Wednesday, January 8, 2014

On Reading

After high school, I fell out of the habit of reading books. Many years later, I am trying to pick it up again. I have made half-hearted efforts to read "deep" books (i.e, theology, non-fiction), but have either given up or forced myself to trudge through several. Pleasure reading: fail.

Such experiences made me want to avoid picking up books in general. Then, I would open a novel (especially one by T. Davis Bunn* or John Grisham) and just devour it. As in, not look up for three days until the end of the last chapter.

Although feeling good about finishing a book, I would be discouraged by the discrepancy between genres. "Maybe I'm just not deep enough to get into a 'deep' book," I thought. While my study skills have definitely gone down hill since college, I do not think that is the main factor.

Instead, I believe my desire to continue reading a book directly stems from chapter length. The books I gave up on or trudged through have ridiculously long chapters. The ones I joyfully finished had shorter chapters. Long chapters are a problem for the following reasons:

  • In some cases, long chapters are like drinking out of a fire hose: a reader simply cannot absorb all of the information at once.
  • In other cases, the author takes way too long to say what needs to be said. I may be tracking for a few pages, but the chapter continues for many more.
  • Long chapters make busy people feel like failures. Not everyone has time to read a two-hour chapter in one sitting. A reader forced to pause in the middle of a chapter feels like a failure. A reader setting a book down at the end of a chapter feels a sense of accomplishment rather than failure.
Now that I know what discourages me from reading, I can avoid books with long chapters. Just kidding. Good books will likely continue to have long chapters, but at least I can try to cycle through books with varying chapter lengths.

Can you relate? Do you have any tips for reading books with long chapters?

*I highly recommend these books by T. Davis Bunn:


  1. I have a few thoughts. First, it helps to change your perspective on the abilities of the human mind. Read a book like "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman. Chapter 4, where he writes of the Lincoln-Douglas debates is truly humbling. The effect of television and modern visual mediums has led to the atrophy of the human mind in many ways that impose artificial limitations on us.

    We got rid of our television not long after I read that book, and I've subsequently found far more time to read. Go figure.

    Additionally, I have found that having a plan for what to read next keeps me reading something all the time. I simply put the completed book away and pick up the next.

    Next, for books with long chapters, or even just long books in general--keep reading them daily. Even if it is just for a short time--read continually. It will keep the material fresher in your mind and keep you engaged with it, and won't let you feel like you've either abandoned it, or that you've forgotten what has happened and what is happening.

    Finally, think of reading as training and exercise. Reading is not an end in itself. We read to get something out of the activity. We can't expect to read a deep and complicated book without first reading a simple and short book--just like we can't expect to go run a marathon on a whim. You've got to work up to it. Keep training and you'll find the more challenging reads less challenging the more you train your mind.

    1. Thanks for the insights and encouragement, John. I have found that having a reading list helps me as well.

  2. I absolutely can relate! Especially with feeling discouraged when I would pick up a book and only be able to trudge through a few chapters before forgetting about or giving up. Thanks for the encouragement and insight!


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