(This is the part where I indulge in the “ruminations” promised in this blog title)
If you’ve read any of the posts on the home page of this blog, you know that reading and reviewing regularly is something I’ve struggled with over the course of the last few years. Part of it has been due to changes in my life. 2009 and 2010 were whirlwind years for me- I graduated from college, and I thought that the 50 books I read in 2008 would be a pittance compared to what I was reading once I was out of school and my only obligations were to work. Boy was I mistaken. Each year, I have read progressively less and less, and 2012 was my worst year of reading EVER.
2013, to this point, hasn’t been much better. I’ve completed only 9 books. I’ve been trying to figure out if this is due to a lack of interest in reading, or in the books I have themselves. After looking over my books, it’s not a lack of interest in them. I recently reviewed some of them, and I kind of wanted to pick them all up and read them, so it’s not that. And I do still want to read. It’s not a matter of not having time to read. After losing my job last month, I pretty much have nothing but time to read. Yet since I’ve been off, I’ve only completed two books. In the first month I was unemployed in 2009, I read five books.
Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t feel like I was getting as much out of my reading as I wanted to, and that’s part of what’s been keeping me from reading regularly. I haven’t felt like I’ve connected to a book I’ve been reading in ages- with one exception. The first book I read on what I’ve taken to calling my “Life Restructuring” on Twitter was Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovich, and it was everything I needed in a book at that moment- a woman using books to help her get through a difficult time in her life. Though I may not be grieving the loss of a loved one, losing my job was a MAJOR blow.
I want that feeling. I want to be able to turn to a book- any book- and get something out of it. I want to be able to read with purpose. So I am working on retraining my brain to try to get more out of what I’m reading. To that end, I’ve been reading Thomas C. Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor. I’m only about halfway through, but it’s proven interesting so far. If nothing else, it’s given me some ideas on some possible next steps to get more out of my reading. For example, I want to spend some time going back and reading some of the classics. For all the literature and history classes I took in college, I still sometimes feel like my education was lacking with regard to early literature. One of the things I’ve gotten out of Foster’s book is that intertextuality is a huge part of literature, and I really want to brush up on that.
There was also a really fascinating post on Book Riot last week about making notes and marginalia in books. When I was younger, I was never much a fan of making notes in novels beyond the required collegiate notes. I’d highlight and underline the hell out of the books I read for my history classes, but not so much with the novels. Every now and then, I’ve tried to make notes in the novels I’m reading, but it always feels insincere- like I’m responding how I think a professor might want me to respond. For whatever reason, it’s just easier with non-fiction. I’m hoping that Foster’s book will help with that as well.
In the meantime, I’d like to know: what are some tricks you use to try to get more out of the books you’re reading? Do you want to connect with the books you read? Or are you more of the, “read for pleasure and escape, but not necessarily meaning” type? (The last, by the way, is a valid response. In it’s own way, I think reading for pleasure and escape has it’s own meaning.)