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How I Learned To Love Reading And You Can Too – Guest Post by Eric Watermolen

by Eric Watermolen

I love to learn, but I used to hate reading. Maybe it was all the boring reading assignments back in high school. Maybe it was the books I was forced to read and report on every detail of plot, theme, setting… Maybe it was a lack of interest. Maybe it was because there was something better on TV, and TV watching required less effort. I feel that I could go on and on making excuses to avoid reading.

Then one day, several years after high school, I had the bright idea that reading could actually be fun. I’m not sure what sparked it. It may have been thinking back to some of the few books on the high school reading list that I actually enjoyed (or actually read; Clif notes were my friend back then.) I remembered reading Brave New World and how enjoyable that book was too read. I thought back to the Choose Your Own Adventure books, where I was able to guide the story by making a choice and flipping around in the book to continue the story. I thought back to The Little Prince, remembering very little of it, but having some shred of a fond memory remaining.

Wait a second!

It was like a switch flipped in my brain. I did like reading. I had been reading magazines for years. I read some non-fiction books on and off, and had really liked learning little tidbits of wisdom and knowledge. I wanted something more though. I wanted reading to be FUN. I wanted to LOVE reading. Deep down I knew it was possible. It had to be, I’ve seen plenty of people reading, and the book industry was alive and well. Libraries still had patrons and book stores were still in business. Somebody must be reading all those books, and some of them had to really love reading.

My quest began. The first question was, “What book would be a good reintroduction to reading?” I wanted something that was practically guaranteed to be good. That’s a tall order, something that everyone might love, something that I would love.

I knew the only place to start would be classic literature. They are called classics for a reason, right? They have withstood the test of time. I turned to my trusty dial up Internet connection… bzzz, bing, bong, bong. (This was mid 90’s before high speed Internet was readily available.)

I did a couple of searches. I searched for high school reading lists (those darn high school teachers actually picked some good books, who knew?) I also searched for classic literature and authors of classic literature. I came up with a short list of authors.

Ernest Hemingway, Jules Verne, John Steinbeck, Herman Melville.

This is where I would begin, with these authors.

The first step

The book I chose to begin this quest to love reading was The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. It seemed to be the perfect starting point. The book was relatively short, had a manly topic, and was written by a great author. Looking back on it now, this was the perfect choice. I LOVED that book. I could hardly put it down once I started reading. I whipped through that book in no time at all.

Next up, The Little Prince. Still not convinced that reading was FUN, I wanted another short book. The search for a short book combined with the fond memories I had put this on my radar as book number two. (It wasn’t on my list of authors, but it felt right to read this one next.)

Another great choice. I remembered this book as a child, or maybe I remembered the cartoon. In any case, the fond memories were there, but I didn’t realize this was a grown up book disguised as a children’s book. It has some very grown up themes.

How thoroughly enjoyable to stumble across this discovery. The experiment was working, I definitely liked reading. How about LOVING it? I was sure this feeling was on the horizon. I could almost see that love peaking over the horizon.

Book number three was Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. Holy cow man, I could not put this book down. I could hardly believe the thought and level of detail that went into this book. All the ideas seemed plausible and the adventure was amazing. I was really blown away by the level of detail in the scientific gizmos and theories.

Three short books = love of reading

I had done it. In three short books I created a love for reading. Perhaps it had always been there, but was just buried under a pile of everyday life and distractions. In any case, I had done it. I achieved what I set out to achieve. This isn’t one of those goals that just ended once it’s reached however, this achievement stayed with me.

I continued on with more classics including many from Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days, The Mysterious Island. Then a few more from Hemingway: Green Hills of Africa, The Sun also Rises, To Have and Have Not. Some Steinbeck: Tortilla Flats, The Pearl. And one by Herman Melville: Moby Dick.

That was my first year of reading. My experiment was a huge, humongous, resounding success. I now love to read, and I’m always in the middle of two or three books at a time. If you want to find that love of reading, or rekindle it if it’s faded, I suggest starting where I started. You don’t have to start with the exact same books (although I can highly recommend them.)

To summarize, here’s the process to learn to love reading.

Start with the classics.

Find some short books by great authors of classic literature.

Start of slowly and enjoy your time.

Gradually add longer books or try some other authors.

You’ll soon have some new favorites and you will love to read. I guarantee it.

What about you? Any of this sound familiar?

About The Author:

Eric Watermolen is a lifestyle blogger and amateur philosopher. He enjoys discussions of our path in life; where the path leads, the adventure along the path, and the unseen forces that guide us as we progress along our own personal path. You can find him at Eden Journal where he posts a wide spectrum of articles from personal development to spiritual and philosophical awakenings.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Armen Shirvanian March 18, 2010, 12:09 am

    Hi Eric (and Josh).

    Very cool stuff here. Reading is where a lot of the action is. This is a cool way you have described to get into the reading routine. I like how you went with the classics, and then informed about how to expand from that.

