11 Simple Tips on How You Can Read a Lot More Novels & Fiction!

comprehension concentration fiction focus novel novels reading reading speed speed reading Feb 27, 2018

Reading a good book is one of the most enjoyable things you can do. Reading a good book in your recliner, in bed, in the living room, in the summer house, on a camping trip, sunbathing, by the pool, in the garden or really anywhere you like, letting your mind relax and visit foreign lands, cities and to get to enjoy another's life experience is a magnificent experience. The problem for many of us though – is the time it takes to finish a reasonable book.

For most of us, the problem lies in a few factors and mostly in old habits that are holding us back, usually old misconceptions or fallacies that are kept alive and also our lack of concentration that increases with our fast modern lives. These old habits – or misconceptions – I discuss in my courses and books, but in this article I am going to talk about the lack of concentration. And that's a problem that is much easier to tackle than you might think.

Lack of concentration while reading

Since I am going to be discussing the lack of concentration especially in regards to reading novels it may be good to keep in mind that this is usually more of a problem with heavier text, textbooks, papers, reading material where we are perhaps lacking interest or a better knowledge of some basic points. It is easy to tackle a problem such as this, but when it comes to novels we need to use different methods.

Novels are meant to keep our attention through the story, the storyline, anticipation or interest in what happens to the characters and how easily we form an emotional bond to the characters in the book – see what they see, feel what they feel and feel their joy or their sadness when something goes wrong for them. The story pulls us into a world, and our imagination spins an everlasting thread between the book and ourselves.

In our modern lives where communications take place through computers, phones and social interactions are fast – we have almost no free time for ourselves – unless we turn the computer or phone off. When it's like that no wonder our concentration is poor – spread thin – making it hard to concentrate on reading – even if it's very interesting.

One of the main reasons that it's so easy to let outside influences disrupt our reading is that we read too slow and we are inactive readers. When you are talking to a friend on the phone, you are very active in that conversation – listening – asking – walking around – drawing or doodling on a piece of paper – and your mind is constantly active throughout the conversation, we are an active part of the conversation. When you are working on the computer you are pressing the keys and moving the mouse – chewing over information at record speed – chatting to friends, playing games, writing – you are constantly being active in some way.

When you read a book… You have a book in front of you and... move your eyes – along one line and over to the next – along that line – and so it goes until you turn the page. If you are a slow reader, e.g. 150-200 words per minute it's not uncommon to take up to two minutes or more to get through one page. Two minutes where the only active thing you're doing is moving your eyes – unsystematically because our eyes often move all over the page when we are reading.

Is it a wonder that it's so easy for other people to distract us from reading when we usually struggle to get started – constantly losing the context – because we are getting up every 10-20 minutes to get something to drink or eat and consequently we don't connect to the material.

We can take movies for example. Is it more enjoyable to watch a movie from beginning to end without taking a break – or to watch it in 10-20 minute increments – watching for 10 minutes – stopping to get something to drink – then watching for another 10-20 minutes and then going to get something else. Most of you know the feeling of watching a good movie all the way to the end – when time becomes relative – the movie holds your attention and in that way is much more powerful because it literally has moved you into another world.

The same thing happens with novels. It's better to read for at least 30-40 minutes at a time and keep everything you need at hand – because the longer you read, the more interested you get, the speed at which you read increases automatically, we get further into the text, the material comes alive and more interesting and moves us into another world.

11 good tips to read - a lot more

This is why I decided to create a list of a few simple tips to help you read a lot more. These are tips that many realize they are already using – in some way – especially those that already read a lot – because there's no alien science behind this but rather little nuggets of experience from many knowledgeable people.

  1. Be an active reader
  2. Control your eyes
  3. Use your finger/pen to guide your eyes through the text
  4. Try to guide your eyes increasingly faster through the text
  5. Be clear on the goal of reading
  6. Enjoy the author's world
  7. Let your imagination run free
  8. Don't stop at words/terms you don't understand
  9. Let the storyline grip you and increase the speed further
  10. ...but first and foremost; Enjoy the book...
  11. ...and above all else; Start reading at least 10-15 pages of the next book as soon as you finish the last.

 Tip 1: Be an active reader

As you read through the text try to be more active by leading or pacing your eyes with a finger or a pen along the line. That way you can control your eyes better and at the same time become more active – the movement of your finger will activate your eyes and mind better than if you just used your eyes.

