Christians have the Bible, Jews have the Talmud, Muslims have the Koran, I have 50 reading and writing rules that bring me endless joys and sorrows, and that one day might even bring me immortality and posthumous satisfactions.
These reading rules sum up what I have learned about reading over the last 3 years, from the distant day in autumn when I began to teach myself English to write a story, to this day in July, when the prequel to my story has been written, though not yet edited.
I write these rules here to understand them better, for lately I feel that what is not written does not really exist.
25 Reading Rules
- Read everyday.
- Read after writing, not before.
- Create a reading list and follow it.
- Read in the daylight, and not at night when the light is poor.
- Read no more than one book a week.*
- When an audiobook** version is available, choose it over the e-book.***
- Read the best books first. (Best is subjective. For me, the best old books are those that have stood the test of time; the best modern books are those that are often mentioned and recommended by experienced readers and writers.)
- Read creatively, as a writer and not as a passive reader, sparking ideas from sentences and metaphors, and noting or recording all those ideas as they occur.
- When reading Shakespeare or the rest of the classical lot, or any archaic book, read the book at least twice to understand it well.
- Do not read a book preface before reading the story unless the preface is the author’s, or is short. Read the preface after reading the book.
- Do not read book reviews before reading the book. Read reviews after or not at all.
- Do not speed read. Read naturally, enjoying every word, every phrase, every sentence, every paragraph.
- Note down words you do not know and check them in the dictionary once you have finished reading the chapter or act. Do not stop the flow of the reading to check a word, unless without that word the sentence makes no sense.
- After reading a book read its Wikipedia page and its summary in the Oxford Companion to English Literature, read a brief author biography, note your thoughts on the book in a document called ‘On the books I’ve read’, and if possible, watch the movie. (Never watch the movie before reading the book!)
- Think about what you have read after you put down the book.
- Read widely across genres, and do not become the worshipper of a single writer.
- Do not scribe anything on the book you read, unless it’s a love note to a woman.
- Read the classics as e-books from the public domain and not as paperbacks, to save the trees.
- When reading paperbacks, smell the pages with the best sentences and remember the smell, and the sentences.
- Clean your books every other week, dusting them off, and rereading sentences from them.
- Reread your favorite books often. Speak the beautiful sentences out loud.
- Do not drop, stain, tear, rip, or mark your paperbacks. A book is a precious thing.
- Do not forget the books you read. Think about them often. Call them ‘her’ rather than ‘it’. When no one is watching, kiss them low on the last page, just before they end.
- Instead of using a bookmark, remember the number of the last page read – it’s comparable to remembering a woman’s birthday. The book will appreciate it, and she will sometimes be grateful, and open herself at that exact page…
- Sleep with your favorite book under your pillow, and when you feel down, go to her for comfort.
Notes*I find over-reading detrimental because the characters and the scenes become confused, and I feel the urge to read faster to move on to the next book, and then I lose my focus, and miss the details. **As an English learner I make more progress if I hear the language being spoken. Audiobooks also rest my eyes and train my ears. ***For me, listening to audiobooks = reading.
This part has been about reading rules. Part two about writing rules will be posted Wednesday.
Do you have any reading rules?