Deeper Read: How To Read More
Keen to get more books in your brain? Breakfasters book reviewer Fi Wright has some ace tips for anyone wanting to up their reading intake.
WORDS FI WRIGHT
ILLUSTRATIONS RUBY KNIGHT
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how I managed to read so many books, I’d have enough money to be able to buy new bookcases for all my books! I read a lot. It’s my main hobby. Plus, I talk about it on radio with you all regularly, so I get a lot of questions about it. That’s cool – I’m glad you’re keen! But sometimes I feel like people compare their reading habits to mine and feel bad about themselves. That’s less cool and not what I want. So here are some handy dandy tips to get you all reading some more!
GUILT AND SHAME DON’T HELP ANYONE If you have a smart phone, chances are you’re reading more than any of the Ancient Greek philosophers ever did. Aristotle can suck it. However, because you’re not reading “a book” people can feel funny about it. Do you train and run marathons, for example? Belong to a sporting club? Have kids? Yeah, I’m not in or have any of those.* Your time is your time, and having other hobbies or parts of your life take up time. Most runners I know run more kilometres in a month than I read books in a year. Acknowledge your accomplishments and that you achieve lots of other things besides how many books you might have read.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY Sure, I read a lot of books in a year, but some of them were/are real stinkers. Honestly, I read some real crap last year. But guess what? I read it so you don’t have to! If you have reading pals in your life, ask them what they think of things or if they hated something that you were thinking of getting. Elizabeth McCarthy (Triple R Talks & Breakfasters Producer – and regular Breakfasters book reviewer) has never steered me wrong and every book I’ve purchased that she’s spoken about has been killer! Also, I read reviewers that I totally disagree with. If they like something, I’m probably going to hate it, so that helps guide me, too.
DECISION FATIGUE? Years ago, I went through huge reading indecisiveness and got really strange with how I picked books. I used to go to the biography section of the library and pick up books about people I was interested in and learn about their lives. Often musicians or maybe actors from the 40s. Then, you can watch/listen to things while you’re reading about their creation! My other tip is to follow reading lists online; there are so many lists out there and generally the books on them are interesting. My friends and I try to read the Stella Prize longlist every year before it’s announced and guess what we think will win – it’s like nerdy gambling with zero stakes! We also do that with other events – and there are so many lists from the last 100 years, you’ll never have to pick a book again.
LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO READ CRAP If you’re not liking a book, put it down. Seriously! By about 50 to 100 pages in, you should have a good vibe for the author’s writing style. If you’re not feeling it, carry on and look for the next one. The world won’t end if you put it down. And maybe one day, you’ll run into someone at the pub who’ll be all insistent that you should finish the book** and then you can say, “If I don’t like it, you can buy me dinner when I’m done while I complain about it to you.” And then either way, you win – a good read or some free food for (potentially) wasting your time.
ULTIMATE THINKING TIME I’m gonna cop it for this one, but read in the loo. Judge away, but I bet 99 per cent of people reading this article take their phones into the loo and read that instead – and unless you’ve got a weird way of reading, you’re not rubbing a book all over your face later. It’s not the most hygienic thing ever, sure, but again, you put your phone on your face and I bet that’s copping a scroll while you’re there, so rein in the judgement. I recommend leaving some books in there for guests as well – things that are not plot-dependent are always winners.
TRAIN YOUR BRAIN You work out at the gym with small weights and get heavier ones as you get fitter. You train as a runner with shorter distances and sprints to go longer. You can’t just dig into War and Peace and have a good time. Well, maybe you can – but generally, it’s a book that takes time, effort and also some Russian history googling. If you’re trying to get more into reading, start small. Maybe a book of essays? Short stories? Books that you loved as a teenager? Remind yourself that reading is pleasurable and not necessarily hard graft. From there, branch out and read other books by the same author perhaps? Build up to the chunky books, because it can be harder to commit to something that’s longer and more narratively complex. I’d rather you put the book down and try again in five years (absolutely something I’ve done more than once) than put all books down forever.
E-BOOKS ARE STILL BOOKS I have an e-reader. I love it. I am a spontaneous mood reader and if I see someone talking about a book, I want to read it immediately. E-books are easy to carry, portable and mine has a little light attached so I can read without the bedside table lamp on at night time. Oh! And I can adjust the font to be really big so I don’t need my glasses on either! My library also syncs up with it and I love the immediacy of it. Some people talk to me about “real books”, but any books you read are real books. If you read books on your smart phone on the train, chances are I’m looking over your shoulder and reading along rather than turning up my nose at you. Packing boxes of books when you move house is shit. Get an e-reader.***
AUDIOBOOKS COUNT, TOO I can’t believe I’m writing this in the magazine connected with a radio station, but audiobooks count too. People try to tell me they don’t count sometimes, but they’re liars and just trying to gatekeep knowledge or something. Hearing voices express emotion and feeling, instead of just reading the words can transport you further into the book. Sometimes, when I’m reading something complex, I listen to the audiobook while I read along to gain deeper insight. It’s how I picked up reading as a kid and it still works now. Chuck one on in the car, while you’re going for a walk or listen on the train. This counts and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
THINK ABOUT YOUR SPACES Besides the dunny, where else are you reading? Just in bed? You’ve been training your brain your whole life to fall asleep in bed and if you’re reading a good book, you’re staying up all night to find out who was in the library with the candlestick with Colonel Mustard, or you’re reading half a page for the next five months while you struggle to remember the plot because you pass out first. Read other places, too. I often read on Saturday afternoons while listening to Triple R and Stolen Moments. Jazz generally doesn’t have too many lyrics to distract me and I sit at the kitchen table**** and read and listen. Make it a habit to read for ten minutes or so, then stretch it out longer as you find your groove. You can put on an audiobook and listen in the bath if you want to relax. The world’s your oyster!
MAKE IT SOCIAL Reading groups exist*****, which involves sitting in a park in the general vicinity of people and reading a book. Not the same book as everyone else, just whatever you want. The social element of being in a group makes me more likely to read for longer stretches of time. Plus, you can get beers after. A book club is another good choice here, as chances are everyone will be reading the same book and have a deadline to finish, which can help. Generally, beer can be involved in this one, too.
COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY I had some people last year tell me they wished they read as much as me. Nah, it’s not about that, but I get it. I have some pals that read more than double what I read last year and I had the same feeling. Before social media and online tracking of data, I didn’t know how much my friends were reading annually, but now I can tell. Avoid the temptation to compare yourself with others. I struggle with it too, but I’m always happier when I’m focusing on the book in front of me rather than counting how many I have to read as though it’s a race.
* Besides the Megahertz! But even then, I’m off the field, chopping orange slices and generally not on the field playing the game!
** Sorry in advance, as this’ll probably be me at some point.
*** Just not anything connected with that rich bloke in America, ‘cause he’s got enough cash.
**** As I associate that space with food, I’m generally quite alert.
***** STFU Reading Society exists in both Melbourne and Sydney, for example.
Fi Wright is a long-time Triple R volunteer, fill-in broadcaster, and one of the book reviewers on Breakfasters. Away from the Rs, she’s an English teacher by trade and always wants to know what you’re reading. Ruby Knight is a Melbourne-based artist. You can find Ruby on Instagram. This article first appeared in The Trip, Triple R's subscriber magazine.