4 Ways to Read More (or Start Reading!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

1. Allow yourself some "recruiter reads."
I grew up in a household that shamed 小說, or pretty much any novel that wasn't some monumental contribution to the literary tradition or scientific archives, so I had to sneak home my YA romance and coming-of-age novels. My sister and I (mostly I) have been known to police our friends and each other (again, mostly me to my sister) for picking up "frothy" reads, and I've carried this condescension to adulthood. I feel really shitty whenever some white dude in a cardigan accuses me of not being well-read because I literally have not ever enjoyed something by Jane Austin, Haruki Murakami, or W.B. Yeates.
I've also mispronounced "Yeates" in a poetry class of all places (it literally looks like "yeet", what the fuck was I supposed to think), which sent the whole class tittering. I've not yet fully recovered from that, but I did end up being the only one from that class to have a published body of work, so suck my Yeates.
The point is, I kowtowed to literary gatekeepers my entire life, and thought the only books I could admit to having read had to be from a high-brow Western curriculum. But of course, this is entirely bullshit, and *flawless segue* I ended up forming my own alternative curriculum last year, comprised entirely of Asian American authors. The embarrassment of reading "chick lit" remained, though, so much so that my goodreads count is a severe underestimation because I don't want to admit to the 0.3 people that follow me that I've read soft-core erotica (ahem) or obsessively re-read the Clique series a dozen times in adulthood.
What I'm trying to say is, don't be like me. Allow yourself the little pleasures of reading a book literally written for your pleasure. You deserve pleasure. Some of my favorites:

If You Leave Me | Crystal Hana Kim

Words in Deep Blue | Cath Crowley

How to Be a Person in the World | Heather Havrilesky

2. Utilize your local library.
Nothing in recent history has made me lose my shit quite like the since-removed (I think) Forbes column arguing that libraries should be defunded and privatized in favor of Amazon-like stores (like bookstores, you mean?) One of my favorite childhood memories was our biweekly trips to the library where we could literally fill up a canvas tote with potential adventures, sagas, dramas, etc. Does anybody understand how dope it is to have so much -- knowledge, fantasy, redemption, thrill, hope -- that we can borrow for free? (Spare me the taxpayer argument here.) And best of all, you get to keep what you learn. IT'S SO FUCKING COOL, and I hope we never lose the joy of seeing these big, wide bookshelves full of who we could be and getting to pick where our little minds go next.

3. Get yourself a damn Kindle. 
(Or use the Kindle desktop/iPhone app, I guess.) 14-year-old me sneered at the philistine who carried a little gray toy instead of a hardcover, but 22-year-old me (wiser, better hair) swoons at the mysterious contents of a stranger's Kindle. Are you reading a self-help book about infidelity? An alt-right memoir? Something vintage? All of the above because that's what you can do with an e-reader????
Honestly, somebody should start a YouTube trend called "what's in my Kindle," I would 10/10 watch.

You can also download library books onto your Kindle via Overdrive (read: FREE CONTENT)!
That being said, if you can afford to purchase books at an acceptable pace, a really great way to find recommendations is through your local independent bookstore. They'll usually have staff-curated displays of interesting titles, and I agree that there's nothing quite like holding a fresh book with its wild, vivid full-color cover (and fonts, I really miss fonts).

4. (Optional) Learn to speed read. 
I've always been a pretty quick reader, but I learned to speed read in high school. I can't claim 100% retention or comprehension of everything I've speed read, but I can testify to a still-rich experience. Case in point: I've never missed a reading in college (and did very well), and skimming is still better than skipping. You can read a bunch of op-eds about whether speed reading works (I'll even do the work for you: here, here, here, and here), but the gist of it is that if you know a lot of words (by reading a lot), and are comfortable reading (by reading a lot), you'll read quickly (and therefore read a lot). There's no crazy neuroscience to this, and if you're not in any hurry (i.e. your to-read list isn't a billion titles long), it doesn't necessarily make less sense take your time and reflect on every other sentence. But if you're anxious about your books outliving you (as I am), learn to speed read. Or read multiple books at once. Here's a loose explanation of the method I learned. 

 And finally, my favorite quotes about reading:
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” 
J A M E S  B A L D W I N

“Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it.
Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.” 
W I L L I A M  F A U L K N E R

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” 
F R A N Z  K A F K A

"If you go home with somebody and they don't have books, don't f*ck them."
J O H N  W A T E R S

With great love,

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