How to Become an Everyday Reader

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How can people go about becoming more effective readers in their everyday lives? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Janet Fitch, Author of White Oleander and The Revolution of Marina M., writing instructor, on Quora:

There’s a book show host here in LA who reads hundreds of books a year. I asked him once, how does he manage to get through so many? His first rule: he never reads in bed. Reading in bed gives your mind the signal to become sleepy when you read.

I think you become a more effective reader by reading in big blocks instead of trying to catch a page here and there. I read in the morning instead of reading the newspaper. I put in 90 minutes a day—and I’ll admit I set a timer in 10 minute increments, to make sure I don’t dawdle. I love to linger over beautiful language, but I also want to read two books a week, and if I don’t keep moving through them at a good clip, I’ll never read all the books I want to.

I also write in my books. I never used to do that— it was forbidden in my house—a sacrilege!—probably because we took out so many books from the library.

Then I went to the Marlon Brando estate sale in New York at Christie’s, and saw that he wrote all over his books, having conversations with the writer on the pages. His copy of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents was fantastic!

I also write annotations of what I read in my journal, not so much describing plot and so forth, as seeing how what I’m reading is affecting my writing—noticing if a book is so wonderful it paralyzes me as a writer, or whether it makes me want to throw the book down and go write.

Something that’s making me a super-effective reader is writing a review of every book I like on Goodreads. It forces me to analyze what I found especially moving about the book, not just “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it” but what it was about the book that struck a chord, and often sharing quotes from the book. It’s like reading the book twice.

And finally, as a writer, I’m not just eating it up like an ice-cream sundae. I’m looking to see how the magic is done. A writer’s style is in his or her sentences. the length of the sentence, the way he or she uses dependent clauses, the choice of vocabulary. I’m always watching for beautiful language and noticing how that was put together.

Story itself is an architecture,and I try to make conscious how the author is building the house.

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