There’s no right way or wrong way to read, because it all depends on your objective. Personally, I read for pleasure, which means that my primary aim is an immersive reading experience. This means that I don’t stop. If something’s confusing, I just move on and assume it’ll be made clear later. I ignore footnotes, endnotes, introductions, reference materials, and appendices. I’m all about generating some king of movement.
But that doesn’t mean that my technique couldn’t use refinement. Lately I’ve been trying to improve my concentration, so that I focus more fully on what I read. Because my mind wanders, you know. I’m reading a book and it could be the best book in the world, and suddenly I’m thinking about lunch. And if I can keep my mind on what I am reading and off of lunch, then I read faster, fall into the book more easily, and enjoy it more.
However, it’s not so easy to control your mind. So far there’re two techniques I’ve been using. The first is to use this tally counter. I hold it in my left hand while reading and I just click it whenever I notice my mind wandering. I don’t have to get back on track or anything, but that additional vigilance regarding my thought processes is sometimes enough to keep me on track.
The other thing I do is start the stopwatch app on my phone and see how long I can let it run without doing anything other than reading (i.e. no getting up for a drink of water, checking my email, clipping my toenails, looking at my text messages, etc). So far, my longest count has been just over an hour. Sometimes it’s astonishing how short my intervals are. At times, I’ve read for what felt like aeons and it turned out to just be five minutes.
I’ve also been thinking a bit about posture. When I was in the Denver airport, reading the last half of Ulysses, I was largely sitting up and poised slightly forward, over the book. It’s a bit of an action posture. Whereas I normally do most of my reading while lying prone, which definitely seems likely to contribute to distraction. Perhaps I should get myself one of those tilted reading desks they always seem to have in antique shops.
What about you guys? Any concentration tips and tricks?