I don’t consider myself a serious reader. Oh, I read. There’s always something going on the nightstand, by the sofa, in the bathroom. But there are others in my life who are dedicated readers. I dance from non-fiction to fiction with a short dip into magazines. But it seems that I don’t make headway.
So when I came across this Boston Globe article on Steve Leeven, the co-owner, along with his wife of Levenger, who is out promoting his new book (with the longest-ever title) ”The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life: How to Get More Books in Your Life and More Life From Your Books," well, I felt as if someone had tidied the bookcase a bit.
His approach boils down to the following:
- Develop a reading list – "Decide what you’re deeply interested in, and assemble a list of the best books — what Leveen calls ”the library of candidates" — on that subject, and then acquire the books." This takes some investment but your return in the long run will be higher than if you don’t. Two of the most voracious readers I know are my friends S & K. I think one of the things that drew them together is their love of the written word. With K. a book isn’t out more than an hour and it seems that it’s on his "on-deck" pile. He’s quite varied in his reading. However, when anything is published on Proust it’s purchased and read. In my mind that’s a commitment that will be rewarding over time. His life partner S., a writer himself, has gone his own way realizing that it’s a losing proposition to keep pace with K. However, if there’s a well-turned mystery in the British or contemporary vein be assured that it’s on the radar. There library is remarkable.
- Don’t feel obligated to finish a book – ”This is a tremendous barrier to people," he said. ”They think there’s something wrong with them" if they don’t want to finish a book. If it doesn’t float your boat in the first 50 pages, give it the heave-ho." I’ve become better at practicing this over the years. The way I rationalize it is that if the book isn’t engaging me after 100 pages my time could be spent on something that will be worth the while. It’s a bit like having an unfulfilling affair. Isn’t it always better to move along once you realize that the relationship isn’t going anywhere?
- Listen to audiobooks–ignore those who say it’s not reading. ”Audiobooks are a wonderful experience that is unique to our age. They’re just an adaptation of storytelling, which has been around for thousands of years. In some cases, an audiobook is a better literary experience than a printed book." Note–narration quality can vary and influence the experience. Middlesex is well-narrated. Candy Freak is not. You’ll learn these things through trial and error. The intersection of my IPOD and Audible has increased my reading not to mention the quality of my urban walks and daily commute.
- Join or start a book discussion group–I’m always looking for one. A friend just started a Jane Austen book group. We’ll meet in mid-June for the first time. The strict focus might make my attention span wander. But, it’s all new people each with their own perspectives. And Ms. Austen has only six books.