Feed Your Head Pt. 2

With summer reading on the horizon, here are some tips for better reading…

– “What’s that about?” Make this question a habit. Nourish your own curiosity. Lean in to that which is confusing, foreign, or strange to you. Each time you encounter a word or reference you’re not familiar with – well, familiarize yourself with it! Look it up. By the time you finish what you’re reading, you’ll have picked up a few additional words and interesting facts.

– Develop your own taste. What draws you in? There is a plethora of reading material out there: fiction, non-fiction, series, novels, mangas, magazines, blogs, newspapers, short stories, plays, poetry, drama, satire, fantasy, memoir, essays, mythology, fable, etc. Explore. Reading is the cheapest vacation you can ever take.

– Have a special younger cousin or little one in your life? Volunteer to read to them out loud. If you don’t have a youngster in your life, volunteer to read to kids at a transitional home. You are improving their chances of developing strong reading and writing skills, while polishing your own. Everybody wins. Check out Reading Aces for volunteer opportunities.

– Read often. This, of course, means sometimes you’ll stumble on some things you don’t like. Find what you can appreciate about those things you don’t like, and then, don’t read those things anymore. Although it may not seem like it, coming across material you find tedious or unappealing is actually wonderful. It means you are developing your taste. This is a case of trial-and-error. Once you know what you don’t like to read, work on discovering what you do and read more of that. Read what you like. You may be surprised to find what speaks to you. Don’t dismiss an entire genre because you think it’s too frivolous or too serious – give it a shot. Reading should be fun.

Tips for better writing:

– Keep a free-writing journal. Develop the discipline of keeping your hand writing continuously and as unfiltered as possible for ten minutes daily. Alternately, keep a personal journal in which you write for as long as you’d like, more discerningly. Although nobody said you can’t keep both…

– It will help you stay on track with journal-writing if you set a designated time when you are not easily distracted or not pressed for time. Mornings, lunch breaks, or bedtime are usually good times to do so.

– Read like a writer. Go back to some of your favorite stories and dissect the structure. How is the writer using language, narrative, rhythm to tell the story and create an effect in the reader?

– Establish a good reading environment. The most important things to consider are lighting, comfortable seating, and minimal distractions. Here’s some reading nook design ideas and a how-to:
How to Make a Reading Nook
Design Ideas

– Join a book club! Chances are your school or local library already have one – but if not, start one yourself – bring friends, bring snacks, be merry. If you want to keep it more low-key, check out these virtual hubs for bibliophiles: Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari.

Here’s a few noteworthy authors on reading:

“There are many rules of good writing, but the best way to find them is to be a good reader.”
– Stephen Ambrose

“The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
– Mark Twain

“Read everything–trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.”
– William Faulkner

“When you start reading in a certain way, that’s already the beginning of your writing. You’re learning what you admire and you’re learning to love other writers. The love of other writers is an important first step, to be a voracious, loving reader.”
– Tess Gallagher

“‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book. . . . One must be an inventor to read well. . . . There is then creative reading as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant, and the sense of our author is as broad as the world.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“When I was teaching writing–and I still say it–I taught that the best way to learn to write is by reading. Reading critically, noticing paragraphs that get the job done, how your favorite writers use verbs, all the useful techniques. A scene catches you? Go back and study it. Find out how it works.”
– Tony Hillerman

Looking for a good read? These folks have some suggestions:

BBC’s “The Big Read”
Books 1-100
Books 101-200
Top 21

Top 100 Science-Fiction/Fantasy Reads by NPR

National Review’s 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the 21st Century

The “College-Bound” Reading List

Pulitzer-Prize Winners of past and present by category

50 of the Best Graphic Novels

New York Time’s Best Sellers
This is a good way to keep up with the current trends, in case you are tired of the Classics.

The Guardian’s Best 10 Historical Fiction Books

Ask friends for recommendations. To get you started, below are a few of our own favorites here at Cram Crew:

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
The Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling
The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
House of the Spirits, Isabelle Allende
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger
The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
The Stranger, Albert Camus
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Flannery O’Connor
A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
The Invisible Circus, Jennifer Egan
A Million Little Pieces, James Frey
The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom
Born to Run, Christopher McDougall
An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin
The Neon Bible, John Kennedy Toole
Papillon, Henri Charriere

Make your own list. What are your favorites? Feel free to post these in the comments section!

Happy Reading!

Lisa W.

  • Mai McCarthy

    Great reading tips! Thanks for including a list of sci-fi/fantasy books (from NPR)– they totally count as books too! Any book counts! Now I’m off to make a reading nook…