Memes are short. Memes are funny. Memes come with a set of images that help guide how to respond. No wonder memes are what everyone is reading these days.
But memes are not intelligent. Memes don’t provide a slow, deep understanding of a subject. Memes, even thousands of them on the same subject, are no substitute for books. To break free from the Book of Death, then, will take more than sheer will. It will take planning. Start here.
Forget what intelligent people are reading.Top 10 Classics, Best Books of the Year, Super Cuts of the Best Books of All Time, JCB Shortlist, Nobel-Winner Library, Booker Longlist, Obama’s Kindle Picks – all curated by people who have already read them. . Those people aren’t struggling with monologues, trudging through the odd boring chapter, missing a Greek-myth reference or wondering if that quote is from Shakespeare or Yoda. To break into (or break out of) a long reading rut, start with direct writing.
Start with the familiar.Choose a topic that already sounds interesting rather than a hard-to-connect bestseller. Here’s a hack: Enjoyed watching the great first season of Big Little Lies? Grab a book by Liane Moriarty to keep that rich mom-group moving. Mesmerized by the futuristic details in The Martian? There is still much to unpack in Andy Weir’s novel. Great books don’t always make great shows or movies, but a great screen adaptation has great reading potential behind it. Just ask Reese Witherspoon, who options every great story for potential adaptations. Or ask the widely adapted horror master, Stephen King.
Add some pictures.Graphic novels are a great in-between for anyone transitioning from a visual to a verbal medium. Many of them are immersive, saying more in a single illustrated panel than an entire paragraph. Brunch loves Snowpiercer (you knew it), Fun Home, Kari, the Oishinbo series and How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less.
Stay slim.Save the 800-page sagas for later. Start with short novels, short-story collections or non-fiction works. The pregnant king zips by in some evenings. I Am Legend will take less time than Will Smith’s film. Metamorphosis is only a few chapters long, but Gregor Samsa’s story will follow you for a lifetime.
Keep it visible.Don’t put the Kindle in an outside drawer, don’t put paperbacks on a high shelf to read, don’t put books in cool corners where they’ll never be found. Let the books get in the way. Place on top of mobile chargers, next to TV snacks, on pillows, on bathroom shelves as nightly reminders. Take an e-reader with you on the commute. Save the reading app to your phone’s home screen. Talk to friends about the book you’re reading so they ask about it next week. Be accountable to the book.
Change habits.Podcasts on the treadmill, newsletters with coffee, memes on the Uber to work, celebrity gossip after lunch, Spotify on the ride back, Netflix before bed. If the day seems full, alternate one activity at a time with reading which one sticks. There is no extra time in the day for books, they just have to go in.
Stop hacking and tracking.If it’s going to be about chapters finished per day, reading pace, books completed per month, it’s going to be out soon. Focus on enjoying the books and keeping up the pace. Quit boring halfway through, pick up a new book before the previous one is finished, read another book by the same author, re-read a favorite as a palette cleanser, start a book with Audible and finish it on Kindle, and keep your phone on silent while you read. The memes can wait.
From HT Brunch, April 15, 2023
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