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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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