Thursday, September 1, 2011
How I Read a Book
I am a word aficionado. Not a word-snob, but a lover of words and language.
There's power in words. Beauty in words. Grace in words.
Words create movement. They craft nations. They seal a marriage. They cast vision. They make us laugh. They expand our horizons. They script our possibilities.
Few things fascinate me like the power of words. So it's no wonder I read a lot. Recently I asked readers here to tell me if they tend to be book finishers or book abandoners. And I promised to tell how I read, so here it goes.
I'm fairly picky on the front end about what I'll buy or bring home. There's too many options and too little reading time for me not to be discriminate. If I have access to the Internet, I often check reader reviews before deciding on a title. But a book doesn't have to get 5 stars for me to read it.
With any book I pick up, I see the title, note the author, read the back cover, and then note the publisher. Before entering the publishing arena myself I didn't pay much attention to the publisher, now that info tells me something about the book, particularly in the case of Christian books. Different publishers can have different bents, or theological leanings.
Next I open the book and scan the table of contents. I want the chapter titles to intrigue me but also to give me some sense of what the chapter contains. Next I flip through and spot read on various pages throughout. This is often the biggest determinate for me. I have to be intrigued, pulled in. I have to find at least two places during spot reading that make me want to keep reading.
It might be compelling content, brillant analysis, the author's voice, or the beauty of the wording that pulls me in. But it's got to pull me.
Once I officially begin reading a non-fiction book, I read with a pencil in hand. It must be a pencil, not a pen and not a highlighter - strong color visually divides and messes up the pages for me. It tends to prevent me from engaging with the non-highlighted stuff on a second or third read through. That's a problem because at different times in my life different things will speak to me.
I underline sentences often. I sometimes write the topic of a great passage at the top of the page. And I occasionally make short notes in the margin. If a question gets raised in my mind, I'll put a question mark in the margin beside it. If an action is suggested that I want to do, I'll draw a to-do style check box in the margin. If something is a key point, I draw a key shape to the side.
Being a busy woman and a lover of words with many interests, I'm sometimes tempted to stop reading a book before the end, even if I've been enjoying it. I might get restless, or distracted by another title I want to read.
On a case by case basis I decide if I will push myself to finish it or let myself move on to another book. If I decide to move on, I also decide not to feel guilty about that. It was an intentional decision.
Some books make their argument for me or teach me their premise well enough in the first several chapters. And sometimes the author runs out of new things to say before they meet their mandatory word count (shhh, don't tell them I told you that). And once in a while, a book just fails to deliever or resonate with me. If that's the case, I put it down and move on.
Life is not college, (beyond the Bible) there is no manditory reading list. Still, I can't imagine life without books. My life is better for having read a great many of them. And for having finished most of those I started, and consciously abdanonded a few to move on to what will move me.
Chances are you are a book lover too. Feel free to share your reading tips and tendencies. And if you're looking for a Christian non-fiction book to read, or even half-read, you can try mine here.