    I have a partial interest in reading some more of the classics at some point, but currently I regularly read items of nonfiction in the categories of psychology, sociology, strategy, business, communication, and subjects like those. I know the reading I do gives me an advantage, so you are right in presenting it this way here.

    • Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010, 4:59 am

      Hi Armen. The classics were a wonderful way to get started, I can highly recommend any of the ones I read. Good to see that you are reading consistently in the nonfiction category, there are so many great books packed full of great information. I recommend throwing a piece of fiction in the mix just to keep things fun. Maybe Josh’s new book when it hits Amazon. 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne March 18, 2010, 12:33 pm

      Armen, have you read any non-fiction recently that you really enjoyed?

  • Patty - Why Not Start Now? March 18, 2010, 1:33 am

    I might have told you this before, Eric, but what drew me to your blog immediately was your section about books, and it was all classic fiction. I loved that! Kind of like you had me at “favorite books.” And great post here, fun, made me chuckle. So now I’m off to read a bit before bed: Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility. I wonder, is that the female version of Journey to the Center of the Earth?

    p.s. Great guest, Josh!

    • Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010, 5:02 am

      Patty, You have told me that before, but I like hearing it, so we’re good there. Jane Austen may very well be the female counterpart to Jules Verne. I haven’t read any Jane Austen yet, maybe I’ll pick that one up next time I’m at the used book store.

    • Josh Hanagarne March 18, 2010, 12:34 pm

      Patty, Eric hacked into the blog and posted this himself. I wasn’t even positive I was having a guest today, but I guess he can stay. I like him.

  • Some great tips Eric. The love of reading is a beautiful thing!

    • Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010, 5:07 am

      Thanks Shannon, reading is indeed a beautiful thing. I have come to like it more than TV even.

  • Ivana Sendecka March 18, 2010, 5:34 am

    Hello Eric,

    thanks for sharing your journey how you have got hooked up with reading, indeed great picks to start with.
    I am happy to see more and more people getting fond of reading, books are such gifts to the mankind and we simply put them away for the sake of TV? aaaw….
    Recently I have posted following video blog about how i read books and how you can make reading books fun
    http://ivanasendecka.com/2010/02/16/video-on-reading-books/

    Then I have done live video book review of Seth Godin’s review and response was astonishing, people were running to the bookstores:-)
    http://ivanasendecka.com/2010/02/26/video-special-live-book-review/
    😉
    sometimes little bit of effort can awaken people.
    I am glad you guys are doing your best as well!

    cheers from Slovakia
    i.

    • Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010, 8:47 am

      Ivana, I’m looking forward to viewing your video. I’m at work and we have an overly restrictive web filter, so I’ll check it out when I get home. I’m always open to new ways of making reading fun.

  • Bradley March 18, 2010, 7:52 am

    I figured out I loved reading as a Senior in High School. I attribute it to the teacher I had for literature.

    That said, I love reading… short books. I can’t stand trying to read some of the epic novels written by a lot of the newer authors.

    If you haven’t read, “The Catcher in the Rye”, check it out… one of my fav’s.

    • Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010, 8:51 am

      Bradley, Great teachers really can make a difference. I really hate to put too much blame on the teachers, but I have an example that made a big difference for me. In my senior year I was taking Advanced Placement English and hated it. Reading was to be done quickly and then reported on in detail. I transfered out of that class and into an Honors English class and was so much happier. Reading was done at a much more leisurely pace, and we had open and fun discussions about the books we read.

      You know, “The Catcher in the Rye” has been on my radar for a while, but I’ve never read it. I’m adding it to my list. Thanks!

    • Josh Hanagarne March 18, 2010, 12:35 pm

      I loved Catcher in The Rye, but it wasn’t the life-changer for me that it seems to be for a lot of people. I’m with you on a lot of the big epic stuff. I do believe that a good book can’t be too long, but most books just aren’t good.

  • Joy Tanksley March 18, 2010, 8:01 am

    Eric – I am an 8th grade English teacher and your post really delighted me today! I have some pretty tough customers when it comes to reading; one of my major goals is for students to go on to high school with a true love of reading. (And I’m really good at acheiving this goal! It’s awesome to see a kid who has a reputation for fighting and cutting class walking down the hall with his nose in a book!)

    I loved to read as a child, but started to struggle with it in middle school. Fortunatley, I read _To Kill a Mockingbird_ in 10th grade and that book changed everything for me. So I hear you on the classics! But I also want to add that there are wonderful books in all genres from all time periods (and a lot of debate about what really constitutes a classic) so I would encourage any reluctant readers to start with whatever books look the most delicious!

    • Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010, 8:58 am

      Joy, Great point on there being many wondeful books outside of the classics. Sometimes the vast number of books makes the task of choosing one a bit overwhelming. I think that’s why I started with the classics, the list was a little more managable. Although I hear Josh is pretty good at recommending books, so maybe he or one of his librarian posse would be a good place to start too.

    • Josh Hanagarne March 18, 2010, 12:37 pm

      Joy, I salute you. You’ve got a rough job that I know can be thankless. Good for you. I’m about to start reading To Kill A Mockingbird for the millionth time.

