How to read like an artist
10 tips for a better life with books
On Saturday, bookstores around the country gave away this free zine we made to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day. I had so many requests from people who couldn’t get a copy that I’m sharing the complete text below.
These tips are what have helped me enrich my reading life over the years. If you’ve been reading me for a while, many of them will sound familiar!
“If a book is tedious to you, don’t read it; that book was not written for you.”
—Jorge Luis Borges
If you aren’t getting anything out of a book, put it down and pick up another book. Every hour you spend inching through a boring book is an hour you could’ve spent plowing through a brilliant one.
When it comes to books, quitters finish more.
It helps if you choose the right books in the first place. Stop reading what you think you should be reading and just read what you genuinely want to read. Read what you love.
Get used to carrying a book around with you wherever you go and reaching for it in all the spare moments you’d usually pull out your phone. (Commutes, lunch breaks, grocery store lines, etc.)
Go to bed early and bring your book with you. If you fall asleep while reading, pick it back up when you wake and read for a bit before you get out of bed.
Always have a book queued up for when you finish the current book you’re reading. Keep piles of unread books stacked around the house. (The Japanese call this “tsundoku.”)
A pile of books is nothing to be ashamed of. It says, “No matter what, at least we have more books to read.”
A big part of reading is visiting other worlds, and you can’t visit another world if you’re constantly distracted by this one.
If you’re going to read on your phone or e-reader, switch it to airplane mode so you’re not even tempted to go online.
When you sit down to read a paper book, either put your phone in airplane mode, or plug your phone in across the room so you’re not tempted to reach for it.
Consider getting a paper dictionary, so when you read at home or in the office, you don’t have to pull out your phone to look up words.
“The intellectual is, quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book.”
You don’t really own a book until you’ve written in it. A fancy word for this is marginalia. Underline sentences you love. Scribble notes to yourself in the margins. Doodle. Argue with the author. Make reading a conversation.
But do not, under any circumstances, write in library books. A special place in Hell is reserved for such transgressions.
“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures... If you like something, like it.”
We all love things that other people think are garbage. You have to have the courage to keep loving your garbage.
What makes us unique is the diversity and breadth of our influences, the unique ways in which we mix up the parts of the culture others have deemed “high” and “low.”
When you find something you genuinely enjoy, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it. Love what you love.