Tips on “How to Read Better”

Last October, the New York Times published, for the second time, an article written by xx that describes multiple ways of “improving” or at least adding variety – to one’s reading practices/routines.

The article is wide ranging in the types of recommendations it explores:

  • Choose the Right Book
  • Make a Reading Plan
  • Read More Deeply
  • Read More Critically
  • Explore Different Formats
  • Read More Socially
  • Enhance Your Post-Book Experience

Subscribers to the Times can read the October 2022 article online here.

National Public Radio’s website includes a 2020 list of similar tips for creating a more satisfying reading life.


On the Joys of Reading Slowly

“There is something about churning through books that induces envy and even admiration, never more than at this time of year when piles of finished tomes are splashed across social media. Bragging rights seem to go to those who have read lots of books and read them quickly . . . .”

That’s how journalist Susie Mesure starts out her profile in The Guardian of Princeton professor and Chinese-American author Yiyun Li and Li’s thoughts on the advantages of eschewing the “devouring” of books.

Read Mesure’s article.

Say Hello to “Jesse The Reader”

Jesse The Reader is a book-loving blogger who frequently posts humorous videos about the thoughts that run through his mind on his visits to bookstores, or when he contemplates his reading-related patterns.

For example:

Hyperlinks to all Jesse The Reader’s book/reading-related videos is here. His Facebook page is here.

“The Consolations of Illiteracy” by Phyllis McGinley

There are
books that one needs maturity to
enjoy just as there are books an adult
can come on too late to savor.

So wrote the poet Phyllis McGinley in her wonderful essay published by The Saturday Review in August 1953.

You can read McGinley’s delightful musings on the upside of her “bad education” here (with the tail-end of the article here, where you will need to scroll down a bit to find it).

My eternal thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Patrick Kurp, for bringing my attention to this marvelous writer – and, in particular, to this charming (and often amusing) essay of hers. Kurp provided the links to the essay at his always-excellent blog, Anecdotal Evidence.

Why You Should Be OK with Owning More Books than You’ll Ever Read

Several years ago, Kevin Dickinson wrote an article for the website BigThink about why owning more books than a person could possibly read over his/her lifetime is A Good Thing.

Turns out there are several plausible justifications, not just one.

One of the things I learned from reading Dickinson’s article was the origin of a Japanese term that surfaces periodically in various bookish blogs I follow.

Tsundoku is the Japanese word for the stack(s) of books you’ve purchased but haven’t read. Its morphology combines tsunde-oku (letting things pile up) and dukosho (reading books).

Dickinson mentions this term only in passing; you may want to read his entire article, which, incidentally, includes links to other, related articles.

The Miracle of the Interlibrary Loan System

If you, presumably a book-loving person, are not aware of (or have forgotten about) interlibrary loan, you are missing out on an extremely useful tool for maximizing the scope and rewards of your Reading Life.

ILL is a service available at most public libraries, even smaller ones; in many cases, the service is free to library cardholders. Even when a library system chargers a fee for the service, ILL can save you hundreds of dollars in obtaining books to borrow that you might otherwise be obliged to purchase to get hold of.

Many library systems allow cardholders to place ILL requests online, so you don’t even need to visit the library until your book (or magazine article) arrives.

In my own case, because my reading habits don’t dovetail very well with the sorts of books (bestselling fiction, for example) that branch public libraries tend to purchase, I’d guess that at least 70% of the books I’ve read over the past 40+ years I’ve obtained via ILL. (I may be overestimating that figure, purely because I’m so enthusiastic about spreading the gospel of interlibrary loan.)

Whenever anyone asks me why I value public libraries so highly, I usually mention two things: (1) public libraries are one of the few U.S. institutions anyone can visit and use without any cash changing hands, and (2) public libraries offer interlibrary loan services in addition to being great places for book lovers to browse in and borrow books from. Access to ILL is certainly, all by itself, worth getting a library card for, whether or not you visit public libraries very often to browse there.

Of course, the main difference between using ILL and browsing a public library for your next read is that, with ILL, you need to know, exactly, what you’re looking for. If you’re in the habit of garnering titles of interest to you that you notice on the Internet sites you visit, or through word of mouth from your friends who are also readers, you’re probably also in the habit of putting those titles on a list. If you’ve checked the catalog of your local public library and don’t find the title you want to get hold of listed there, do not despair – or decide your only choice is to buy the dang thing. Remember interlibrary loan: in 99% of the cases, your friendly ILL librarian will come to your rescue. And once you’ve used ILL successfully a couple of times, you’ll find yourself an ILL convert/proselytizer yourself.

A couple years ago, someone named Nick Ripatrazone wrote a story for the website Literary Hub about how the interlibrary loan system works – and how it got started. You might find Nick’s article, “InterLibrary Loan Will Change Your Life,” worth reading.

Happy hunting!

P.S. Libraries don’t usually lend out, via ILL, rare books, genealogy texts, reference books, or – and this is important to remember – recent bestsellers). But anything else: no problem. Your aforementioned friendly ILL librarian will do the research of tracking down some library (usually the one nearest the library he/she works in) that owns the book (or magazine article) you’re looking for, and pretty soon you’ll likely be summoned to your local library to borrow it.

A Bookish Writer Purges His Personal Library

Essayist Joseph Epstein, back in 2000, published an account of his decision to sell most of the books he’d accumulated in a lifetime of reading and writing.

Epstein’s essay, “Books Won’t Furnish a Room,” published by the Washington Examiner, is probably the most interesting description I’ve ever come across of this daunting and psychologically challenging process of downsizing one’s personal library.

What’s unusual about Epstein’s story is how specific he gets about what books/authors he decided to keep, and which ones he parted with – and why.

If you read Epstein’s moving and often humorous essay, you’ll probably be spurred by his comments to add some titles to your own “Books I Want to Read” list.

Hat-tip to one of my favorite bloggers, Patrick Kurp (a great fan, as I am myself, of Epstein’s collections of essays), for recently providing a link to Epstein’s essay. He did that at his always excellent blog Anecdotal Evidence, on July 16, 2022. The painting pictured above is “The Bookworm” (1853) by Carl Spitzweg.

Read Epstein’s essay.

Related posts:

A Computer-Based Alternative to Book Browsing?

The New York Times has published an article about a brand new Internet application called Tertulia, designed to condense the immense amount of online “bookchat” into digestible chunks of recommended titles.

Excerpt from the Times article:

Using a mix of artificial intelligence and human curation, Tertulia aggregates book discussions and recommendations from across the web, drawing from social media posts, book reviews, podcasts and news articles to generate reading recommendations that are tailored to individuals’ tastes and interests.

To get personalized recommendations, users answer questions about which genres they like and what types of people they want to hear about books from (options include space explorers, poets, chefs, historians, entertainers and book critics). Users can also sign in with their Twitter accounts, which allows the app’s algorithms to sift through their feeds to pull out book recommendations from people they follow.
Each day, Tertulia generates a personalized list of five books. Elsewhere on the app, users can browse lists of notable titles in different genres, which are ranked according to buzz, rather than sales.

The Tertulia app is available for free from the Apple Store.

Best U.S. Cities for Booklovers

We’re not sure how this ranking of U.S. cities by how well (or how poorly) they score for people who love books ended up on a blog otherwise devoted to lawn care, but this recently-posted survey is definitely worth a browse.

The blogpost, written by researcher Sav Maive, contains some fascinating graphics and interesting commentary – including a list of which cities booklovers might want to consider visiting (if they aren’t lucky enough to be living in one of them already).

Read the article.