thanks also for encouragement to read more last year.

The Pook said... 1/08/2009 9:32 pm  

Although I did ace English at school, my life is full of half-read books! I seem to be reading less, not more, every year. I'm currently struggling, along with Luke and Dan, through huge theological tomes about "the church" and the riveting events of Presbyterian history.

You offer some good advice there. Some of what you say reminds me of Mark Twain's dictum - "Work consists in that which a body is obliged to do, and play consists in that which a body is not obliged to do." Seems to me you are advocating that we try as much as possible to put fun, purpose and variety back into our reading and not get so hung up on what HAS to be done.

Justin McNeil said... 1/10/2009 10:51 am  

I just finished "Biblical Preaching" and I really enjoyed it. It looks like you will be quite well-versed when you finish all those!

One Salient Oversight said... 1/11/2009 12:19 pm  

Okay... important question.

You're sitting on the throne doing your daily constitutional when suddenly you realise there is no paper.

You therefore have the choice of a) ripping a page out of Wheels magazine or b) ripping a page out of The Briefing.

Which do you choose?

Al Bain said... 1/17/2009 6:36 pm  

I'm reminded of a letter an actor wrote to one of his critics after a particularly savage review.

"Dear Sir. I am sitting in the smallest room in the house and I have your review in front of me. It is soon to be behind me. Yours faithfully"

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