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“The ideal library symbolizes everything a society stands for. A society depends on its libraries to know who it is because libraries are society’s memory.” Manguel, Alberto. A Reader on Reading. New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2010. Kindle loc 4729.

“The ideal library (like every library) holds at least one line that has been written exclusively for you.” (Manguel loc 4759)

I could’ve titled this post “Confessions of a Bookstore Junkie.” I go every chance I get, but I’m not a collector. I even try to visit bookstores on vacation. For example, in March I get to go to New York and plan to visit Strand and in June, if the trip goes as planned, I will visit Shakespeare and Company while in Paris. I order books online and use a kindle/nook but still find myself going to bookstores on the off-chance I might make a discovery.

My library card is current, but I tend to move toward book ownership rather than book borrowing. Buying books forces you into giving the author the requisite commitment through investment. Borrowing books gets you into the library which you should learn to use anyway.

Borrowing books from friends is a third option. To lend means to risk the owner won’t return your book with your notes and with your memories written in the margins. To borrow may mean you see the book through the lender’s eyes first.

Search for books by looking “through the review sections of newspapers and magazines, talking to friends about their favorite books, whenever you meet someone in an interesting profession ask them, check out acknowledgments, blurbs and bibliographies of books you do like, read a collection of essays to try out different authors, read a book about books, search the internet, go to author websites, search for listervs, chat online about books, and go to libraries and bookstores!” Dirda, Michael. Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life. New York: Henry Holt, 2006. Kindle,  loc 1547.

Ready access to books is a relatively new phenomena. “We take books and mass literacy for granted, but in reality, they are a recent iteration, going back not even a millennium.” Ulin, David L. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. Seattle, WA: Sasquatch, 2010. Kindle loc 62. Books were never easier to get your hands on. Amazon offers thousands of books for free online and Project Gutenberg touts 38,000 in free ebooks. An iPad/iPhone app offers free books as well.

I don’t care how you get books, but give yourself multiple options and an opportunity for chance discovery. Getting books into your reading pipeline should be a comfortable experience.

Today, the world is your “ideal library.” Buy or Borrow, there is no reasonable excuse not to find a book you love.

“I’m interested in this sort of weird, people who have chosen to avoid conforming to the masses, at least in some parts of their lives.” We Are All Weird The Myth of Mass and the End of Compliance. Amazonencore, 2011. Kindle.

We Are All Weird reminds me of the attitude you see in places like Austin and San Francisco where the goal’s to be just a little more weird or weird in a little different way. Austin, TX feels weird. Some stores embrace the idea and sell this “weirdness” by planting the slogan on tie dyed T-shirts. Conformity in those places requires you to be weird. This goes on in high schools where kids try to stand out and find their own way in life. Students try to develop their own style. Occasionally, someone would go off with an older brother to a concert and come back with a particular new style dress or hair. As adults, we stop this behavior or it at least becomes less extreme.

Godin tends to see the battle ground in marketing as those fighting against the status quo with their declarations of weirdness. The weird form smaller groups, he says, and then go out into the world and show everyone how to be weird. Godin argues that we have a greater opportunity to be weird today than ever because we are all rich enough and have enough time and resources to make choices about what we like.

Godin gives an example, Etsy.com, which allows you to buy anything you can dream up, or, if it isn’t there you can sell it yourself. Geography is no longer a limitation.  We can be weird and listen to weird music and read weird books and dress in weird ways and even eat weird food without having weird stores in our neighborhood.

I say, whether you embrace it in your outward appearance or not, embrace it somewhere deep inside. Read something NOT on the best sellers list and bring it to the table in a discussion. You might inspire the entire group toward a new perspective.

