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How to Get the Most Out of Reading Books

Updated on September 26, 2012
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Reading books is becoming a lost art. The more we use the internet for instant information and tidbits, the less we take the time to actually understand longer and more involved writing. Reading cannot be rushed. I found that whenever I tried to rush through a book - inevitably because I wanted to start the next one, which is a never ending cycle - I always ended up taking longer than when I took my time reading. This was because I need to understand what I'm reading. When I tried to power through a book I found that sometimes I wasn't understanding what I was reading, which meant that I would go back and read paragraphs over and over again, lengthening the time I spent on these books. I've collected some tips that I've found useful for rewarding reading.

1. Take Your Time

As I mentioned above, it is important to take your time when reading. Gimmicks for speed reading are just that, gimmicks. You might be able to read faster physically, but your comprehension will be kept to a minimum. This might be OK if you'll be reading children's books for the rest of your life, but if you are tackling anything more complex you will be lost. By taking my time and actually sounding out the words in my mind as I read I find that I can understand what I think to be the meaning of each passage and this allows me to imagine scenes, characters and ideas more clearly.

2. See What You're Reading

Whether with a book or an e-book, I find it much more enjoyable to read when letters are larger and when there is more space between lines. This gives me a free flowing impression. Books with very small type or lines squashed in close together actually make me feel claustrophobic and unable to enjoy reading even if the topic is interesting. This is why it is important to find a layout that you find appealing. This will actually make your read much more enjoyable.

Also, poor quality paper and faint ink also make me lose interest in reading books, just because of the unappealing layout and presentation. This is what also drives me to avoid public library books at times as well, especially shabby editions of books from the 1970s and 1980s for some reason. If I open up a library book and find disturbing stains on the pages, I throw it back on the shelf in a heat beat.

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3. Take Notes as Necessary

Especially when reading books with lots of characters, places or events, it sometimes helps to make a small note on paper where you write down the character or place's name with a short description. When this comes up later on in the book and you forgot who, what or where a certain name is referring to you can just look it up in your own little index. It beats having to flip back and forth between the books actual index to figure out what's what. This also helps you to remember because the act of writing something down helps our brain to make note of it more easily. Writing takes concentration, which in turn makes anything easier to remember.

4. Set Time Aside for Reading

I know that people are always rushing and say they have no time to read. But if you really want to get something out of reading and truly enjoy it, then it is best to put time aside to concentrate on your book and nothing else. This need not be hours of time, even 15-30 minutes set aside for nothing else but your book can be more rewarding than 2 hours of distracted reading. If we can put time aside to watch out favorite TV show or to catch up with our personal emails, than we can also put time aside for reading. It is just a question of prioritizing. We can put quality reading time into our busy schedules like anything else that we find really essential. It is just a question of making the time.

5. Read What Interests You

Many people make the mistake of reading a book simply because it is on the New York Times Bestseller List, or because "everyone's talking about it", even if its about a subject they don't find interesting. I made this mistake with the Lord of the Rings series and the Harry Potter books. Despite having had an aversion towards fantasy books my whole life, I thought I was missing out on something really good by not having read these two popular series. I forced myself to power through them, and needless to say got absolutely nothing out of them and ended up feeling like I wasted a lot of time. Most people know themselves well enough to know what topics they enjoy and what topics they don't enjoy. I'm not saying it isn't good to try to explore new subjects, but after looking into a particular topic and finding it doesn't interest me, I set it aside and move on. There is no point in jumping on the bandwagon and trying to force yourself to read something you despise. It's like trying to read a chemistry textbook in high school: it'll get you nothing but frustration.

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