How to Read Well

Photo by Mental Health America (MHA) on

I really don’t want to just give a trite tip on How to Read Well and just say make sure you read something that you’re interested in because, while that’s fine as far as it goes, it totally rules out the possibility of finding new interests in life. Instead, I’m going to go with something I read on a blog called called Eight Tips to Remember What You Read. Of course, I didn’t actually read the article myself – I just took the list of eight from it. You’d wouldn’t want a whole bunch of plagiarised stuff, now would you?

Remembering is important when you read. If you don’t remember stuff then it’s as if you’ve never read it in the first place and, like, what’s the point in that? It’d be like getting to the end of a day and not being able to recall one single thing that you enjoyed about it. I mean, forget the things that you didn’t like – who wants to remember that stuff! It’s the good stuff you want to keep in your box of memories, right?

So, on with the show. Here are the eight things:

First up is to read with a purpose. To me this means that you should know before you start whether you’re reading that book/poetry/magazine/webpage to educate you, entertain you or just send you to sleep at bedtime. Then you have to skim first. I always do this. I read the cover, the chapter headers, the end matter and then I flick through the book before I start reading. It gives me a sense of what I’m getting myself into before I start. It’s like looking at a map before setting off on a trip. Then you got to get the reading mechanics right. I guess this is about … erm … actually I haven’t a clue what this is. Never mind. Next! Then comes the instruction to be judicious in highlighting and note taking. I’ve seen many a Mills and Boon romance that’s been highlighted in this way. Not! Next up is think in pictures. This is interesting! But then again, when I think about it, I do this already. I just never thought about it like that. Then comes idea to rehearse as you go along. Again, I’ve not a clue what this means. How do you rehearse a scene from Lord of the Rings? Hmm. Up next is to stay within your attention span and work to increase that span. Yeah – I totally agree. There’s nothing worse than falling asleep part way down a page. Unless, of course, that was what you intended. Lastly comes rehearse again soon. Seeing as I didn’t know what the whole rehearsal thing was about in the first place, this has flown over my head and disappeared into the clear, blue sky from whence it probably came.

Well, what a load of tosh that was! I think that I’m going to go back to my original advice. If you want to Read Well then read something you’re interested in. But, every now and again – pick up something that’s slightly outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t hurt to have a little stretch every now and again.

So, that’s your lot for now. I hope you enjoyed. Tune in next time for more How to tips.

Fifty Two Books for 2021

No, this isn’t my list of recommended books for you to read in 2021 (although, hey – that’s a great idea for a post). Actually this is just me telling the world (and my future self (hi, future self) that, as of this moment, I’m cutting down my usual book quota of 108 books per annum to just 52; which is about one per week.

It’s just that I figured that I spend too much time reading and not enough doing some of the other fine things in life, like writing and putting the considerable backlog of books I’ve already written into print. I’m writing my fourth novel at the moment (well, not this actual moment – it’s not as if this post is going to be a scene in my latest novel) and so I really need to crack on.

I will, of course, let you know when I publish my novels and short story collections and poetry chapbooks (yeah, I’ve no idea what that means either) so that you have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor as I make my meteoric ascent into the firmament.

So, yeah – I’m rationed to one book per week. Sound good? Let’s see.

Oh, I nearly forgot – you can follow my progress on Goodreads if you want.

Punish Me with Kisses

When I was a kid, punishment was either a clip around the ear, a ‘go to your room’ or a ‘go and dig the garden over’. It all depended on what I’d done as to what I got.

None of the punishments really hurt physically but some were very painful on a psychological level. For instance, the clip around the ear always came from my dad and, although he had heavy hands, he invariably pulled back so that he didn’t damage my head or brain. But he damaged my heart.

Big people who imagine that they are more important than little people just on the basis of their size will damage the hearts of those little people. They will cause them suffering. They will kill their spirit.

Or not.

Mine didn’t die, but it was set back a little.

And as for digging the garden? Well I enjoyed that. There’s a lot to be said for creating order out of chaos and weeds by the strength of your own hands.

And going to my room was a cakewalk. That’s where my books were. That’s where I’m really wanted to be. So being sent to my room was really the opposite of punishment. And once the sobbing had stopped then I made the most of it.

And I still am.

A Life in the Day (17-18)

By the time I got home I’d read a few more ePages of the eBook I’m reading (The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal‎)  and I was ready for dinner.

The rest of the hour was spent cutting up vegetables and putting them on a pizza that then went in the hot oven my legs are resting against right now as I type this on top of the cooker. Yeah, it’s not one of those internet-enabled cookers; the laptop is resting on top of it.

I listened to the Official UK Top 40 on BBC Radio One whilst doing this. There are some nice, poppy records about these days. Jiggling and humming along.

Scuse me while I finish skinning this iceberg lettuce so that I can finish the salad. Pizza is almost done. I can smell it.

Et voila, dinner’s ready to eat:

salad & pizza for dinner

My Eccentricity

I’m about as eccentric as your next Joe. See me in a crowd and your eyes might pass right over me. A couple of times. And maybe once more – just to be sure. I’m above average height with an athletic build and I have blue eyes. There’s other stuff too, but I want to maintain an air of modesty, so I’ll shelve those for now.

The thing that makes me stand out, though, is my habit of reading in public. No, not on a park bench, not on public transport and not whilst stood on a street corner waiting for my date (aka my wife) to arrive. None of those things. My eccentricity is that I read paperbacks whilst walking along the pavement by the side of the road.

I have this thing about making the most of my time. I dislike wasting long tranches of time on banal things like watching the same scenery that I’ve seen year after year. I want variety, and it’s by reading that I get it.