“Habit makes everything look bland; it is sleep-inducing. Jumping to a different perspective is a way of waking oneself up again.” Bakewell, Sarah. How to Live, Or, a Life of Montaigne : in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. New York: Other, 2010. Loc 3254

We’re all tired. We spend the day in meetings, on email, and on phone calls. They collectively generate fatigue faster than a wind turbine in Abilene, Texas generates electricity. We need tactics to defeat fatigue as it fights against our mind and tries to prevent us from reading. Here are three suggestions: (more…)

Reading isn’t a hobby that tends to break the bank. In fact, with a library card you can do it for next to nothing. Sometimes, though, taking a positive step toward identifying yourself as a reader makes all the difference. Runners don’t need much, but they buy shoes. Writers don’t need much but they use a laptop, notebook, and pens.

Even aside from gear, you can take positive steps today to be a better reader from the comfort of your own home.

20 suggestions: (more…)

A third (one out of three) of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. Forty-two (42%) percent of college graduates never read another book after college. Eighty percent (80%) of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. (Source: Jenkins Group) more stats here

What the fuck are we doing? Watching reality TV? We sure aren’t reading.

I want to encourage adults to read. Those statistics have to change. Do those statistics explain the reason some people still think dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time as man? Maybe.

Most reading blogs are for young readers or teachers. I suspect many of you are neither, like me. We all should read, not only teachers and students.

We need a reading revolution. After the Gutenberg press a reading revolution occurred. E-reading devices (Kindle, Nook, iPad) have the same potential. Let’s create a new reading Renaissance. Stop anticipating the end of the world and start understanding the world.

I went to high school and read as assigned. I went to college and read for grades. I went to law school and read fearing I would be called on to participate. I plead guilty to reading for the wrong reasons. Recently, I started reading because I love it and I want to share the experience.

Humans innately strive to understand the world so we can make sense of our lives. Reading is an essential way to do this. Not the only way, but an essential way.

Read for reasons other than a grade. Read to make life worth living. Start to read motivated by life instead of tests and you will enjoy it. Reading doesn’t invoke the same psychic scream it did in school.

Other blogs talk about books and review books but few focus on the art of reading. I’m not about to start prescribing reading material. Ideas about what you want to read? Focus on those ideas and run with them. We will probably talk about some books, but if you don’t want to read them, don’t

Did you know there are funny books? Read humor if that’s your cup of tea. I don’t care as long as you’re reading.

Weigh in on a conversation, educated. Arm yourself by reading.

I know there’s a book you dream of reading, admit it to yourself.

Do you regret going through school doing the bare minimum, even if you made the grades? Do you regret having given no book a chance other than to understand the cliff notes version and pass a test? I did.

Ever failed at reading a book? We all fail! Get over it and move on like a professional.

Does TV fill your entertainment hours like high fructose corn syrup fills your belly? Shit-can it, at least until you get your reading done.

Do you think you can learn it all from YouTube or TV or class lectures? Wrong. You need books to converse with the truly great minds of all-time.

You will gradually come into reading like you would gradually prepare to run a particular distance like a marathon.

I realize magazines review books, but the problem isn’t finding a book. You aren’t reading at all or enough or the right way. Other readers develop opinions about books, but I bet you have opinions. Don’t live life regurgitating the opinion you hear. Form your own.

4 simple rules:

1. Read what you want to read.

2. Learn what you want to learn.

3. Write about it if the mood strikes you.

4. Do it every day.

As a reader you need a mantra. Create one. Need a reason to read? Make this the first reason.

As a reader you need to stop making excuses based on age, pace, or time. You have time. I reject the other excuses.

No hidden agendas allowed! Don’t start out reading to impress other people. Read for yourself and for pleasure.

As a rule attitudes are justifiers of behavior rather than causes of it. This means you need to start thinking of yourself as a reader today. Now.

Achievement motivates so set a goal, say 10 pages a day and stick with it.

Take time to reflect and see how far you’ve come. It may help to track your reading progress so you  visualize it.

You are a reader. You began the journey the minute you found this blog. Ride the momentum. That’s the new challenge. You have already begun.

Each day share your reading experience. Don’t flaunt it, but share it, so people know it’s important to you.

Joseph Campbell says, “a hero is someone able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations.” Sound familiar? Step up to the plate and accept the role.

Join me.

@readlearnwrite on Twitter.

