I thought I had read a lot of books in my life. When I was in grade school, I wanted to be Elizabeth Wakefield of Sweet Valley. While most of my classmates in high school were obsessed with Tagalog Romance pocketbooks, I found delight in reading bestsellers. I grew up in a small city where I had to cross the sea to reach the nearest National Bookstore. Hence, I was not well exposed with a wide range of books. When I stepped in a big university and met a lot of scholarly people, I found out that I had only read a few books in my life.
I do not want to discuss the benefits of reading the way school teachers do or the way parents do when they ask their children to turn off the computer and grab a book. Reading should not be a must-do thing. It should spring out from interest. To explain why we should indulge in this activity, Emily Dickinson shared her fascination on reading in her short poem:
There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul
I am quite fortunate that people who are closed to my heart have some sort of special fondness for reading. I join my friends when they go bookshop hopping in malls and oftentimes, I receive books as presents.
To motivate myself to read more, I have made some tips on improving my reading habits which I want to share them with you:
Make a short-term goal
So you have no time to read. Time is not an obstacle. By making short-term goals in your reading habits, you will find time. Your short-term goal can start small. For instance, you can tell yourself to start reading one book in a month. And if you think you have a lot of time to read during summer breaks, make your goal big. You can aim reading a book in a week. Goals will inspire you to make progress.
A reading list will expand your short-term goals in reading. Your reading list may contain the books you want to read in a given span of time. Write at least ten books that you must have finished reading by the end of year. It can be ten books of the same author or it can be ten books of different genres. It does not matter how long your reading list is. What matters is you have an objective.
Read whatever is in your hand
You can not read all the best books in the world. You may not be able to read all the books that you are required to read. Sometimes, the books you want to read are not available. The least you can do for yourself is to read whatever is in your hand. Take a look at your bookshelf. You might have skipped a book in your bookshelf. In short, make the most of what you have and in most cases, train yourself not to be too picky on what you are going to read.
Finish what you have started reading
So it everybody’s favorite book. It sold millions of copies across the globe but it does not give you any assurance that you will also like it. There will be books that will make you sleepy. There will be books that will not fit your taste. I like books that are fast-paced. I want action in every page. I easily give up on books which I have read half of it yet nothing happens. I find it dragging when I’ve read a page or two describing how the ceiling looked or how the sky changed. I am not really attentive on too many details as I am more plot-driven when it comes to reading books. But sometimes, you will only learn to love the book when you’ve reached the middle part or when you’ve finally seen it as a whole masterpiece. The lesson is never to give up on reading a particular book only because it did not excite you at first. And as what I’ve told you earlier, condition your mind not to be selective with books.
Share what you’ve read
When you are done reading a book, share it. You can talk about it, write about it, or blog about it. It does not have to be a literary criticism or a typical book review. You just have to impart the ideas you get from your reading. You do not need to narrate the whole story or give the outline of the book. If it talks about death, share your insights to somebody about death. You can simply talk to others why you like the book. After you’ve bridged your thoughts to others, you will be fulfilled thinking that you have gained something from the book and that you have shared something to others.
The word ’Google’ is now a verb. “Google it.” My college teacher would say this when she asked us to research on our class topic. The internet is a source of everything you want to know. Use the internet to update your reading list, to learn more about books and the authors.
I do not promote downloading free ebooks. Aside from the fact that you are bringing writers to poverty, ebooks are tiring in the eyes and they are no best substitute for private reading in your bedroom, in a train or in a ship.
Before I open a new book, I do not go to the internet to know what the book is all about but I do browse which books would be worth reading. It is often said: “Do not judge the book by its cover.” In the same way, do not make prejudgment of the book by what other people say. If the book has a film adaptation, I prefer not to watch the movie before reading the book. It will limit my imagination and appreciation for the book, as well. You will have biases, prejudice, and you will lost the thrill when you read a lot of book reviews, chapter summaries, and adaptations of the book.
However, I do check feedbacks and all the details of the book after I have read it. They enrich my reading experience. If you’re not a keen reader, you sometimes miss out some details of the books that only other readers have noticed. It helps to look for other information from other people. It is like listening to your teacher’s lecture of what should be highlighted in your readings.
I have to admit that I feel inferior when I read other people’s analysis and criticism of the book which I haven’t thought of. It is a learning process. And for you to learn something, you must accept your ignorance. When you discover new facts of the book from others, you will be encouraged to read it all over again or to read another book of its kind.
Long ago, I used to rent books. I thought it was a waste of money to buy books when you could borrow. We might have thought that books are expensive when you compare them with clothes, which you can use regularly.
Think closely. If you can dine at McDonald’s three times in a month, you probably can afford to buy a book. If you opt to ride a cab during a bad weather when you can wait for the rain to stop and ride a jeepney, then you definitely can buy a book. If you have a car or if you are not a breadwinner, books become cheaper.
Anyway, books are good investment.
First, when it is yours, you can read it anytime. I confess I am a slow reader. Sometimes, it takes me months to finish a book. When you are borrowing books, you are compelled to read and finish it right away. Unless you need to read it for your academic requirements, you should not feel that you are forced to read. As what Francis Bacon said:
“ Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
There will be moments that you want to savor every word in a page. Take time if you can.
Second, owning a book means you can let others borrow it. It is a charitable act to inform and entertain others with your book. If you are selfless, it is heartwarming to know that you have let five people save their money from buying a book. You can’t help it. Some people would rather spend their money on food.
Third, you can pass it from one generation to another. If your future children do not have your genes of reading, your grandchildren might have the genes. You can donate it to libraries which will preserve it for generations to come. If you think of clothes, they will probably decay along with cockroaches and rats. But, books are timeless.
Fourth, if ever you have collected a lot of books and have no room for new ones, you can sell your books or give them away. Second-hand books still sell. Book Sale and rummage sales of books in campus are earning. If you find no customer, give it to a friend as a birthday gift. She or he will like it because you sacrifice enough to spare a personal belonging.
Reward yourself with a new book
Celebrate your achievements by buying a new book. If you’ve lost a pound, if you’ve clean your bathroom for the first time, you can make your accomplishments memorable by buying a new book.
Grab book discounts and sales
If you find the book one of a kind and it’s cheap, grab it as long as you have the money. You might not have the time or the kind of comprehension to read it but you might regret it in the future if you don’t buy it today.
My last tip, read for your own pleasure