Reading for your own enjoyment takes practice. I know it sounds a little crazy– but folks practice their hobbies all the time and why should recreational reading be any different? It can be hard today to turn off distractions and just read. So here is a practical guide; follow it and you will soon find yourself enjoying reading. And for those of you reading this post who don’t need any help in this regard, I invite you to share your tips for happy reading.
Step 1: Pick book.
This is one of the hardest steps of the process. But fear not, you can handle it. There are so many ways to choose a book: pretty cover, friend recommendation, favorite author, saw the movie, library/book store display, read about it somewhere (twitter, instagram, facebook, tumblr, pinterest), heard about it somewhere, random browsing, librarian recommendation, teacher recommendation, it’s your favorite book and you want to read it for the tenth time darn it, read a review, literary awards, found it (in a rental vacation house and in the plane seat flap next to the barf bag perhaps), it’s a classic you’ve been meaning to read, and so on… Point being, any reason to pick a book is a good one if it works for you. Some other resources that are helpful in finding books:
- NoveList Plus — a useful database great for finding read alikes (check if your local library has a subscription).
- Yalsa’s Teen Book Finder
- http://www.slj.com/ check out the blogs section
- amazon.com my go-to when faced with title or author memory lapses
- www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ see what your favorite author(s) like to read
As you are selecting books, keep an open mind (even on books you did not like in the past.)
It may also be helpful decide what you want to get from your reading experience. According to research most people who read for pleasure to do for one of three reasons.
- to check reality
- to escape
- to learn specific skills or information
Recommendations by reading types:
- Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2014 Printz Honor)
- The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart (2006 Quick Picks for Young Adults)
- Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (2012 Printz Award Winner)
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
- Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award Recipient, 2000 Printz Honor)
- Various Positions by Martha Schabas
- The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (2014 Nonfiction Award Winner)
- Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal (2011 Reader’s Choice Nomination)
- Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone
- Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (2013 Nonfiction Book Award Winner)
- The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (2013 Morris Award Recipient)
- Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (2012 Printz Honor)
- Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2009 Best Books for Young Adults)
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
- Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz (2006 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, 2008 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2003 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2005 Best Books for Young Adults)
- Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2009 Morris Finalist, 2009 Best Book for Young Adults)
Of course, any good book should and will fit into more than one category!
Step 2: Obtain Book(s)
I recommend you get at least five books to choose from (ideally from your public library.) Be sure to check your library’s online catalog (it will be on the library website) if you have specific titles in mind– you may have to put something on hold. Get books for free as much as possible! If you have luck like mine, you will put ten books on hold at the library and they will all come in at the same time when you cannot possibly finish them all in time. Fear not! They can be returned and checked out again and renewed. This is all permissible. If you really need to own books check out discount sites and/or consider buying used books to save money.
Step 3: Prepare to Read
Look at your pile of five books. Smile. Choose one to start with– don’t overthink it. Make your distractions go away. Go to the bathroom. If you are hungry bring a light snack, try not to spill it on your book. Brew a cup a tea or coffee if you like. Find a comfy seat (inside or outside, upstairs or downstairs). Adjust temperature as needed (bring a blanket if you tend to get chilly).
Step 4: Read.
Begin book. If you are enjoying it, great! Continue on. When you done with your book repeat steps 1 through 4. If you are not sure about the book –use your best judgment to decide when to throw in the towel. Read as many pages as you think gives you a good enough idea if you will enjoy this book. For me this has been as few as 7 and as many as 315 pages. Some books are great right off the bat, but some take several chapters to build up to the good stuff. If you aren’t enjoying the book after a reasonable amount of pages- put it down and move on to the next one in your pile. Go ahead, it’s OK. The book doesn’t have any feelings to hurt. Repeat above steps.
Stuff to Avoid
Forgetting about your Life
Finals coming up? Just start a new job? Got a new puppy? Running a marathon next week? None of these life events means you shouldn’t read for fun. In fact, stressful times call for an enjoyable read even more! But know yourself and your limits. Is this the time to tackle something really heavy ? Or is it more of a fun light reading kind of time in your life?
It can happen that someone in your life insists you read something. Hey, now folks–don’t be pushy. No one should strong-arm you into reading anything– and (unless it’s an assignment) you should never keep reading a book you are not enjoying at all. Just because Aunt Judy loved that book, doesn’t mean you will–or won’t. When faced with a pushy reader: listen politely, smile, and jot down the title. Make no promises. Just because someone loans you a book does not mean you are obliged to read it.
Avoiding a book because you are too embarrassed to be seen reading it. The only one who should judge your book is you. If somebody else is so interested chances are they aren’t reading anything (otherwise why would they be looking at your book?) You can always read on an e-reader (such as a kindle or nook) which does not show the cover (ask your local public librarian to show you how you can borrow e-books from the library.) This advice comes to you from a woman who shamelessly read Captain Underpants on the New York City subway while six months pregnant.
“But I don’t have time to read!”
You’ve heard this before. Maybe you’ve said it. But I say there is always some time you can find to read. Yes there is. Watch one less sitcom in the evening and read for half an hour instead. Wake up early and read over your first cup of coffee. Waiting anywhere is an ideal time to crack open your book (bring it with you wherever you go and you will find yourself not minding waiting at the doctors, post office, or on that long like at the store.) Read on your lunch hour. Commuters: read on the train or bus. And don’t forget audiobooks! Listen to books while driving, exercising, doing dishes, cooking, cleaning, organizing, getting dressed, cleaning the attic, etc. It’s a great way to multitask and enjoy (otherwise) mundane activities.
Ready? OK, go!
-Tara Kehoe, currently reading Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld