How to Read Long and Difficult Books | The Art of Manliness

This encouraging post on AOM appeared last week (Sept.3) and has good practical advice for men on how to read those “long and difficult books.”

Perhaps you have never tackled such a book, but you have looked at a classic or a biography you really wanted to read but were intimidated by its size and length. Read and follow the pointers this man gives you and you will understand that it is possible for you to get that “big read” in. Soon it will be Fall and then Winter and your nights will be freer; so set yourself a goal and then set some time aside for feeding your mind and your soul. That truly is manly.

Here is the writer’s introduction and then two of his practical pointers. For the rest, visit the link below.

Before the last year or so, I would have probably counted myself in that camp. I had tried to read Washington: A Life and gave up after a few hundred pages. I’d tried Moby-Dick and met a similar fate. The allure of a big, meaty book was great, and yet I couldn’t find the stamina to actually finish many.

So what was it that finally put me over the top and allowed me to get all the way through these hefty tomes? (And then to keep going too!) At the time, I wasn’t quite sure why. I figured it was some combination of having a plan and finally having the gumption to just keep flipping the pages. But after thinking about it, I realized that there was some innate method to how I was accomplishing it. There’s no need to be intimidated by old books, long books, or just plain hard to read books. It really is a skill to be learned in our Smartphone Age.

Here’s how I did it (and continue to do it), and how you can too.

2. Set a small amount of time or pages per day that you’ll read.

One of the keys in achieving that plan is giving yourself a micro-goal. My plan to read 44+ presidential biographies (some of which are multi-volume) gives me helpful direction, but it’s too distant an end goal to sustain my motivation from day to day. Even focusing on simply finishing the next book in the sequence is tough, when that book is massive — presidents’ lives are often very well explored and documented.

So I go even smaller and set myself very attainable reading goals. I often flip through the book first to get a sense of how long chapters are; with Washington: A Life I set out to read a single chapter a day. With chapters averaging just 10-20 pages, this was totally doable. For books that have longer chapters (like Caro’s LBJ series), I’ll set a time-based goal, usually 30 minutes a day.

Working from home, and not having a commute or anyone to disturb my lunch hour, I perhaps have more spare time to read than others. If you’re really cramped, give it just 10-15 minutes per day. You’ll get through those long and hard books far quicker than you’d expect, and when time and energy allow, you’ll often willingly do more than what you’ve allotted.

4. Get an edition that you like.

This can make a surprisingly big difference in your reading experience. Reading can be a far more kinetic activity than you’d think. The weight of the book, the styling of the font and the design of the text, even the cover art — if a book is nice to look at and easy to hold, you’re more likely to pick it up.

Tangible and tactile, and free from the distractions built into my phone, I prefer paper copies for most of my reading, and often hardcovers specifically. Paperbacks are more portable, but the text is often a little harder to read with darker, smaller font size and tighter margins. And while I enjoy used bookstores as much as anyone else, I don’t like reading copies that have any notes or underlining in them already. It’s too distracting. So I always make sure to get a clean copy.

When it comes to classic literature, you often have a ton of choices. Old versions are sometimes fun to have, but often harder to read, with small margins and overly dark text. I also like explanatory endnotes and lengthy introductions, which older versions almost always lack. Penguin Classics is the gold standard in my opinion. I have a few handfuls of those black paperback covers staring at me from my shelves. If I’m really feeling like I want a hardcover for whatever reason, I also really like the Everyman’s Library editions.

Source: How to Read Long and Difficult Books | The Art of Manliness

Published in: on September 12, 2019 at 10:44 PM  Comments (1)