We read books because we want to gain something. We want to learn something new, to explore different sides of life, and to feel understood. To make sure that you can get as much as possible out of every book you read, it can be helpful to use some ‘active reading’ strategies. These strategies will improve your comprehension, deepen your understanding and improve your retention.
Here are 6 active reading tips that you can start using today:
1. Set yourself a goal
Setting a goal before you start reading will prime your subconscious. You’re more likely to pick up on things you’ve told yourself to keep an eye out for, consciously or otherwise. For example, if you’re interested in creative writing, you might set yourself the goal of picking when the author uses creative literary devices or bold turns-of-phrase.
2. Get to know the author
When you explore your impression of the author, you add an extra layer of meaning to their work. It doesn’t matter if your interpretation of them is 100% accurate - the purpose is to use your imagination. Your impression of the author and the facts of their life will frame how you read and interpret their work.
3. Take a sensory snapshot
Often when we read, we consume passively and rarely wander outside the impression set by the author. This is because we don’t often read to recall. We read to be absorbed and then forget. When you read with the intention of remembering, you are hit with a series of complex impressions. You can improve the sticking power by making these impressions sensory. Stop for a second, put the book down, and build a sensory snapshot. You can take inspiration from the book itself and imagine scents, the texture of walls, the background noise in the scene. Or use sensory cues from the world around you like the hum of traffic, the rising steam from your tea, the pressure of the chair where it meets your back. Any sensory information you layer onto an impression will make it more specific, more memorable, and easier to recall.
4. Make it personal
Books that we relate to personally tend to leave a stronger impression on our memory. Creating links between our experiences and what we're reading is a good way to strengthen our memories. Play around with comparing characters to people you know, imagine yourself as part of the narrative, or give nicknames to highbrow concepts. Making your mark can help you contextualise and retain the contents of a book.
5. Analyse the writing
It can be hard to build your own meaning of a book if you’re busy trying to figure out what the author meant. why Literary devices and story structures are a good place to start. Metaphor, diction, epigraph, euphemism - get to know your authors' favourite devices and you’ll pull back the curtain of their mind.
6. Talk it out!
Sitting down and explaining your book to a friend is a great way to reframe what you’re reading. The words, patterns, and limitations we use to think and write are different to those we use when we speak. You might surprise yourself with the links you make while chatting. Communicating to different audiences forces you to think strategically about how you present your ideas. Best-case scenario is you end up with a deeper, more communal analysis of what you're reading (and a ready-made book club!).
If you want to become a more active and engaged reader, BOB (Book of Books) is the best friend you can have. Order your BOB today.