I have some lessons about reading that I would love to share. I started to read consistently when I was fourteen and found a new love for books. This advice best serves those who want a fresh restart to their reading life or perhaps those new to reading.
- Quit Books That Bore You– If you’re like me, you read a million books about kids your age doing really boring stuff, set in very historically accurate or normal settings (planet Earth, usually America or Europe). My most significant breakthrough in reading for enjoyment came from the freedom of quitting, a lesson I learned in Middle School. I had free-reading time in one class, and the only rule we had was to read for ten minutes each class. By the end of the ten minutes, I had given the book a fair try and knew whether I would exchange it for a new one next class. This practice led me to many cool books I wouldn’t have found if I had kept wasting my time with the boring ones.
- Finish Mediocre Books at the Beginning- When you’re new to something, you’re not always sure what you will like, so sometimes you have to finish a really Blah Book to realize it was not the book for you. At first, you might not even be able to express what you like. After you read enough Blah Books, you’ll emphatically know what you do not like and why. For example, sci-fi is the first genre I read, so I assumed that if it was science fiction and in the teen fiction section, I would love it! As you can imagine, the overgeneralization was quickly corrected when I found a sci-fi teen fic I could not stand.
- Track What You Read– Good Reads is my favorite way to track what I read. I’ve been using it since 2013. You can mark books to read, mark read and currently reading, and rate each book. It can be used as an app on your phone or a website. Rate what you read! This is yet another step that will help solidify your tastes in books. It will be different for each person, but it is another tool to help analyze what books are worth your time and why some favorites are your favorites. This is my system:
- One Star- I did not like this book. For whatever reason it was a slog to get through, or maybe I quit reading before finishing. The negative greatly outweighs the positive aspects of the read.
- Two Stars- It was okay. These are books that I usually finish in hopes of it getting better. It is usually a cool concept that gets me hooked but is executed poorly.
- Three Stars- I liked it. This is a pretty broad category, and if any book kept me interested, engaged, and had a decent ending, I would put it in this category. I don’t mind reading a few three-star books a year, but if I only read three-star books that year, it makes me very sad! I want to be excited and totally geek out about characterization and world-building; usually three-star books do not meet those needs.
- Four Stars- I loved this book. I had very few complaints and found it unique enough to stand out from others in its genre. Usually, it hits the trifecta for me: good characterization, cool world-building, and a well-executed plot.
- Five Stars- I AM OBSESSED. Pretty much all I do is stay up too late reading these books. I immediately buy them after reading, and it’s all I can think about for days on end. As you can tell this category is rare for me to rate a book. I usually have zero or negligible complaints about the book as a whole. The book has the ‘it’ factor that I cannot get enough of.
- The Recommendation Trap – I pretty much kept the fact that I was reader to myself during high school. No one could relate, and adults would somehow feel guilty and compare themselves to me if I brought reading up. Here’s a strange phenomenon: Most people feel they should read, and admire readers but, alas, do not read. That is fine. Consistently reading books is not for everyone. This attitude towards reading that I observed seems to be the foundation of the recommendation trap. Most people will tell you to read any book they remotely enjoyed or sometimes have not even finished themselves! They do this to relate better to readers, which is sweet. However it does not mean you are obligated to read their, um, offhanded vaguely-reasoned recommendation. I usually just smile and say thanks. I personally enjoy finding my next read or asking for recommendations from people who already know my reading preferences. So, no need to read everything people recommend when you’re a new reader. It gets overwhelming enough just by the sheer amount of books there are out there.
- Reading What’s Popular Trap– Many popular books are just not my style. They may be written beautifully with an interesting premise, but that is not all I am looking for. Reading what is most popular may help you figure out your reading preferences, but I would caution you from only reading what’s new. It may waste your time trudging through books that are not the right fit. The most difficult books for me to quit are those I think I should like. The implicit message that comes with all the hype around new books is that everyone’s reading and you should, too!
Here are two apps I recommend for reading tracking!
Goodreads (can be accessed as a website or an app): https://www.goodreads.com/
Story graph (you can link your Goodreads to your story graph too): https://www.thestorygraph.com/