Before getting started on a reading take time to light a little fire under yourself (right at the base of the cerebellum). Decide exactly why you’re reading that riveting analysis of reptilian gastric reflux disease. Is it for a test? What do you stand to lose if you don’t read it and understand it?
Yes, there is definitely a wrong way to read. You know you’re doing it wrong if…
You have to go over a passage repeatedly to know it well enough for a test
You catch yourself having to reread a paragraph because you weren’t paying attention
You don’t know the main idea of the last paragraph you read
You’re reading every single paragraph you’re assigned
You’re using your highlighter to highlight more than three or four words in each paragraph (I really think you shouldn’t use one at all!)
You close your book as soon as you finish reading
The write way to read involves several key steps like…
Previewing the text with an eye towards your identifying your reading goal and towards getting an idea of the overall organization and main points
Reading the text while taking notes–just as you would for a lecture–on anything you need to remember
Reviewing the text while you quiz yourself. What did that section talk about? How is that main idea linked to the next paragraph?
Take a look at this excellent resource from Indiana University. They do a wonderful job of covering the basics, although I do disagree on a few minor points. If you’ve read my study skills ebook and/or some of my other posts on better reading you should be able to pick them out. Which ones do you think I’ll take issue with?
Want to improve your reading comprehension? Reading difficult but engaging novels can help.
Here are some of my personal favorite authors and novels/short stories …
Joseph Conrad … considered one of the greatest English novelists of all time … actually a Pole who didn’t learn English until his early twenties! You might start with Lord Jim, Youth, or Typhoon.
John Steinbeck … start with Of Mice and Men, then try The Grapes of Wrath. The themes are very tough and emotionally taxing, but beautiful and truthful.
Patrick O’Brian … historical fiction set in the British Navy of the early 1800s. My favorite novelist bar none! Very hard to get into initially because he uses so much nautical terminology, but so worth it! The set of 21 books begins with Master and Commander. The Master and Commander movie, with Russell Crowe, was based on this series.
Recently, I read Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. Really enjoyable and insightful. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, and Dune, by Frank Herbert, are some of my all time favorite books. Both are science fiction and both are tremendously smart, complex, and worthwhile. Science fiction has bad associations for many people because of the excess of real tripe in the genre, but good science fiction can go places other books cannot, with wonderfully revealing results.
What are some of your favorite books/authors, that are also challenging enough to push your comprehension?[/hidepost]