      • Meryl K Evans March 18, 2010, 1:56 pm

        Ooh… I try to avoid rereading stuff especially fiction — occasional re-reads when I am trying to “grasp” a subject well. I’ve got so many books to meet, so I hate to reread and deprive another.

  • Professor Beej March 18, 2010, 8:40 am

    I wish I could get my students to have your mindset. Honestly, I have a hard time getting them to read a 3-page short story in their anthology in order to take their quizzes each day (and these are college freshmen/sophomores!).

    I know that it has to do with the disconnect that comes from being “required” to read something and fostering the desire alone. I just wish it were easier to show the fun in reading while still being able to teach/assess. As it stands, the two stand antithetical to many of my students.

    • Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010, 9:05 am

      Professor Beej, I believe that is a problem that many teachers face. In fact, I during high school and much of college, I was similar to these students. Part of the problem I always had was the time factor. I didn’t like to spend time reading when I could be doing other things. It took me a while to see that viewpoint was rather backward in that many of the “other” things were of much less value than reading.

      The quizzing and testing (a seeminlgy neccessary part of our current school sytem) was one of the things I hated most about reading. It distracted me from the enjoyment. I’m not sure I have any solution to that. Maybe Joy or some of the other teachers here can give some tips.

    • Joy Tanksley March 18, 2010, 9:09 am

      Indeed. The “required” piece is tricky. I am fortunate to see my youngsters for 90 minutes every day, so I give 15-20 minutes each class period to “independent reading”. There are no strings attached with this. No book reports. No requirement to read at home (though my students usually do). I spend a lot of money on hot new titles in young adult fiction. And I build a relationship with each student – I check in on what they are reading and we talk about it. It’s wonderful but sometimes exhausting and not realistic for every teaching setting. Once I spark that love for reading, it spills over into our required reading. They trust my choices a lot more and are willing to give a wider variety of texts a chance. Even then, they don’t love every single piece of literature I select.

    • Josh Hanagarne March 18, 2010, 12:39 pm

      I was never really someone who hated to read required material just because it was required, but I know that’s not the norm. So how do you work around it with your students? Any successful tactics?

      • Joy Tanksley March 18, 2010, 2:44 pm

        Was this question for me? 🙂 I’m going to answer it either way! Here’s what works:
        1. Building strong relationships
        2. Having high and clearly defined expectations
        3. Giving students as much choice as possible within the standards of my curriculum
        4. Focusing on process more than product

  • Srinivas Rao March 18, 2010, 9:03 am

    Hi Eric,

    It’s interesting how much more we enjoy something when we are not forced to do it, but we chose to do it. I’ve read many books over the last year and I was never much a reader in high school and college. In fact there was a point in elementary school where I hated it so much that I got accused of possibly having a learning disability. Funny how it all changes when do things out of our own will.

  • Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010, 9:09 am

    Srinivas. A learning disability indeed! You just go against the grain to find your own path. Interesting how that path is sometimes longer but ultimately more rewarding.

  • ami March 18, 2010, 9:24 am

    wonderful post Eric. I love the books you identified as starters, great idea to start with the short ones before progressing to the more substantial ones.

    I have a son who loves to read, and I’d like to (gently) direct him to more classics. He developed his love of reading by being permitted, even encouraged to read whatever he wanted, so he gobbled up comic books, fantasies and adventures. Now that he’s eaten his dessert, I’m gonna start him on some healthy fruit and veggies 🙂

    • Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010, 9:42 am

      ami, I love the idea of eating dessert first. I’ll take two helping of chocolate cheesecake and a stack of adventure books. I was never into comic books, but I bet it’s a great way to get into a habbit of reading. Follow that up with the fruits and veggie classics and I think you have a winning plan.

    • Josh Hanagarne March 18, 2010, 12:39 pm

      Give him Gulliver’s Travels! If a book ever changed my outlook on literature as a kid, it’s that one.

  • Meryl K Evans March 18, 2010, 12:28 pm

    Short and great reads are a fabulous way to get back into reading mode. That’s what happened to me. I’ve always loved reading, but I went on a hiatus due to other commitments. You fall out of habit. So I asked people for their favorite short and powerful reads. Here’s what they said:

    http://www.meryl.net/2009/03/02/short-powerful-and-favorite-books/

    I recently read The Little Prince, but was a little disappointed. Sounds like it was not as great for you, too?

  • Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010, 12:39 pm

    Wow Meryl, that’s a heck of a list. I’ll have to check some of those out. I actually started this quest quite a while ago, and the specific details are hazey. I liked The Little Prince, but it wasn’t at all what I remembered from childhood.

  • Robby G March 19, 2010, 12:03 pm

    I’ve always been fond of reading, but only recently I began to read Hemingway’s novels. I’m reading Fiesta currently and it’s top notch literature. I gotta say though most of the literature I was forced to read in high school I found to be rubbish. It was in the later years when they thought we were bright enough to read Dostoevsky that I was in agreement with the curriculum.