Try not to think of reading as simply uploading data, because if you think this way reading will always seem too slow. Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Kindle loc 946.

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”  Bacon, Francis. Of Studies … San Francisco, 1928. Print.

“[A] first encounter with a worthwhile book is never a complete encounter, and we are usually in error to make it a final one.” (Jacobs loc 1681)

“You don’t read for understanding, you read for excitement. Understanding is a product of excitement.” Marvin Mudrick from Dirda, Michael. Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life. New York: Henry Holt, 2006. Print.

Today I introduce another skill you should learn, how to make a superficial reading or first reading. Read the first time for pleasure, don’t worry about misunderstandings, and if necessary you can always read it again for deeper understanding.

Reading a difficult book for the first time means you will miss beautiful language or wonderful dialogue between characters. You may even miss words’ meanings or references to places or predecessors’ books. Commit to a reading without stopping to look-up or ponder the people, places, and things you do not understand right away. Commit to a first reading without worrying whether you “get it.” Instead, absorb the story. Commit to the story and characters emotionally.

You’ve probably never been taught to read superficially. Instead, teachers preached about dictionaries and you probably resorted to study guides to force feed meaning. Reading with constant interruption is not proper for a first reading. Studying to get through a test is not a leisure activity you will come back to daily. Adler, Mortimer J., and Doren Charles. Van. How to Read a Book: the Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972. Print. p. 36. Break away from your schoolgirl mentality. Reading and studying are not the same. Some of you stopped reading for this reason. You equate reading with studying. Studying is labor. I want you to get caught up in the art of reading. Since reading for pleasure isn’t taught it will take practice to learn to read this way. Make a concentrated effort to read a book with no ulterior motive. Fight your urge to study it, for now.

I hear you saying, “you mean you expect me to read this book twice?” Remember the goal. Consuming book after book is not it. I am challenging you to commit to a lifetime filled with pleasurable reading. To commit, you must first realize  a book may take more than one reading. Huge point! You will hear great readers echoing this as they scream it in empty hypothetical libraries.

Ok, I decided to commit to a first reading. How fast should I read? (more…)

“[A] list of books that you reread is like a clearing in the forest: a level, clean, well-lighted place where you set down your burdens and set up your home, your identity, your concerns, your continuity in a world that is at best indifferent, at worst malign. Since you, the reader, are that hero of modern literature, the existential loner, the smallest denominator of moral force, it behooves you to take counsel, sustenance, and solace from the writers who have been writing about you these hundred or give hundred years, to sequester yourself with their books and read and reread them to get a fix on yourself and a purchase on the world that will, with luck, like the house in the clearing, last you for life.” Sissman from Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Kindle loc 1696.

“Systematic reading is of little help. Following an official book list, may, by chance, throw up a useful name, as long as we bear in mind the motives behind the lists. But the best guides, I believe, are the reader’s whims….” Manguel, Alberto. A Reader on Reading. New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2010. Kindle loc 217.

For some reading purists, lists are shit and you should read for pure pleasure. I look at lists like a road map, not a tally sheet. A “have read” list gives you reading sense, like a compass might with direction, and can inspire new reading suggestions. A “to read” list assures there’s reading material waiting in the pipeline. Don’t let me confuse you, the list is not a mandate. I can promise you will never find yourself without something to read next if you create a list. Understand though, you should always read for interest, in the moment, to ensure enjoyment.

I used to live trying to remember it all.  As I get older, I realize my memory is far from perfect. I do not want my memory to disappear, but I expect decline. I credit Total Recall  for giving me the idea to create a book list. Bell, C. Gordon., and Jim Gemmell. Total Recall: How the E-memory Revolution Will Change Everything. New York: Dutton, 2009. Print. Life gets more digital daily. As Mr. Bell and Mr. Gemmell correctly conclude, our ability to save and store unlimited information, including digital video, for future use will mean total recall.  So how does this idea apply to a book list? (more…)

“To be succesful today, it not only becomes necessary to skim but it becomes essential to skim well.” Shreeharsh Kelkar taken from Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Kindle, loc 1459.

