Slow down. Reading isn’t a race. Reading is meant to be an intimate exchange between you and the author, a dialogue of sorts. When a writer finishes a book, even after it’s published the book is not complete until it’s been read. Readers are a huge component that completes the work. In this fast-paced, high tech world we live in where we are constantly in communication with others, sometimes it’s good to pull back, settle in, and read a good book. That’s right, I said “a book.”
Who reads books, anyway?
When was the last time you spent a day reading? Maybe you never have, or maybe you were one of those kids who scrunched down in the bed next to a stack of library books and refused to come out on a Saturday until all the books were read. You’ve probably guessed where I spent most of my childhood: between the covers of a legion of books. But works of the imagination, stories that aren’t real, those are for children. They serve no purpose for adults who are focused on the important things in life.
The problem with growing up is that the delight and discovery of a new book or the sudden recognition of a friend in a new author is often diminished if it survives the transition at all. We become adults. You know, responsible. We no longer have time for flits of fancy or imaginative wanderings through someone else’s creative landscape.
We must work. We must focus. We must get ahead. We don’t have time to read books. Worse, we must not read fiction. Oh, we’ll give a nod to nonfiction, as long as it falls under the rubric of self-help. After all, we can all use a little self-improvement. I have met a lot of people who shy away from reading and refuse to read unless the book is educational and/or helpful. Often they’ve had a bad experience during school when a particular book or author was shoved down their throat. It doesn’t have to be that way.
A rediscovery of books
One of my coworkers admitted to me that she rarely read and never, ever read fiction. When asked, she said she felt as if reading fiction would be a waste of time, and that if she did read it should be a self-help book. We talked for a bit and one day she asked me if I could recommend an author or a book. She wanted to give fiction a try.
Knowing what I did about her at the time, I suggested The Shell Seekersby Rosamunde Pilcher. A week later she came into work, immediately sought me out and spent the next fifteen minutes raving about the book, about her experience reading the book, and about how much she’d missed during all those years of non-reading.
What happened? She carved out the time and, to her surprise, became lost in the book. Immersed in the story and characters, she not only enjoyed the story but gained new insights to help her with her own life. She identified with the characters, recognized similar situations, and considered new viewpoints. Her life threaded through Pilcher’s fictional world. She went on to read the rest of Pilcher’s novels and sought more more authors and became a confirmed reader.
Spend a day reading
Whether you limit your interaction with books or simply refuse to let them into your life, why not reconsider their value and open the door wide. Choose a day or an afternoon or even an evening where it will only be you and a book. You and that author engaging in a conversation.
Maybe you want to revisit a classic you spurned, or revisit a book from high school, or even pick up a copy of the book from a movie you recently saw–or want to see. Don’t worry about its size. Look for a book that speaks to you or one that you may simply keep hearing about it. If you’re a book lover but have drifted away from books or speed-read your way through recommended reading for work or school, now is a good time to renew that bookish friendship.
Benefits of reading
There are so many reasons why spending a day reading is a good idea but here are a few:
- Sinking into a new world will give you some space from your present problems.
- Reading will help slow you down and sharpen your focus, so that you’re present to the story and more present to your life.
- Diving into a book, you’ll emerge refreshed and re-energized.
- Reading gives you a new perspective and allows you to consider new ideas and other viewpoints.
- Reading is fun; it’s a pleasurable activity.
Reading is as much a habit as anything else, so it requires a certain amount of planning and commitment in the beginning to thread it into your daily life. It’s good to plan ahead. Go ahead, make reading the event it deserves to be.
- Choose a book.
- Carve out a decent block of time, at least four hours. You need time to settle into the book, become familiar with the author, and sink into the book’s world.
- Select your drinks and snacks ahead of time and have them ready so you don’t waste too much time caught up in preparation.
- Define your reading environment. Will you be in the comfy chair, on the couch, in the bedroom, or will you be away from the house at a local Starbucks, Panera’s, or your favorite haunt?
- Make certain you read in a place where you won’t be distracted.
- Advise your family and friends that you won’t be available during that time period. (You don’t have to say why.)
- Consider a read-along with another person. You might want to find someone who wants to read the same book. You can read and talk about the book later online or in person.
- Limit distractions: Don’t read near the computer. Turn off your phone to limit distractions.
- Search for a readathon online and participate (for the truly ambitious).
- While it’s not necessary, here’s a helpful resource. How to Read a Book
Need a few book suggestions? Here’s a few that are considered classics today. For more contemporary work, look at the bestsellers, ask booksellers, ask your reader friends. Take a chance but be sure and take more than one. Reading for pleasure is a high-value lifelong pastime.
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien
- The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (with illustrations by Sidney Paget) by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Great. Share your thoughts and schedule your reading day. Then, come back and tell me all about it. (Comment below.)