Posted by: Jeanie F | December 6, 2009

“How To” List for How to Read

This week Trish, from Electic/Eccentric  posed this question on Weekly Geeks : Overall, if you had to give someone a “How To” list for your dealings with any particular book, what would it look like?

How do you choose what to read? My decisions are based on lots of different things. Typically, I’ve read or heard reviews on most of the books I read – New York Times Book Review and NPR are the most reliable, in my opinion. However, I also value the recommendations of friends and, of course, depend heavily on the spontaneous, random delight of discovering something new at the bookstore.

For those interested in the ongoing discussion about how a book’s cover affects your selection of the book, you might enjoy Joe Queenan’s essay “When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books”  in today’s New York Times Book Review.

What process do you use when reading? When I’m lucky enough to have the time, my favorite “process” is to get a diet Coke and my chenille throw and just sack out on the couch with my book for hours on end. I don’t take notes, but if I come across a phrase or passage that I love, I highlight it. Since I usually read on my Kindle, this is easy to do and easy to return to later for reflection.

What happens when you’re done reading? That depends on the book. With some, such as City of Thieves by David Benioff, I go right back to the beginning to reread the first chapter or so of the book. This is typically a book where the ending has really blown me away, and I want to revisit the start to see how they line up together. Others, such as Alice Munro’s short story, “Free Radicals,” from her new book Too Much Happiness, cause me to just sit and think, reviewing each step of the process that led to a particularly moving ending. And then with still others, I just close the book and move on.

Do you wait to review or write immediately? I usually write immediately – it’s a form of bringing closure to the book and enabling me to clear my mind for the next to come. I will go back and review and revise as new ideas about a book occur to me, but I like to get my initial thoughts down while I still have them. With my memory, I can’t count on their being available to me later!

What other tasks do you go through after reading a book? None, really. I’ve never kept a list of my books – I’m not even very good at updating my Library Thing account. Luckily for my book club, we have one stalwart member who keeps the list for us of the books we read together, and redistributes it each year with our new titles. Now that I’ve started my blog, this is the closest I’ve ever come to keeping track of what I’ve read.

What happens to the book when you’re done with it? Now that most of my reading is done on my Kindle, I just shoot it back to to store for me. This is one of my favorite aspects of having a Kindle…no shelf space taken, but the book is always available to revisit. My “real” books get to live on my shelves ONLY if they are books that I believe I may want to reread or refer back to at another time. Otherwise, they get lent out or donated to the library.


  1. Jeanie,
    I like your idea of re-reading the first chapter when you are finished with the whole thing. I realize that when I am totally engrossed in a book, the characters, setting and plot remain vivid long after I am done reading. I think about the characters during the day and feel as if I know them. Since I experience the fading of the story that doesn’t hold my interest, I think that I will adopt the idea of writing a few sentences about the chapter I just finished. This would prepare me for discussions about the book with my group.

    • Anita, jotting down your thoughts is a good idea. I don’t think I’m disciplined enough to do it on a regular basis – if I’m really into the book, I just want to keep reading. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. I was skeptical of the Kindle at first but I’m starting to see its merits!

    I gave your blog an award! Read about it here:

    • Jamye, thanks for the award!!! Is there some way that I can put it on my blog? This is my first award, so I don’t really know how it works, but I’m so happy to have one!

      Re: the Kindle…I keep meaning to blog about it, and I think I will soon. I really love it for a lot of reasons, but I also love books and haven’t completely replaced them with the Kindle. To my way of thinking, both have their place.

      • You’re welcome! It was my first too so I wasn’t positive but I think you can just save the picture and include it in your 10 honest things list. Then you can probably put it in your sidebar later.

        I’d definitely be interested in hearing your thoughts about the Kindle!

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