How To: Be A Better Reader

I haven't got a new book to talk about this week. Alas, work has been a little intense around here and I've been trying to put my full energy into our June book club pick. Typically I'm a pretty fast reader, and halfway through Hood Feminism, realized I probably need to approach a book of this significance with more respect than I'd treat one of my guilty pleasures (trashy thriller novels - anyone else?). I closed the book, pulled out my highlighter, and started again.


I want to be a better reader. I want to be able to recite a quote from a book I'm reading in conversation, impressing whoever I'm talking to. I want to be able to better recall books I've read, because sometimes I get halfway through a book and realize I've read it before. Most important, when it comes to books like Hood Feminism and So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, I want to be able to put the information these authors have worked so hard to teach me to good use in my own life.


This post title may be misleading, because no, I cannot teach you how to be a better reader when I need to learn how to be one myself. But I can share what I've learned from reading this month's book, and I would love to know how you approach your reading to make it more enriching - to make it stick.


For starters: a highlighter. I don't own many books (I come from a library family, so I have this weird thing about buying books unless I really love them), and as for the ones I do own, I would never dream of defacing them with a highlighter. That all changed when I got halfway through Hood Feminism. I realized I need to treat it like a textbook (one that I own, of course!), so highlighting is OK! It helps me to quickly go back and reference the SUPER important points from each chapter, and also vocab words! Can you tell I liked school?


Second: a study guide or syllabus. During my Instagram research on Hood Feminism, I discovered the Smart Brown Girl Book Club. Not only has this club created a global community of readers celebrating women of color, but their leaders create a syllabus for each book they read. Their May 2020 book was Hood Feminism, and for $7.99 USD you can support their work and get an amazing guide to the book, complete with thought-provoking questions, further reading, and author background. It allowed me to slow down my reading, and to reflect and write after each chapter. Now, I know a beautifully done, made-to-order syllabus isn't available for every book out there, but Sparknotes and Cliffsnotes are great resources for classic and modern classic literature. This experience has also taught me the value of really slowing down the pace of my reading.


Third: put away the phone. I'm wayyyy too easily distracted by my phone, the news, my cats, you name it. Putting away the distractions and concentrating solely on the book in front of you increases information-retention. If you're switching your focus back and forth between a book, Instagram, and the grocery list you've been putting off, the book's contents aren't going to take priority in your brain. This is probably my biggest challenge going forward!


Are there any other ways you approach reading to make it stick with you? Can you remember the themes and characters from every book you read in high school? If so, I'm very jealous, and would love to understand how you've done it! Let me know if you put any of these practices into work, and how they're going!


Happy reading <3

-Emily


P.S. Cover artwork is by Egle Zvirblyte :)

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