An Odd Reading Tip

Currently, I am reading five books, including three that count as classics. Throughout the day I will read ten pages of one, a chapter of another, and so on. As long as I can remember, I usually have at least two books going at the same time, even if one is for

images 5.25.37 PM.jpeg
Sometimes that grad program felt like 100 years of solitude. 

school and the other for fun. But in grad school, when I was reading four novels a week for my various classes, I stumbled on a handy reading method that helps me with books that I find more challenging. Although I first began doing it conciously to help me plow through those thousands of pages of reading in grad school, I’ve begun to adapt it for my own reading. it has helped me finish books that I like, but might otherwise have put down for various reasons.

The tip:

If you find yourself getting bored with a book, try reading two or more at the same time.

It’s that simple!

The key to making this successful is to vary the time period, difficulty level, and “flavor” of the books.

Copperfield_cover_serial.jpgTime period: Right now I’m reading a book written in the mid-1850s, one from the early 1900s, and one from the late 1900s. This helps because the style is usually different, helping you with the next two items to vary

Difficulty level: Usually older books take more concentration; this can lead to reading fatigue. In order to avoid this, you can read a little of the harder book, then switch to the easier one to rest your eyes and your brain.

“Flavor”: by flavor I mean difference in tone, or genre (or both). To explain by example, 7597._UY200_.jpgone of the classics I am reading is David Copperfield. Like a lot of Dickens books, if I read too much at one time it can feel like a heavy dose of sentimentality. At the same time, I am reading Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence. This Modernist book features spare prose and is rather bleak, so by itself it might get too depressing. But the two balance out each other. The third classic is 100 Years of Solitude. Marquez’s book is magical realism. When I get overwhelmed by the number of Aurelianos and strange events I can go back to one of the more realistic works and take a break.
By rotating through these very different works, I avoid that all-too-common problem, that of overloading on one tone or genre, putting the book down, and not wanting to take it back up again.

It can also help you through those “dry spells” that crop up in novels (I’m looking at you, Dickens, with your five pages of description). If you’re bored, just read something else for a day or two; however, you do have to employ some self-discipline and pick that second (or third or fourth) book back up!

39d2f832be2027356c8aeb62f760924f.jpgOne common comment I hear people make is that they could never read multiple books at the same time, as they get them mixed up. To that I ask, can you keep the plot lines and characters of multiple TV shows straight? Sometimes the difficulty arises from a lack of attention. Another benefit of this reading method: reading significantly different works also makes it easier to keep the characters and plots straight.

And finally, like so many things to do with reading old books, the more you do it, the easier it gets!




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