Tag s | Reading

Today Is a Good Day to (re)Read

What was the favorite book you read, cover to cover, in the last year or so? Why is it your favorite? (It can be fiction or nonfiction, faith-based or not.) Feel free to tell us in the comments about yours. We all want to expand our reading lists!

Read It Again

Now that you’ve identified the book, read it again. As Vladimir Nabakov wrote:

Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader (from Nabokov’s speech “Good Readers and Writers” (pdf link) delivered in his 1948 collection Lectures on Literature).

That may seem like an overstatement. After all, we have only so much time in a day. Why am I suggesting this?

Learn From the Best

The first time you read a book, if you are able to turn off your editing instincts, you are caught up in the story, the characters, or the nonfiction point the teacher is trying to make. But this time, while you reread, look for the technique of the writer. Look at the structure and argument trail. Note how a character is described for the first time and when that happens. Try to discover what made this a magical book for you.

The beauty of this analysis is that you are no longer entranced by the what-if or the conclusion. You know where the book is going. So now you can use the book as a teacher of writing.

I even recommend reading with multicolored pencils or pens at the ready. (A little harder to accomplish with an e-reader.) Use one color for emotion. Another for major points. Another for descriptions. Another for anecdotes. (I’m mixing fiction and nonfiction in my examples on purpose.) Let the great writers teach you.

Immersive Reading

In addition, the second or third time through a book you may find an idea you missed the first time. For example, I suspect you may have read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity a while ago. I can almost guarantee that if you reread it today, it will speak to you again but in a new way because you are likely in a different place spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally than you were the first time. (And if you’ve never read it? Put it at the top of your list.)

Even a great novel can do the same. In the last decade, I have reread Dune by Frank Herbert, twice. It is considered to be one of the greatest science-fiction novels of all time. I am continually struck by the power of religion in the lives of each character, something I glossed over the first time because of the extraordinary saga that was told.

Enjoy your (re)reading experience. Tell us what you discovered!

(A version of this post was published in January 2013.)

Leave a Comment

How Are You Reading?

by Steve Laube

I collect books. I graze through them like I’m at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I sample this tidbit and that. Eventually I get enough to eat or have found the right morsel to consume until it is finished.

It helps make me an eclectic sort. But there are days, even weeks, where I must discipline myself to become immersed in extraordinary writing. It is there where the soul can be fed and nourished.

I came across a quote from the great Charles Bridges, a well respected pastor in the Church of England whose Exposition of Psalm 119 (published 1827) is a masterpiece. A couple years later he wrote a book directed at those in the ministry. But I thought it applicable to everyone who reads. Especially in our modern era of content consumption without digestion.

Ardent minds wish, and seem almost to expect, to gain all at once. There is here, as in religion, “a zeal not according to knowledge.”— There is too great haste in decision, and too little time for weighing, for storing, or for wisely working out the treasure. Hence arises that most injurious habit of skimming over books, rather than perusing them. The mind has only hovered upon the surface, and gained but a confused remembrance of passing matter, and an acquaintance with first principles far too imperfect for practical utility. The ore of knowledge is purchased in the lump, but never separated, or applied to important objects.

Some again need discretion in the direction of their study. They study books more than themselves. They lose themselves in the multiplicity of books; and find to their cost, that in reading as well as “making books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Bishop Wilkins observes, “There is as much art and benefit in the right choice of such books, with which we should be most familiar, as there is in the election of other friends or acquaintances, with whom we may most profitably converse.” No man can read everything; nor would our real store be increased by the capacity to do so. The digestive powers would be overloaded for want of time to act, and uncontrolled confusion would reign within. It is far more easy to furnish our library than our understanding.

May you be inspired to think about what you are reading and why you are reading it.

Read More

In Praise of Memorable Sentences

In her book, The Writing Life, Annie Dillard tells the story of a well-known writer who was collared by a university student, who asked, “Do you think I could be a writer?” “Well,” the writer said, “I don’t know…. Do you like sentences?” Dillard continues: The writer could see the …

Read More

Test Your Writing Out Loud

Once you write something, try reading it out loud. It might change the way you write. I worked with audiobooks for a number of years and few things were more interesting than how something sounded when read aloud by the audiobook performer, whether it was the author or a professional …

Read More

Fakespot

As a reader, I enjoy perusing book reviews. I usually start my assessment of a book by reading one-star reviews to see the worst the reviewers think. One-star reviews will tell me the book’s pitfalls and problems, and are less predictable than glowing reviews. I do read across the star …

Read More

Why I Read to the End

I am the world’s worst about abandoning novels I read for leisure. I’ll give a book a fair chance, but as soon as I find I don’t like it, I have no compunction about tossing it aside to pursue a different story. And believe me, as a literary agent, I …

Read More

What’s on Your Shelf?

A series of interview questions that dig into my reading life. What’s on your nightstand right now? I am an extremely eclectic reader and have dozens of books waiting for attention. In fiction I’m currently reading Run Program by Scott Meyer a science-fiction story of a newly developed artificial intelligence …

Read More

Read It Twice!

I read Gone with the Wind for the first time in the seventh grade. Then I reread it in the eighth grade. Daddy fussed at me for this. “Why are you reading the same book again? You should read something else.” I know he had a point, but I consumed …

Read More