This Fall, Become A Proactive Reader

It's no secret that the benefits of reading go a long way towards improving our mental health. It can reduce stress, improve cognitive functioning, and allow you to empathize with others better. Reading throughout your life can also work towards keeping your mind sharp and active down the road. Even still, it can be hard to curl up with a good novel when TVs, computers, and phones are all beckoning us to stare at them. It is possible to get through that list of books in your head without having to feel as if you are forcing yourself to read. Rather, you can not only finish books, but begin to truly stimulate your mind from them.

Here are a few steps to take towards becoming a proactive reader!

Read What You Like

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly.” C.S. Lewis

Once your mind is set on becoming a better reader, you’re going to need to decide what you’re going to start reading. While a romp through the library or a book store can do the trick for some, for others the shelves upon shelves of titles can be a bit overwhelming. Knowing what you want to read is key towards finding a book you are going to enjoy and want to finish! If you know what you want to read, than you’re ahead of the curve a little bit. Remember, that you’re not going to enjoy everything you pick up, even if it sounded exciting to you. Knowing what you like and don’t like will help you in creating a path to follow as you continue picking up more books.

There are several resources available to you for deciding what to read.

In addition to regularly coming to goals.com, I would suggest heading to goodreads.com. This site will help you track the books you’ve read, let you rate them based on how you liked them, and then suggest to you more books to read. The site requires you have a handful of books ready to rate in order for it to begin suggesting you books. However, even if you are not yet a seasoned reader, I’d suggest making an account and add ratings moving forward.

You’re Friends! With any luck, you have a few people who share your interests around. They may have a list of books which stand out to them. I can think of very few people who don’t enjoy an opportunity to enthuse about their favorite novels.

And lastly, I would suggest heading into book stores from time to time, at the very least. Not only will it motivate you, with the smell of paper and a certain studiousness in the air, but while browsing the titles, a few may catch your eye.

Creating A Space

So now that you have your book, you’re going to need to find a place to read it! Our minds and bodies are notoriously good at linking physical locations and specific moods. For instance, your parent’s house may make you feel like a kid again. Your office may feel as though it installs a sense of productivity. We associate specific activities and emotions with different locations, depending on how we typically use those locations and the items present there. This can be used to our benefit in many situations, like ensuring that you only use your bedroom for sleep. Your body quickly associates that room with sleeping, reducing restlessness and allowing you to fall asleep faster. The same idea can be used for reading.

So often, we try reading in bed, in our living room, in our office. While these places might be convenient, they are filled with other items and tasks that our minds wants to focus on. It is worth finding spaces specifically for reading. A quiet corner in your house, an underused staff lounge at your office building, or even a park or outdoor space. Finding a location which you can regularly access and associate specifically with reading will go a long way towards not having to fight yourself to accomplish this goal. Your body will more readily relax and focus on the task at hand.

Public transportation is a good choice as well, so long as you can ignore the distractions of others around you. I would advise against exclusively reading on the bus and train, though. Your mind is not focus solely on the book, but instead needs to pay some attention to your surroundings. (You can’t miss your stop!) It would be better to find a space you can go to, in addition to reading while on the bus.

Processing What You Read

“PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted” – Author’s note in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

It is easy to consume media simply for entertainment, but if you want to become a truly proactive reader you are going to have to take it one step further. Once you have begun reading your book, it is important that you give yourself time to think about what you have read. Having a journal to keep your thoughts in may help focus your attention towards interpreting the novel, but at the very least you must give yourself time to dedicate towards thinking. It does not need be much time, you can think about it while on the bus, on walks, or exercising. The main idea is making it a point to let your mind come to any sort of conclusion about the novel.

Mystery novels are based around this idea. The author wants you to ask questions which can only be answered by finishing the book. However, if you are reading fantasy, fiction, or non-fiction, the author’s intent may not always be as clear. Often times, the interaction between the reader and author is facilitated by the reader probing at the novel from directions the author never intended. You do not need to be an English professor to be a part of this process! Probing deeper into a book’s meaning or interpretation will help you in all aspects of life. You will find it easier to understand other perspectives, as well as being able to step further back when analyzing your own.

There are no right answers, which analyzing books! Mark Twain lampooned his critics, while at the same time owing to them a great deal for his acclaim and popularity. So have fun with it!

Staying Regular

The clincher in this is that you need be consistent. Creating your space and searching for a book won’t mean much if you do not read. So finding a consistent time and making it a priority is important. Working a job and raising a family may add some difficulty when trying to make time to read. But, the goal here is to make reading a part of your life, not an extra chore on the list. By prioritizing it in such a way, you may have an easier time integrating it into your life. Life is always going to be a bit hectic, reading can help make it feel less so!