“I learned at a very early age that unless you are reading for some purpose other than pleasure you can safely skim over difficult quagmires, cut your way through tangled jungles, skip the solemn and boring lowlands, and simply let yourself be carried by the vigorous stream of the tale.” Manguel, Alberto. A Reader on Reading. New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2010. Kindle, loc 127.

According to my dictionary, the word skim comes from the word scum. If I wanted I could play with words and suggest skimming the surface detects scum sitting on the surface.  As appetizing as I find the relationship I prefer to stop my etymological analysis at “skimming the surface,” barely touching the substance beneath. Suffice it to say the ways to approach a book differ depending on the level of understanding you want to achieve. Even a brilliant reader doesn’t roll through Finnegan’s Wake without having to pause and reflect. On the other hand, most adults could probably read Pinnochio and understand the basic plot.

Adler and Van Doren describe four basic approaches to reading, each requiring a different time commitment and all producing a different understanding (Adler and Van Doren 16). Consider the four approaches: (1) Elementary Reading; (2) Inspectional Reading; (3) Analytical Reading; (4) Syntopical Reading (Adler and Van Doren 17-19). We will progress to Syntopical reading assuming Elementary reading mastery as our starting point. If this all sounds like a foreign language, don’t worry. We will take each step at a time and its not as complicated as it sounds. (more…)

“Books are living things and their task lies in their vows of silence. You touch them as they quiver with a divine pleasure. You read them and they fall asleep to happy dreams for the next ten years. If you do them the favor of understanding them, of taking in their portions of grief and wisdom, then they settle down in contented residence in your heart.” Conroy, Pat, and Wendell Minor. My Reading Life. New York: Nan A. Telese, 2010. Print, p.111.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. For me, memory lane leads to a cul-de-sac with Paulsen’s Hatchet at the dead-end. I  read it as an adult and I still enjoy it, but as a child I remember wanting to live it. I even convinced my parents to buy a hatchet from a campground gift shop. I acted out the adventure, stranded with only the hatchet to survive. Silly, I know, but the book cast its spell. Paulsen set out with a simple motivation, write a page turning story. The story worked on me. Brian Robeson narrates. Faced with divorcing parents, initially, the book progresses and a survival tale engulfs the domestic anxiety. Brian’s pilot’s heart seizes up, the plane goes down, and Brian survives alone for many days. Brian’s mistakes could have killed him. Instead, combined luck, brilliance, and patience keep him alive. His survival spawns new confidence.

I enjoyed reading Hatchet because I identified with Brian. We shared an approximate age and affinity for the outdoors and the independence it represented. I liked hatchets and possessed the desire to test myself with it. There the similarities ended, but the book’s grip hardened like cement. I offer advice forged in my experience with Hatchet. Identify fearlessly with a core character or idea. Reading for entertainment requires feather-like reflexes. Literary critics can’t risk getting swept away, but for a reader, like yourself, you live for the experience of floating like a feather in the narrative.Come up with a book related memory. Were you reading? Were you being read to? Maybe someone recited a story or poem from memory?

It’s time to wake up the memory if you have one. If not, read on. (more…)

Set a reading goal. Realize you, the reader.

Take the hardest step, commitment. Just like running a marathon, you will need to mentally prepare to accomplish your reading goal. You are a reader so start admiting that to yourself.

Around 1954 a psychologist named Julian B. Rotter studied a variable called “internal locus of control.” Having a high internal locus of control means you think you control your own life.  He studied it for years and published a study along these lines. Rotter, J.B. (1966). “Generalized expectancies of internal versus external control of reinforcements”. Psychological Monographs 80 (609).  He found the higher your internal locus of control, the more you control your behavior. If you think you can control your life then you can more easily actually control your life. So, flip the internal switch to reader. The switch is more important than any other step you will take. You are a reading architect. Only two obstacles keep you from becoming a reader: (1) a physical disability (and even most disabilities overcome these days) or (2) your own negative attitude toward reading. You should work to develop an internal locus of control with regard to reading. You control your own reading destiny.

(more…)