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Good Books and Dull Books: Study tips on how to read both

Good Books and Dull Books: Study tips on how to read both

By Jasmine Bennett

Can you force yourself to read a bad or uninteresting book? Not really. But what if you’re compelled to read it? Maybe it’s a book that a friend wrote, or one that was recommended for you by a friend. I’ve heard of a lot of people that told me their friend urged them to read a certain book… and then they didn’t like it. Naturally, they want to give their friend a better review than just “Yeah, I liked it! It was really interesting.” Which can sound just the opposite of its intention.

Dull books, boring textbooks, or long history books can be read and remembered with somewhat of the same format. I use a simple process:

  1. Start by reading the Contents, and the chapters listed. It will give you an idea of where the book is going, and may even help you to remember what to watch for. This is especially useful for textbooks or history books, because the Contents can actually summarize a timeline that you can glance over from time to time. It will help you remember the general narration of the book.
  2. When you get to each chapter, look at the title of the chapter, and remember, “This is what the chapter’s about, and by the end of this chapter, I should be able to look at the chapter name and recount what it’s about.” Skim-read the chapter quickly, then go back and read in greater detail. Knowing already what happens can actually help you read, because now you’re reading “how” the end result happened. This can work with studying for school or recreational reading, and I have used it for both. Also, don’t do something mentally consuming right after you finish reading, let the information soak into your mind, and you will remember it better.
  3. If you are really desperate, need to read the book, and can’t focus, get out a pencil and paper and make your own timeline. Just a line and some scribbles that you will be able to read again. Highlight the beginning, middle, and end. Fill the gaps in-between as best as you can, and then try to memorize it. It will help you remember the book, whether it’s for a test, or for right before you see the person who recommended the book to you.

Now, a good book might be easy to read for you, but it might also be easy to forget. When you pick up a good book, make sure there aren’t many distractions around, like the TV, your phone constantly going off, or someone trying to talk to you. It’s different if you’re babysitting or keeping an eye on food in the oven. In other words, give your book as much focused attention as you can.

Obviously, it’s hard to read large portions of the book in one setting. So after you finish reading the chapter, section, etc., don’t go running to do something else that will occupy your entire brain. When you put your book down, try to do something mundane, like taking a walk, or cleaning the house while thinking about what you just read. It will help your book “digest” in your mind, rather than pushing it out with something else mind-consuming.

It helps you enjoy the book even more when you have someone to talk to about it. Find someone who shares a passion for book reading, or is a big fan of the particular book that you are reading. I absolutely love The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Beren and Luthien, or anything by Tolkien. When I find someone who shares the same passion and interest for those books, it makes my day! I will discuss Middle-earth till the sun goes down. It stimulates my interest in the books, and I love hearing what other Tolkien-readers have to say about them.

In summary, read a good book carefully. After all, the words are written to be read, and also remembered. If you must read a dull book, then make it worth the time you spent reading it.

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Types of Fiction

Types of Fiction

Novel. Novella. Short Story. Flash Fiction. No doubt you have heard these terms before. You might have an understanding that a novel is a long book, such as Harry Potter or Twilight. The novella and short story are shorter, but by how much? What exactly do all of these terms about books mean? As readers and writers, it may help you to have an understanding of these different types of fiction.

Novel

First off, we have a novel. According to the Author Learning Center, a typical novel is anything that has over 50,000 words. To put this into perspective, 50,000 words is around 200 pages, give or take. Now, keep in mind that 50,000 words for a novel is the minimum. Most published novels go above this number.

Novella

Next comes a novella. These are shorter than novels, typically anywhere from 20,000 to 49,999 words. Many novellas are published as ebooks, as they are harder to get published. Some genres that novellas typically fall into are romance, sci-fi, and fantasy.

Novelette

Novelettes are even shorter pieces, coming in at around 7,500 to 19,999 words. Novelettes are also incredibly hard to pitch, so many of these are also published as ebooks.

Short Story

Short Stories, a term you are probably familiar with, is a much more condensed form of writing. These are the smallest out of our types of fiction, and are usually between 1,000 to 7,499 words. Because they are so short, these usually involve fewer characters surrounding one situation. Typically, authors will publish their short stories in magazines.

Flash Fiction

Anything shorter than 1,000 words is considered to be flash fiction. This includes forms such as sudden fiction, postcard fiction, microfiction, and drabble, mini-saga, and six-word stories.

Knowing these forms can help you to choose stories you’d like to read or write. If you are a reader and prefer long, sprawling stories, novels are for you. However, if you like shorter, more concise stories that are a quicker read, you might want to look into novelettes or short stories. As a writer, you may find that you like writing the types of stories that need a whole novel or two to tell completely. You might also find that you like writing much shorter stories, perhaps even only taking six words to do so!

I encourage you to take the time to look into different types of fiction and try something new! You might be surprised to find that you like something that you didn’t think you would.

What kind of writing or reading do you prefer? Are there any of these forms that you’ve been wanting to try or are going to try?

Jessica Prieto

Short Fiction Forms: Novella, Novelette, Short Story, and Flash Fiction Defined. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://www.authorlearningcenter.com/writing/fiction/w/identifying-your-genre/7125/short-fiction-forms-novella-novelette-short-story-and-flash-fiction-defined

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

My Must-Have Book

My Must-Have Book

My Personal Copy

I have read a lot of books in my life. Some of my favorites include the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and the Wild Magic series by Tamora Pierce. However, none of those have such history with me as Gail Carson Levine’s The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

I received this book in a box shipped to me by my older cousin. The box was full of books that she simply didn’t want anymore. Most of them were uninteresting to me, but then I saw this book. With yellowing pages and a banged-up cover, this copy seems much older than its 2002 print date. I like to say it’s all of the love I’ve given it over the years with my constant rereading.

For those that may not know (and it might be a lot of you, considering that I’ve only ever met one other person who actually knows this book), this book follows the stories of two princesses, Addie and Meryl. Meryl (the blonde on the cover), dreams of going on adventures and slaying dragons. She loves to pull her sister into her swordfighting practice and is braver than many knights. Addie, on the other hand, is shy and afraid, yet she always goes along with her sister.

Addie’s world is then flipped upside down when Meryl falls sick to a plague that is ravaging the kingdom. Aided somewhat by a handsome young mage, Addie must set out by herself on a quest to find a cure for her sister before it’s too late. In the process, she faces dragons, specters, and other creatures, finding her own courage along the way.

This book was one of the first books that inspired my love of the fantasy genre. Reading about the princesses and their struggles, as well as all of the fantasy beasts that Addie encountered, excited me. I found that I loved stories of heroes and magic. Whenever I have a moment of doubt or writer’s block, when I don’t know what in the world I’m doing on the project I’m working on, this is a book that I can read to remember my passion for creating worlds and making people feel the way that this book never fails to make me feel when I read it. It’s a book that I recommend to any fantasy lovers out there or any lovers of a good book.

I would love to hear what books inspired your reading or writing adventures! Leave them in the comments below!

-Jessica Prieto

Heading photo by: IƱaki del Olmo.

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