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How To Read A Book

Do you want to read a book? Having a hard time figuring out why and are too embarrassed to ask for help?

Well, look no further. Because if you follow these steps — before you know it — you’ll be reading a book like a pro!

What’s your motivation? — Before starting to read a book, I believe it is important to determine why you want to do it. Are you trying to impress your crush? Prove your mother wrong? Win a bet? Get rich quick? Find out information that you will then use to influence others and/or make friends and/or become a dictator? Maybe you want to know how to bake a cake or rob a bank or, if time permits, both! Maybe you genuinely want to learn something new or just make others feel jealous? Regardless of the precise reason, it is important for you to know why before starting, or else, when you are done you may feel confused and irritable and, possibly, thirsty as a result of dry mouth.

Consider the consequences — As my grandmother always said to me when I was growing up “consider the consequences of your actions” (she seriously was like a broken record on many levels). There are pros and cons for everything and they are often indistinguishable from each other (welcome to my life). On the pro side, if you read a book, you will invariably learn things that you can’t unlearn unless you are drunk while reading (on advice from my legal team, no matter how fun it sounds, I can’t endorse drunk reading). It’s good to cram knowledge into your brain area — I’ve done it and, aside from the occasional headache and unexpected hallucination, it’s wonderful. On the con side you may turn into an egghead (my short term and non-scientific research seems to point to ‘yes’) and this may greatly limit your access to certain night clubs and resorts.

Determining the material — So, you’ve decided you want to read and you think you know why now you need to figure out what to read. I suggest baby steps (no, don’t actually take small, cute steps before reading a book). You want to set yourself up for success so the first book you choose needs to be one you can finish (don’t lie to yourself). This means avoiding any books that are the following: too long, too heavy, too deep, too angry, not angry enough, not in a language you know, and one that may encourage you to immediately drop everything and move to (or from) the jungle.

Train! — You have to be prepared as books, no matter how nicely you ask, are not going to read themselves (believe me, I tried!). Start by looking at individual letters written by someone in red lipstick all over the living room walls (not now, sweetie, I’m trying to read), then combine these letters to make delicious and sinful words (make sure the kids are out and/or blindfolded) and, finally, sentences. Don’t spend too long staring at the blank spaces between the words — it’s like an abyss in there. Also take some time to appreciate the comma, so round and curvy and beautiful. See colons and exclamation marks as your friends and not your enemies (semicolons are a whole other story). Once you can look at 5 consecutive sentences without wondering if you are wasting your life, you are ready for a real book.

Practice! — In my time as a reader, I’ve seen so many others with good intentions who have jumped right in, only to fall flat on their face (or back depending on which way the wind was blowing) and quit reading books forever. To avoid this, you must practice all aspect of reading a book before you actually read a real book (like training wheels on a bike). I suggest getting a book with blank pages and practice turning the pages without ripping the pages or getting a paper cut. Once you can do this, flip more pages, while nodding your head and saying things like, “So true, so true,” and, “Ha ha ha, these words I’m reading in my head are funny,” and, “I knew it was the butler,” and, “Sorry, honey, I can’t have relations with you at the moment, I am reading a book.” (Whatever you do, don’t call it a bookie-wook as no self-respecting book reader has ever called a book that and you will either be evicted, expelled or placed at the kiddie table at all future family dinners.)

Get a book — I can’t emphasize this essential and often overlooked step enough. In all of my years of reading books — and I consider myself somewhat of an expert — I’ve never figured out how to read one if I don’t have one. So, if you are serious about reading, get a book by any means necessary including, but not limited to: from a bookstore, from the library, “borrowed” from a “friend’s” house or as a small part of an elaborate hoax or heist. I would also suggest getting a few books just in case you either misplace a book, badly need a paperweight or “accidentally” hurl it into the fireplace because old habits are hard to break.

Dress appropriately! —Once you have your book of choice, you need to dress the part. If I’ve given this advice to one person considering reading a book, I’ve given it to a million (this is a rough and completely inaccurate estimate used solely to make me sound more influential then I really am) —some clothes must be avoided when attempting to read: anything with polka dots (trust me — super mesmerizing and distracting), faux leather (you will be too disappointed with yourself) and coordinated outfits that match a little too perfectly (someone will punch you in the face thus making it hard to read). It is important not to dress too warm or cold or insufferably nerdy (again, someone will punch you in the face). Finally, and I know you are thinking this, do not attempt reading naked unless you have a signed consent form from your physician.

Find a good spot — Selecting a good place to sit when reading is essential. Do you want to sit on the nice chair by the window, alone with your thoughts and your cats? Or do you want to sit on a bench in a busy public area to show off to as many other humans that you read? Do you want to select a chair that is hard and rigid, thus forcing you to read with impeccable posture and a sore backside or will you select a cushy sofa that will cause you to fight off the desire to sleep, build a fort or start a pillow fight? In the end, this is a very personal decision and I can’t pretend to make it for you, but, just saying that in order to successfully read a book, you must consider everything.

Are you sure? — This is your last chance! There is no going back. Reading is like crack (or so I’m told by this guy down the block who, on second thought, probably isn’t the best to be asking for help with metaphors what with his addiction to crack). Once you open that book in your sweaty (if you are anything like me) hands, you won’t be able to proudly claim, “I don’t read books!” or, “I promised my aunt on her deathbed I’d never read a book,” or even, “Officer, I couldn’t have committed that murder as I don’t even read books.” But, consider just how hot and attractive you will seem to a very small subsection of the population (librarians, clerks at bookstores and pasty coffee shop regulars) once you start.

Don’t let it go to your head — Okay, you’ve read a book. What do you want, a standing ovation? (okay, but just this once) We get it; you read. Well done, smarty pants. Don’t go around lording this over everyone! And careful, if you rub it in other’s faces too much they may ask you a few basic plot or content questions to make sure you weren’t just looking good, pretending to read, which you probably were. Hopefully, you enjoyed reading a book and will now become a lifelong lover of books, but just remember that cocky book readers are just slightly less annoying and stab-worthy that cocky non-book readers.

Have fun reading books!

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Tommy writes humorous stories on relationships, parenting and life. Follow Tommy on Instagram or read more articles from Tommy on Thought Catalog.