If you are reading a manual or a self-help book, mark in the margins or circle anything that you feel is important. That way you are giving it more attention. You are helping to memorize it, and that will make it easier to read it again later and see which points got your attention when you first read it.

Tip 2: Control your eyes

It's natural for your eyes to want to move all over the place – constantly moving around in our daily routines. This movement is called saccade and we barely notice it in our day to day lives. The eyes are trying to create this perfect image that is represented into our minds. To grab the changes in our environment, a bird flying, car coming at you suddenly or a child running – so that our mind always has the newest information to work with.

When you are reading, there are no changes happening in the reading material, but your eyes still jump around on the page. Here we need to realize that our eyes aren't gathering information from our environment but rather the information is now in straight lines (8-12 word lines) right in front of us. It is very difficult for our eyes to contain themselves and let go of control. The best way is to use our finger or pen to guide our eyes – pace them along and in that way have a little more control over the saccades and of how our eyes go through the material.

Tip 3: Use your finger/pen to guide your eyes through the text

When you use your finger or pen to guide your eyes along the text you have more control over what you are looking at. You are basically telling your eyes what word to look at and not letting them jump around on the page.

You will be in better control of how fast you read because as soon as your eyes stop jumping around back and forth in the material, you will become more focused and the speed at which you read increases. The movement of your finger on the page ensures that your eyes don't stop or jump back. It's natural for eyes to follow movement. A good example of that is when we watch a football game or other sports. The eyes are quick to start following the finger through the reading material. Whatever words and at the speed that you set for yourself.

Because it's much easier for us to control the movements of our finger than our eyes. There are completely different principles that apply to our eyes than how we move our finger.

Tip 4: Try to guide your eyes increasingly faster through the text

When you are used to reading the words that are above your finger – try increasing the speed at which you move your finger along each line. We are slaves of habit and as soon as we find a speed that we are comfortable with we stop there and let that be enough.

You can liken it to training for a marathon. We want to increase our stamina to be able to run longer distances. The only way we can do that is to keep running further than we did before and in that way increase our stamina. This doesn't happen automatically but rather we have to make a conscious decision to run further – even though our body says stop. Otherwise we won't get out of our comfort zone and we won't improve.

This is why you have to make a conscious decision to move your finger faster. Your eyes can read faster – your mind can read faster. You need to stretch the limit of your reading speed – until your sense of reading says; stop – I don't understand. Instead of decreasing the speed too much, try to maintain that speed.

Before you know it, you will get used to the increased speed and can start stretching the limits again. 

Tip 5: Be clear on the goal of reading

What is the goal of reading? Are you reading for fun? Are you familiarizing yourself with new trends in your studies, job or private life? Are you trying to build up your vocabulary?

That list of questions is far from exhaustive but should give you a small insight into what you want to and need to think about. You need to ask yourself these questions while reading and keep the answers to them in mind while you’re reading – because the question controls how you read.

If your goal is to enjoy the book – read for fun? Great – enjoy it – don't get too into small details – keep reading and let the author take you to new places. Don't read the book like you would a textbook and get stuck on words and terms that you don't understand – keep reading. These 11 tips are especially meant for this kind of reading. They can help you with other reading too as in many ways the same basic principles apply but there are certain points – important points – that are different.

You may be reading a manual to do with your studies, work or private life, often called non-fiction and the goal of reading is not to learn like a student – that needs to take tests, do projects other things related to the reading. But rather you are looking for tips, handy points that might be useful in your day to day life. These 11 tips can be useful to you in some ways but there will be some things you need to do differently, and I am going to discuss tips on reading manuals and non-fiction books in another article.

Tip 6: Enjoy the author's world

Authors of novels are given certain creative liberties in writing their books, and we need to be considerate of that as we read. We don't read novels in the same frame of mind as we do textbooks, travel stories and autobiographies. Factual errors in novels don't really exist. The author is allowed to move us into his world – whether that is connected to the real world in a small way, completely or not at all – the author has a right to use his imagination.

Let's enjoy the author's world, let him introduce us to new lands, new characters and new worlds. A part of the amazing experience of reading a book is that it moves us into an alternate reality to see how the characters in that reality tackle their daily lives.

