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Friday, November 30, 2018

Eleven Reasons Why Most People Today Are Not Reading Books As They Should

I want to share with you eleven tips to improve your reading habits and turn you into a prolific reader.  I have learned these skills by the seat of my pants with no help or encouragement from anyone else.  I went from being a person who read nearly nothing to being an avid reader who is never without a book in progress.  You can too.  The trick is to remove the obstacles which can be many.

1.     Read only what truly interests you.  Don’t read what others say THEY loved and therefore “you will too.”  Maybe you won’t.  How do you find what interests you?  First of all, stop reading fiction.  Grow up and read things that will improve your mind and just maybe make you a better Catholic.  I’d suggest you begin with something like Life of Christ by Fulton J. Sheen.  This book is terrific for many reasons; one being that the chapters are short and can be read in any order.  Until you have seasoned yourself to read for long stretches, short bites are a good thing. 

2.    Get over the idea you aren’t interested in history.  You actually are, you’ve probably just been turned off it because of how it was taught to you in school, dates and places and dates and places.  Ugh…

3.    Choose books that were written before 1960 or those that are written by trustworthy authors.  Avoid the current New York Times Best Seller List.  Most of it is garbage, poorly written and produced simply to peddle a thought or make money.  Authors who published before 1960 were well educated, they had command of their subjects, and they were well trained writers who were not afraid of a broad vocabulary and complex sentences.

4.    NEVER read in bed.  Or without good lighting.  Or while the television is on.  First of all that’s why you keep falling asleep.  Or why you can’t concentrate on what you are reading.  You can’t actually SEE it. You will be surprised at how raising the light level on a page can increase your concentration.  Or why you read and re-read pages.  You weren’t actually paying attention the first time because you were distracted by noise.  Make use of that living room no one ever goes in and use it as your reading room.  Get comfortable in there and go for it. 

5.    Read at a time of day when you are NOT TIRED.  I don’t always, but I frequently get up in the morning before it seems appropriate to turn on the tv or call anyone on the phone.  THAT is a prime time to read.  I am fresh and wide awake.  Nothing else needs doing at that hour like laundry or vacuuming and I have a choice to check Twitter, watch stupid stuff on You Tube, play video games, or read.  I read.  Sometimes I can read for two hours without any distraction and plow through a great number of pages.  After that my eyes are tired and I need to let them rest.  If I don’t read early in the morning, I find the next best time is between 2 and 6 P.M.  After lunch, before cocktails.  And give yourself permission to do nothing else.  Reading for two hours is nothing more out of your schedule than watching two news hours or home improvement shows, or one worthless movie you’ve probably already seen.

6.    Get over thinking you can’t write in a book.  In fact, insist on it.  If you have a pen or pencil or highlighter in hand, you are in fact HUNTING for something to pay attention to.  A fact you want to recall, an interesting turn of events, a description of something you know is revealing a deeper meaning of things.  Puts stars in the margins, dog ear the page, make notes on the side that correspond to the point being made.  It's YOUR book. 

7.    Stop thinking you can only read one book at a time.  Read two, or three simultaneously.   Choose one that is history, another which is related to your Catholic faith, and always be reading Holy Scripture.  If you are tired of reading one, then read the other, or the other.  Just READ. 

8.    Don’t think you have to finish one book to start another.  And don’t think you have to finish any book if you simply don’t like it.  There are too many good books for anyone to waste precious time reading bad ones.  And there ARE plenty of bad ones.  Sometimes you won’t know it is bad until you come across something in it you know is serious ERROR and when you do, that’s time to put that one in the trash .  Make sure it goes to the land fill and isn’t left to infect the mind of someone else.  An example of that is the book, “People of the Lie” by M. Scott Peck (also author of The Road Less Traveled).  I thought I would like it because I appreciated his other work, but when he stated that the Catholic Church was over their head when it came to exorcism and they should leave it up to the medical field of psychology, I headed straight for the recycle bin and never read another word.  Done!

9.    Don’t be afraid to put a book down for a month or a year even.  Maybe it wasn’t the right time for you to read it.  I started “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton twice  before I read the whole thing.  (Now I've read the whole thing twice and will probably read it again.)  That may sound odd, but I’m convinced I read things “in order” and that God leads me to what I need to read next.  You just have to be open to cues which can come from many sources to know what that might be.  It may be a footnote in one you are currently reading.  Or it may be mentioned by someone on tv, or it may be cited by an acquaintance, or a friend or an article online.  You’ll know.  I’ve snagged one or two books from these hints that turned out to be duds, but the vast majority has been wonderful.  A couple of them are The Red Prussian, by Leopold Schwarzschild, The Dark Side of the Moon by Anonymous, and Witness by Whitaker Chambers.  (in case you didn’t notice, that was a hint J ) When you “receive” one of these hints consider setting out on an immediate search for a copy.  It may turn out to be THE BEST book you’ve ever read.  Where do you find them?  Amazon is the first stop. Then try  They sell used books that are hard to find and generally they are cheaper than Amazon.

10. Vary your subject matter.  No matter how much you like a topic, you can burn yourself out.  It’s like binging on potato chips.  Why would you do that?  Have at least one and maybe two or three books already available to start when you finish the ones you are currently reading.  Don’t wait to buy the next one until you finish the one you are reading because by then you will have forgotten the title.  If you are buying old copies they won’t cost much and are a lot more worth your money than renting another video on cable tv.  I am currently reading 1 Corinthians, Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, by Henri Daniel-Rops, and To The Bitter End, by Hans Gesivius.  (that’s a hint!) 

11. Don’t’ set deadlines for finishing a book,  but don’t be surprised at how much the speed of your reading improves when you have practiced the skill for a year or two with dedication and tenacity. 
Remember, read what was written BEFORE 1960.  Check the publication dates before deciding what to read.  If it was true then, it is still true today and the source was probably a better author than anyone who started their writing career in the 1970’s after education went to hell.  And don’t let the size of a book scare you.  If it is 600 pages so what?  I read the ENTIRE Bible, both the Old and the New Testament in one year IN the Adoration Chapel, going for one hour a week.  I did not read it any other time or place just to be able to say I had read the entire thing “in the presence of God.”  I started in January and was done by the end of the year.  I went a few extra hours with Spencer near the end to be sure I reached my goal, but I should not have worried.  I would never have thought before I could accomplish something like that, but surprisingly, it was easier than I thought.  That too is a hint!  Maybe you should consider it for January which is just around the corner.