I've been a Reader ever since I discovered I could read at age 5. As a child and throughout my adolescence, I always had my nose in a book. I checked out books by the stack from the library, and my favorite classes in school were always "reading" or "English" or "literature." The college years were tough on me -- because while I had plenty to read, it wasn't of my own choosing. I missed reading-for-pleasure -- and always looked forward to semester breaks when I could dive back into my piles of books.
And . . . this reading habit just continued as I became an adult. I read books. Lots and lots of books!
But one thing concerns me about my reading: It seems like I don't have the retention that I used to. I remember reading particular books, and I'll be able to recall key characters and plot points -- but I won't be able to go much further than that.
I know. I know. I'm getting older. And my brain is getting full. And my memory is not what it used to be. And - after reading thousands of books in my lifetime (I estimated at one time that I've probably read over 3,500) - I guess it's not surprising that I can't remember all of them. But still. . . I'd really like to remember more than I do.
So I've decided to . . . focus . . on my reading this year. Not reading more. Not reading "harder." Just reading more attentively. More mindfully. With the intention of savoring - and, hopefully, remembering more details about the books I read.
I think it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the books out there in the world -- especially when you're a Reader, and so many titles appeal. (So many books, so little time . . . and all that.) But I've decided to change three things about my reading habit this year to try to improve my retention and savor the books I read:
- Fewer books. I know that it's "normal" in a goal-setting way to try to increase the number of books one reads in a year. But I've decided to . . . just say no to quantity-based reading. I'll still read a lot of books, sure. (Because that's what I do.) But I don't want to be driven by a number -- and I don't want to challenge myself to read MORE. I want to choose fewer, high-quality books that really appeal to me this year. And I'm not going to be concerned about hitting some arbitrary goal I set for myself. (Disclaimer: I still set a Goodreads Challenge for myself this year -- at 60 books. Which is 15 books fewer than what I've typically read for the last few years. I'll likely remove it altogether, though. Eventually.)
- More time. Rather than rushing through the books I read, I'm going to allow myself more relaxed time to read -- and build in occasional pauses for thinking-time. Research (from one of my alma maters; Hook 'em Horns!) shows that hitting pause now and again while you're reading - actually allowing some time to rest and reflect on what you just read - can really help your brain connect the dots and synthesize the new information. It turns out that giving yourself a mental rest and a little time to reflect on what you're reading really helps commit new material to memory. (Here's a link to an article about the study.)
- Take notes. I am not talking about outlining chapters here! I'm just looking for a thoughtful way to ... pause and reflect while I'm reading. Lately, I notice that I hurry to crack open my next book as soon as I finish my current book. That can't be helpful in the retention department. So I'm going to do a little writing to help my brain make sense of things. I'm planning to write more thoughtful reviews on Goodreads, and I think I'll get back to "collecting" quotes and passages from books as I read. I will probably even do a little journaling now and then as a way to think about and connect with the what I'm reading.
It's hard to pull back when there are so many books in the world waiting to be read. But I'm going to give it a try! Sometimes . . . less is more!
To read more Three on Thursday posts today, hop on over to Carole's!