Tip 7: Let your imagination run free

One of the most important things we can do is let our minds run free – letting our imagination run wild and give your mind the rest that it needs to take on any project. Reading is to the mind an exercise and relaxation at the same time – the mind gets a chance to run free – relax and recharge.

Those that are used to regular exercise will know the feeling you get when you are done, how nourished your body feels. The same thing happens with the mind. After stretching the imagination – taking a little trip to unknown places – our mind is renourished and ready for anything. This is one of the reasons why it's so important to not just read heavy textbooks in our studies. Just 10-15 pages of light, interesting reading material before bed – gives the mind the rest it needs to be renourished and ready for the next project.

Tip 8: Don't stop at words/terms that you don't understand

You are not reading a textbook so don't get stuck on words and terms that you don't understand. If you want to build up your vocabulary you can keep a pencil nearby and circle the word and look into it later. But while you are reading the book – don't stop – keep going. The author will lead you through the material, and you will slowly learn what that word means.

One of the main problems that readers have is to use the same reading habits with all texts – and read everything in the same way. The way you read is controlled by the goal – with novels the goal is to enjoy the book and stopping at words you don't understand – slows you down. The only thing a new word should tell you is that here is an opportunity to build a more rich vocabulary – circle the words with a pencil and when you are done reading go back to them – use them in everyday conversations or in something you are writing and in that way ingrain them in yourself.

Tip 9: Let the storyline of the book captivate you and increase the speed further

When the book starts to captivate you and you start to become interested in the lives and situations of the characters, then you will start reading faster automatically. The eyes will help with this because when something peaks our interest – the pupils dilate – let in more light – broadening your field of vision and helping you read faster.

This feeling usually doesn't happen until about the middle of the book but increases as you get closer to the end. The reason for this is simply that it takes us time to form an emotional bond to the characters and the situations in the book. That's why the first part – especially the first quarter of the book – is usually slower to read, except when book series or characters are used over and over – we know the characters and we don't need as much time to connect to the new story. An example of that is the Harry Potter series, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series or even the Twilight series among many.

Tip 10: ...but first and foremost; Enjoy the book...

Enjoy what you are reading – our time is too precious to waste on reading boring books. There are plenty of books being published, so there is plenty of good, fun, and impactful books to choose from. But keep in mind as you are choosing which books to read that some heavier books are slow to get going – here's a good rule of thumb to keep in mind; Read at least a third of the book before you give up. If the book hasn't captivated you yet and you have already read one-third of it – then it's time just hasn't come. No problem – put it back on the shelf – and choose another book and read at least one-third of that book.

Don't hang on to that old misconception – that most of us were told at a young age – that we need to finish a book that we start reading. The outcome of that is usually that the book sits on the bedside table – unread – for two to three months. No other book is taken out – because we want to finish the other one first like we were taught.

Enjoy books – read the material that peaks your interest and that you enjoy – if the book hasn't captivated you and you have read a third of it put it away and choose a new book.

Tip 11: ...and above all else; Start reading at least 10-15 pages of the next book as soon as you finish the last.

Here is one simple key to getting in the habit of reading dozens of books a year – even dozens of books a month – very easily. Begin reading a new book – immediately after you finish the last book.

Those who regularly read a lot will know the feeling of finishing a good book. It's a very special feeling. It's a mix of regret, joy, happiness and excitement that can easily be compared to a feeling of victory that comes up when we finish big projects, competitions or reach important goals in our lives.

It's important to use this feeling while it's fresh and go straight back to the bookshelf – even if it's the middle of the night – and choose a new book. I make it a habit to have a new book on hand of my bedside table. I know I'm going to finish that book that night so I have a new one ready to go.

Immediately begin to read at least the first 10-15 pages – but in time you finish the first 2-3 chapters – even the first quarter of the book – and you are literally raring to go. Here you use the fast pace you read the last quarter of a book and – use that fast pace to finish the first quarter of the next book – and cut down the time you need to read a book through immensely.

This will in a short time become a habit for you, and with time you will be able to become a true serial reader of books – which is a good habit to cultivate – and you will easily get through quite a few books each month. As soon as you have finished the first quarter or third of the new book you have got going and you keep your reading momentum going and before you know it – you will be reading a lot more than you ever did before.

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