A surprising number of us haven’t read a book since our teachers assigned us Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies in high school. And that’s okay. Life gets in the way. But there’s something incredibly gratifying about getting lost in a story without having to worry about the ensuing book report. As the saying goes: Give a man a book, and you entertain him for a day. Teach a man to read more, and you make him sound more interesting at parties.
So many times has the intention been to bring a novel in my carry on, only for rigorous TSA limits and lower back pain to get in the way of justifying that extra weight. If you’ve been following my work on here, you’re familiar with my allegiance to the Kindle Paperwhite, a paper-thin e-reader that offers a bluelight-free reading experience.
I also highly suggest signing up for Audible, which in a sad but also heartwarming way feels like having a friend around tell me stories while I fold the laundry. The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy, Sex Object by Jessica Valenti, and How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell felt even more intimate in the author’s own voice. Crazy Rich Asians and by Kevin Kwan were, for lack of a better phrase, novels so long I might have not had the stamina to get through them without that cinematic level of narration.
Sitting might be the new smoking in terms of health risks, but it’s also the best way to consume literature (I maintain that if you use one of those standing desks, you’re a cop). Get yourself a good lounge chair—you won't want to get up and interrupt your reading session when you're sitting in this.
I learned the hard way (from my physiotherapist) that getting too comfy can wreak havoc on your posture. Instead of bending and crouching in your seat like some droopy Buddha, invest in an ottoman like the Yvette Stainless Steel Faux Fur ottoman from Target, which is so soft you could probably get away without wearing slippers. Keeping your feet elevated promotes blood flow to parts of your body that aren’t your legs, warding off deep vein thrombosis, while also encouraging you to keep your back straight so you don’t crush those pretty little organs of yours. You will need your heart for all of those reading feels you’re about to have.
Yvette Stainless Steel Faux Fur Ottoman
If The Shoe Fits
If you’re a size seven, don’t wear a size five shoe. The same goes for reading. Don’t resign yourself to a life of trudging through pages like quicksand if you can’t get into the book after a chapter or two. Sometimes you need a read that starts as strong as it finishes. The type of book you can read in a day or two, tops. For me, those included Unwifeable by Mandy Stadtmiller, Playing With Matches by Hannah Orenstein, and The Mothers by Brit Bennett. All deliciously strong and playful first-person narratives I got so lost in not even Google maps could save me.
Reading that takes a while to savor can feel equally as rewarding. Emotionally dense books that you need space from only to return to them a few days or weeks later can help you feel like you’re re-entering that world with a new pair of eyes, ever so slightly a changed person since you last put it down. For me, those books included Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman and IQ84 by Haruki Murakami.
Killing Yourself to Live
Reading a dense book can be a daunting undertaking. But if you zero in on witty lines or imaginative scenes, you’ll find it a lot easier to digest. Use highlighters, which is not at all evocative of menacing red pen your teacher used to grade said book reports in high school, and more of a gentle reminder for you to revisit that passage when the mood strikes or when you need something profound to crochet on a pillow.
Really mark your territory on that book, too. Don’t be afraid to point out your favorite pages with fun Post-It notes and write down observations and questions you wish you could ask the author. You could always tweet at them, but if they don’t answer, start a book club and discuss your concerns with your fellow bookworms. (We’ll save that article for next time).
The best way to engage with the material is to set a goal. If it’s tough for you to read, ask yourself why. Maybe the storyline feels outdated. Maybe you don’t like the prose. Whatever the case, finding your voice as a writer will help you develop a more nuanced appreciation for books. It’ll broaden your referential scope and boost your vocabulary in a way that idle reading might not.
First, make yourself feel like a clichéd depiction of a writer. The Rocket Notebook transfers freehand writing to your screen so you could experience that masochistic carpal tunnel syndrome that fuels Real Art. Every few hundred words, get up to make a black espresso from a Nespresso Maker so you oscillate between mania and crippling self-loathing.
With those targeted goals in mind, writing (and thus reading) will become something you do to become a better version of yourself in the New Year, not because some article prescribed it, but because you can’t imagine your life without it. I am currently mid-novel, and in those moments I feel stuck—which happens more often than I’d like to admit—I turn to my favorite authors who make the impossible seem effortless.
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