8 Crucial Strategies For Becoming a Better Reader

8 Crucial Strategies For Becoming a Better ReaderLots of people regularly say they’d like to read more, but they never seem to have the time.

As a writer, I love reading but, like many people, I often find myself browsing the internet or reading the wrong thing. This is why I spent some time investigating how to read and learn more from the written word.

Here are eight crucial strategies that will help you get more from reading:

1. Keep a List of Books You Want to Read

One of the great things about reading is I regularly read about other books that sound interesting.

This invariably leads to a “I’d love to read that book, but I have to read this book first” moment.

The next time this happens, consider recording the name of the interesting book in an app like Simplenote or on a paper-based list.

This invariably leads to a “I’d love to read that book, but I have to read this book first” moment.

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When you are stuck for something to read in several weeks or months, you can consult your rapidly growing list and pick something interesting.

This method shortcuts wandering around a virtual or bricks and mortar bookshop and buying a book simply because the cover, reviews,or discounts are impressive.

If you don’t know where to begin, the internet is full of great lists about great books that deserve your attention.

2. Read Several Books at Once

Some heavy readers advise concentrating on one book at a time because, that way, you are more likely to finish one book and move to the next.

I disagree.

Reading several books at once means you can alternate books when one becomes tiresome or a slog ( A Dance With Dragons anyone ?). And, you can return to the first book when you feel refreshed.

For this method to work, it’s a good idea to read books from several different genres or to combine fiction and non-fiction.

Personally, non-fiction books are best suited for day-time reading, while fiction books make for ideal night-time reading. I’ve also found reading three books at once feels about right; any more becomes overwhelming.

3. Use Kindle Samples to Try Before You Buy

I enjoy the smell of a paper or hardback book, but the Kindle is great too.

Amazon lets you download a sample chapter of books to read before buying. I’ve read sample chapters for dozens of books that were kind of interesting, only to decide afterwards that my time was better spent reading something else. And I didn’t have to look guiltily at an unread book sitting idly on my shelf afterwards.

…there are so many good books available – and more than you can read in one lifetime – which means there’s no point wasting time on a book because you feel like you should.

4. If You Don’t Like a Book, Stop Reading it After 50 Pages

I really struggle with this one, but if you are finding a book a slog after 50 pages, it’s worth putting the book down and finding something else.

The thinking behind this idea is: there are so many good books available – and more than you can read in one lifetime – which means there’s no point wasting time on a book because you feel like you should.

5. Use Apps To Read Long-Form Articles on the Go

If you like to consume long form articles, a newsreader like Feedly and apps like Pocket and Instapaper are really useful.

With Feedly, you can quickly pull content from all your favourite websites into a feed. You can then save this content for future reading using Pocket or Instapaper. Then, you can read this content at a time and place that suits you.

I also found this trick reduces the amount of time I spend idly browsing the internet.

6. Take Notes

This practice sounds like one that slows the reading process down, and it does, but taking notes is a great way of consuming and remembering the information that you read.

Lots of readers annotate their books, as anyone who has ever bought a second-hand book can attest to. The Kindle also makes it remarkably easy to highlight and annotate key passages.

I regularly quote authors on this blog, and I find annotating books makes this process easier. Annotating means I can find sections from books that I read months ago and use them to (hopefully) inform blog posts and articles.

Even if you don’t write a blog, it’s useful to be able to check old material and see how it applies to your current interests.

7. Consider Your Downtime

Book and a magnifying glass
Courtesy of Ozias Leduc

Lots of people read at the end of the day.

This means some readers are invariably tired and have little time or patience for a challenging read.

Instead, consider reading at alternate times or locations during the day. If you carry a book or magazine (digital or otherwise) around with you, you could read:

  • during a lunch break
  • on a commute
  • over breakfast or after dinner
  • while waiting for an appointment

Similarly, instead of spending time passively consuming news and current affairs or checking social media feeds, consider allocating some of this time to reading.

8. Accept There Will Be Times When You Won’t Read

Reading, like any activity, has peaks and troughs. Sometimes, I read several books at once over the course of a week or two. On other occasion, I go several weeks without reading any long-form works.

This isn’t because I don’t want to read; it’s because the challenges of a day-to-day life get in the way.

These breaks used to bother me and even make me feel guilty, but now I accept these breaks because I know I will return to a bookstore with my lists, and a with a belief that today Winter will come.

Where and when do read? Do you keep lists and quotes from your favourite books, and what methods do you use to read more?

Please let me know below.

You can reach WorkReadPlay on Twitter or follow WorkReadPlay on Google+.

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2 thoughts on “8 Crucial Strategies For Becoming a Better Reader”

  1. I found it interesting when you said to read multiple books at a time to mix things up. My goal for the new year was to read more and I have trouble keeping my attention to reading. I’ll be sure to use these tips so I can enjoy more books.

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