By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
Sometimes we have to read books we don’t like. That’s life. This article offers eight strategies for getting through the required readings you just don’t like.
Quick little PSA: If you’re reading a book for your personal enjoyment and you’re not… personally enjoying That… so for God’s sake, stop reading it.
This article is for you if you have a book that you need to read, but it is painful to read because it is boring, irrelevant, difficult or uninteresting.
How to read a book you don’t like
1. Stop fighting.
You might hate this strategy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Obligatory reading means you have to. Plain and simple. YES the book could be boring. YES the book could be absolutely incredibly awful. But you still have to read it. Complain that the book stinks won’t make it less stinky.
2. Make a reading schedule.
If reading a book you don’t like is painful (for lack of a better word), then you can lessen that pain by planning ahead. Create a simple reading schedule using this strategy so you know exactly when and how much time to devote to your book each day. When you know how many pages to read per day, you give yourself a specific end point to your pain, which has positive psychological benefits.
3. Change media.
Novelty is one of the main ingredients of motivation. To add novelty (novelty) to your reading experience, change the format of your book. If you’re reading a physical copy, try listening to the audiobook. If you’re reading an e-book (pdf or Kindle), get the physical copy.
4. Do your research.
We learn new information in by connecting it to what we already know. This is literally how we learn. If you read a book about something completely unfamiliar to you, it makes sense that your brain would reject it. The solution is to research the book, period, and/or author before you start reading. By “search” I mean Google. If you read a book about the American Industrial Revolution and you have no idea what it is, Google the industrial revolution. Watch a video about it. Get some context. Look at the photos from the time.
5. Let WHY you are reading the book guide your reading.
There is a purpose to the book you are reading. Your teacher or professor assigned it for a reason (no, not to torture you). If you know the purpose, then you can read for this sole purpose. For example, if you read TThe Dawn of Innovation: America’s First Industrial Revolution by Charles Morris with the aim of understanding the competition between British industrialists and American industrialists, then focus on this information and annotate it only. Do you have a test coming up? Here is exactly how to read a book you are going to take a test on.
6. Optimize your reading environment.
Don’t read boring books in bed or you’ll fall asleep. Avoid reading difficult books in noisy places. Make sure your seat is comfortable but not too comfortable, and avoid slouching or reclined positions (these postures cause drowsiness). Consider bringing your book to one of these 4 oddly satisfying places to study.
7. Take care of your physical needs.
You’ll never finish a bad book if you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, in pain, overexcited, or stressed. If you don’t fuel your body with proper nutrition and sleep, even the best book will look horrible. In the worst case, use those advices to finish studying when you’re exhausted.
8. Stay metacognitive.
Metacognition is the capacity of think to think. It’s a superpower. (You CAN improve your metacognition! That’s the whole goal behind my Journal of Executive Function. check it out.) If you read a boring or irrelevant book, you’ll probably end up here and there. It’s normal, but the key is to recognize these moments JUST when they happen, and then do something to center yourself. No, “keep reading” is not a good strategy. But these are.
Knowing how to read a book you don’t like comes in handy for high school classes, college classes, professional development classes in the workplace, and even in adulthood when you’ll have to read and fill endless pages of forms for basically everything ever.