This is how you read

Don’t put books down anymore. If you start reading something finish it. It’s a habit I started imposing on myself over time. Now, once I start a book I aim to finish. And I usually do. It doesn’t matter if I think the book is terrible or boring, I finish. Unless of course, something drastic happens. Like I lose the book. Once I couldn’t finish a book because I left it in another country. Shame, but what can you do?

Secondly, develop a screening process that isn’t rigourous for the books you read. Beulah Maud Devaney offers three thousand reasons to choose your reading carefully. She estimated that she could only read three thousand books before she died, and wanted to focus on reading the authors she loved the most instead of struggling through the classics and awkward recommendations her friends gave her. I don’t think this is a good idea. At no point do I want to read like that, narrowing my to-read pile down to a select few authors. I would feel like I was missing out on some hidden gem. How could I know I won’t like reading something I have never read. My goal is to read as broadly as possible. So, if someone handed me a book and told me to read it, I would. It doesn’t matter what it is.

This is despite having certain preferences – we all have preferences. Though, we should try not to lean too heavily on those. If I find myself reading too much of one type of fiction I’ll switch and look for something different in my next read. If I find myself leaning on my favourite authors too much, I’ll switch and try to find someone new and exciting. I have a fairly concise to-read shelf set up on Goodreads and I try to stick to it, rarely ever succeeding. Most times I just read whatever is most easily available.

Why do I do it? Four Reasons:

1. You can’t judge a book until you finish.

The “Life of Pi” rule. You know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, read Life of Pi and you will. A book is a one cohesive whole. No part of that whole can give a clear indication of the quality of the book, or what new insights it might be able to offer. So read the whole thing.

2. You get better at reading

A rule that perhaps may apply specifically to those ‘difficult’ books. The literary books. These book might require significantly more effort to work through. They also offer more in terms of themes, style, structure, characterisation and sometimes (maybe less likely so) plot. You have so much more to gain from reading them and the more of them you read, the easier the next will get.

3. You can learn something from everything

From the good books and the bad, they can all teach you something, you might not have known before. Whether it might be how to write (or not to write) something, some interesting little fact or trivia, or simply a new word.

4. It allows you to read broadly

You should want to read broadly, because books are possibly the only media that attempt to give detailed perspectives on cultures, societies, issues and people. You would probably never get the same amount of information from watching a documentary or movie. Reading widely makes you a better person.


Finishing all the books I picked up has helped me to discover authors I probably wouldn’t have, get better at reading difficult books, enjoy books I would probably have given up on, and learn about things and people I knew nothing about before. You don’t put books down. That’s how you read.

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