I once walked from where I live now (York) to the place I was born (Sheffield), which is about 60 to 70 miles. Actually, thinking about it, today is the 4th anniversary of that walk. I was halfway through the journey exactly four years ago today. Here’s a snap I took along the way:

York to Sheffield

Thing is, I took a book with me, but I never took it out of my bag. Not once. The scenery was new and fresh and exciting and it was enough for me to be seeing the things along the way. I didn’t need anything but what was in front of my eyes as I walked in order to enjoy myself.

But when I’m walking the same old streets every day – to and from work, I need a little bit extra to keep me going.

If you see me walking, feel free to stop and chat with me. Don’t hesitate to ask me the question that’ll be burning on your mind: how come you can do that without walking into things. And I’ll give you the same old cheery answer: practice.

And then I’ll wink, smile and walk on, book in hand, happy as your next lovable eccentric.

Addicted to Reading

I think that I may well be addicted to reading. No, not the large town on the Thames and Kennet rivers in southern England; the thing that one does in the company of books.

I tried going without reading for twenty minutes this afternoon and it was hell. I stood on a bridge (Scarborough Bridge in York) and stared into the river. Then I realised that I looked rather like I was going to jump and so I stared at the sky instead.

All sorts of worries and rubbish flowed into my mind, mostly about people and how strange they are. Why are you doing that? What is happening in your life? What are you looking at? What are you feeling in your heart? All kinda of weird questions coming into my mind.

I use reading as a buffer against the world. I stick my nose in a book and my own thoughts and feelings are washed away by those generated by the words flowing into my brain. I disappear.

I know it’s not healthy, but I don’t know what to do. I’m addicted! Is there any hope for me?

And now I’ll press Post and then pick up another book.

That’s all.

Mostly Chickens

Need a break from reading so I’m writing. I’m not going to read what I’m writing (I’m on a break from that, remember) so it might be a bit scatty.

There’s nothing particular on my mind apart from that work is hard, I have taxes to file by the end of the month and an assignment to hand in by the day before the end of the month. Okay, okay, yeah; I have stuff weighing on me; I admit it.

Thing is, I’m in a bit of a procrastinatory mode at the moment and it’s hard to get moving when I’m like this. Like last night, I glued stuff. I glued the heel back on my shoe, the bottom onto the Christmas lantern and some beads onto some mats. I forgot to glue the chickens down, so they’ll have to wait until the next time I’m in a gluing mood. Procrastination like this doesn’t come along that often and so the chickens might be loose for months now.

My wife wants to keep chickens in the back garden, which would be fine apart from that there are foxes living two doors away. Still, I think it’s a nice idea.

There. That’s my writing done.

I know that I’ve been remiss in answering comments. I read them. I like getting them. But … well, y’know, it’s hard being me sometimes and I just don’t want you to catch it.

Have a nice day.

Reading in the Real World

I found an interesting post on Damyanti’s Blog, which features her sharing with the world how much she reads online and then, at the end, asking several questions. These are my answers:

What about you?
I read as I walk. Paper-books in the summer, e-books in the winter (it’s dark) and audio-books when it rains (too wet for paper). I go online at work. Mostly work-related stuff. The time I spend online at home is split between movies (Amazon Prime) and studying (an MA in Creative Writing with the OU). I have a phone that I listen to BBC One Xtra on and catch up with my blog, email etc. I also make extensive notes on what I read using Google Keep and Docs. And in-between (means, in the gaps between) these things – I live my life.
How much time do you spend online, doing what?
All day and most of the evening. Oh gosh, that’s too much. Eek. Most of it is work (I’m a Software Developer by day). The next big tranche is study. And the rest is information exchange and entertainment.
How has that changed your life from that of your parents, for example?
My parents? They were young before the internet were invented. So it’s changed a lot. I remember my mom reading (more so now) when I was a kid, but not much. My dad just worked – period.
How much of your reading is online, and does that affect your offline reading?
Most of my reading is offline. If you saw the boxes of books in the attic (and on the shelves and in the drawers and in bags under my desk and scattered across every surface) you would freak!! I prefer reading paper and so that keeps me off the net somewhat.
Does it matter?
Does what matter? Reading paper as compared to online? Yes. There’s something about the physicality of books I like. The way you can put your finger on a place, when you’re distracted and, it still be there when you look back at the page. If you try that on a smartphone you’ll find that you’ve skipped to another place by the time you look down again.
What would you wish online reading were like?
Hmm. Interesting. Probably some experience that takes more advantage of computing tech. Like, it visualises the text for me. Shows me the images. But then again – what would my brain do? Isn’t that my mind’s job? Or alternatively – maybe brain implants could trigger emotions, that ones that the author intended, as I read. I don’t think we’re there yet. Tech is still trying to catch up with the paper experience. It’ll be a while before it comes level and goes ahead. Looking forward to it, though.

Have a nice day.

Reading in the Dark

I was thinking about why I read paper books rather than digital ones.

I read books as I walk because it makes the (same) walk (every single working day) go quicker. But if it’s raining or dark I use my smartphone instead. When I do this, I usually go for the audio version (I find the text on the web and get an app to read it out loud) but sometimes I plump for the text version (the phone is waterproof and internally lit (well, duh!)).

I guess my first choice is paper books because I have a lot of ’em. After all, what would have been the point of buying ’em if I don’t read ’em? There’s also, when I think about it, an element of feeling that I look more intellectual when I read a paper book than if I read something on a screen.

That said, my wife tells me that reading whilst walking makes me look odd (she uses a different word). I don’t believe her, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Except that ‘odd’ is in the eyes of the beholder, right?

Another thing is that people can tell what I’m reading when they see a book, but not when it’s a screen. A screen could be anything – porn, texts, kittens, news – none of which is particularly intellectual, and I don’t really want to be that guy. Not yet.

Anyway – that’s what I was thinking about books. Funny what you find when you start turning rocks over in the mind, innit!