Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to Become a Reader

A while back, I posted a list of suggestions about how to become a reader without panicking about the number of books there are to be read in the world. I aimed it mainly toward the sort of people I would expect to be the regular readers of this blog. Today, though, I wanted to do a similar post but directed toward those who do not read at all, at least not on any semblance of a regular basis. There are a million excuses under the sun that I hear from people who don't read, and so to those people, I post here my response to five of your excuses.

1. You think you have to read the "classics" or the New York Times Bestseller or something that is vaguely categorized as "literature." As much as this blog seems to go against the idea that reading anything is dandy, really and truly, I believe that above all, you must read. So, if the "classics" don't appeal to you, and every book we've reviewed on this blog seems like a load of hogwash, don't read it. Find something you like! That could be anything -- it could be a graphic novel, it could be a fantasy novel, it could be a children's book, it could be a biography. Find something that appeals to you, and no matter what anyone says (including any of us), read it! Oh baby, just read it! Read what you enjoy.

2. You don't have the time. Well, first of all, let me say this: you do. My response to this argument hearkens back to my other post about being an avid reader -- no matter how busy you may be, you can find time to do something that is important to you -- and trust me, reading is important. Keep a book in your bathroom, and pull it out on Chinese take-out night or any other occasion that might cause a prolonged bathroom visit. If you have children, take the time to read with them at night before sending them to bed. Wake up 10 minutes early in the morning to get in a chapter of a book before starting your morning. Read in the kitchen while you're stirring your home-cooked chicken noodle soup. No matter how busy you are, I just simply cannot believe that you have ZERO time to read. Sorry.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I can go on to give you another suggestion: start with a collection of short stories, personal essays, or even poetry. For the busy person on the go who will not be able to finish a novel for months, these are the way to go, because they're snappy (assuming their good), enjoyable, and quick to finish, so you keep getting that glow of accomplishment every time you finish one.

3. You don't have the money to buy books. Now, this one is really lame and doesn't require much of a response. Ready? Library. Borrow from friends. Problem solved. Next?

4. You don't know what to read. Also a lame excuse. Take a look through our book review archive, for example, or any of the other hundreds of book blogs out there in the blogosphere. Or, hey, here's an idea: ask a friend what he or she is reading, and try reading the same thing! Then you have someone with whom you can discuss the book and who will likely keep asking how far along in the book you are.

5. You never properly learned how to read. Some of you, because of whatever reason -- changing schools, learning at a slower speed, learning disabilities, whatever -- may have not ever properly learned how to read, and now, as an adult, you find it too embarrassing to admit. First of all, you have to realize that your plight is not uncommon! I spent 9 months tutoring an adult through a program called Project Read, which exists exclusively to help functionally illiterate adults improve their literacy. Now, after you have realized that you are not alone and there is nothing to be ashamed of, ask someone for help! If you're not comfortable asking a friend or family member to help you, contact your local United Way branch to find a program in your area like Project Read that can help you improve! Trust me, it's worth it.

So, for those of our readers for whom this post does not apply -- I implore you to spread the word to your non-bookish friends, and collectively, let's say no to people who say no to when we say yes to reading books. That could have been much more concise.