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12 Common Reading Mistakes You’re Making That You Need to Stop Making if You Want to Be Thin and Pretty Like Me

  1. Stop not reading things because they’re popular
    Is it popular? Read it!
  2. Stop not reading things because they’re unpopular
    Once you get through that clusterhump of negation, you’ll understand: Is it unpopular? Read it!
  3. Stop trying to agree with everything the author says
    This isn’t medieval Europe and that book isn’t the Bible.
    Every book, and I literally mean every book, has some value in it.
    And also some crap. You decide which is which, not the glances of strangers or ignorant acquaintances.
  4. Stop trying to disagree with everything the author says
    There is a technical term for someone who confuses the opinions of an author of a book with those of the reader. That term is “idiot”. With apologies to Mr. S.M. Stirling 😉 .
  5. Stop justifying your reading choices to the mainstream
    Tell them to justify your (girl-)nuts. Anyone who would presume to cast aspersions on your reading choices can go perform incestuous acts with a female parent.

    “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.” ~ Jo Goodwin

  6. Stop trying to read every word
    Skip it. The book’s not running away.
  7. Stop trying to read every page
    Stop trying to force yourself to read every page/sentence/section. If the book is actually any fun (for you right now), it’ll make you read it unconsciously; it’ll make itself get read. The only thing you need to do is consciously skip the boring parts, the hard parts, the parts where you get bogged down and stop moving. Reading is a sport, a physical act, and that means motion is key. Move. Reading is turning pages. So skip. Skip it! If it matters, you can come back another time, another day.
  8. Stop taking reading seriously
    Seriousness leads to worry. Worry to impaired cognitive function, AKA stupidity. The act of reading doesn’t require you to be smart, but it does require you to be not-stupid 😀 .
  9. Stop trying to read in massive chunks of time
    Most of life is waiting. Most of life is disjoint snippets of time: two, three, five minutes here or there. That’s when you read. Life is fast cuts, like a Michael Bay/J. J. Abrams movie. The reason you “don’t have time to read” is because you’re expecting the cut size to change at some point, for that massive lull to come. Well, it’s not gonna. Stop trying and waiting for some golden multi-hour block: Assume that you’re not gonna get it, because even if you did get it, your powers of concentration wouldn’t hold up. Read books like you read the phone book or the Internet or SMS messages (cellphone texts). Skip all the boring bits without guilt or shame. Reading is skimming.
  10. Stop judging other people for what they read

    “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” ~ Søren Kierkegaard

    Cut the Gestapo crap. They — other people– have rights, too. You have no right to impugn their choice of books or otherwise unduly influence their reading. People talk a whole lot about freedom of speech, but what’s really at stake here is something even more precious, even more sacred: freedom of thought. Freedom of mental association. Most grownups wouldn’t make fun of a person’s friends, why make fun of their books?

  11. Stop being afraid of being judged for what you read

    “It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not” ~ André Gide

    Show what you read with pride, or at least without shame. You’ll repel haters and attract kindred spirits. I have a friend living in America who’s made a lot of Japanese friends just because of her habit of shamelessly reading Japanese manga in public. They come to her. I myself started being more open about the books I read and started to meet people that I actually like (rather than merely tolerate). In Japan, bookstores offer to put a cover on the books they sell you. Lame. Sure, it prevents the derision of haters, but it also prevents the admiration of fans and future friends.

    We talk a lot about standing up for rights and protests and all that righteous stuff. People risk their lives to save other people. And that’s great. But arguably, the greatest courage is in these small daily acts of defiance against conformity. Social risk is objectively less dangerous than impending biological/physical risk, but (ironically) it takes more guts to take a social risk than to put your life on the line.

    Any book can be good because the true value of a book isn’t in the words on the page but in the thoughts and associations it sets off in your head. So anyone who tries to limit what books you read and why is ultimately trying to limit your thought — your mind. This is shit of the bull persuasion. It doesn’t matter that they mean well. Incompetent drivers “mean well”. DO. NOT. ALLOW. IT.

  12. Stop thinking/whining that books are expensive

    “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” ~ Derek Bok

    Books are by far the best value for money you will ever get on information. If anything, books are too cheap. Considering what you get in a book, they are far too cheap. Some of the most wonderful, life-changing books cost the exact same as what can only politely be described as literary feces.

    Seminars? That’ Swahili for “paying money to have someone say a subset of the stuff that’s already in the book”

    Videos? It’s all in the book.

    Classes? That’s Sanskrit for “paying money to have someone read books to you out loud in a monotone voice and/or tell you what books to go buy and read so you can be tested on them”.

    All of which is not to say that non-books have no value: they totally do. The volume and presentation of information can be a total game changer; classic example: you’re far more likely to replay an audiobook than to re-read a book. It’s just that pound for pound, bit for bit, in terms of raw information, a book will basically never lead you astray.

  13. Stop acting surprised that that one book isn’t the only book you’ll need on the subject until the end of time amen
    Jon Biesnecker, who has a habit of building brilliant blogs and then letting them get deleted, once called this “the tyranny of a single source of information”. There’s a reason we have jillions of books and counting. Every book is incomplete. Every book. To my knowledge, even the major religions don’t rely on just one book.
  14. Stop complaining that that book is incomplete
    Of course it’s in-com-freaking-plete, bee arch! See above.
  15. Stop expecting agreement
    In fact, stop expecting, period. Stop expecting agreement. Stop expecting disagreement. Stop expecting to agree with everything in the book. Stop expecting the author’s statements to agree with all his previous statements. Stop expecting respect and praise from other people for the books you read. Stop expecting derision from other people for the books you read. Stop expecting any form of unanimity in any direction, towards or from anyone. There is always a mix of agreement, disagreement and indifference. Now, like Juba and Maximus, you’re free. Cue Enya song. You can thank me later.

PS: Yes, #9 is the most important.

  28 comments for “12 Common Reading Mistakes You’re Making That You Need to Stop Making if You Want to Be Thin and Pretty Like Me

  1. Freddy
    May 21, 2013 at 09:48

    Much agreed with all of it. And yes, #9 is the MOST IMPORTANT.

  2. Dangph
    May 21, 2013 at 10:01

    If you are learning a European language, don’t try reading *Important Classics* from Project Gutenberg. I see people doing this all the time at the French meetup I go to. It’s really dumb. The language in those books would be challenging to a native speaker.

    “Stop thinking/whining that books are expensive”

    Yes! At the speed we can read, the dollars per hour of entertainment ratio is practically zero. Downloading crusty old free books really isn’t worth it.

    • emk
      May 22, 2013 at 01:41

      Dangph: “If you are learning a European language, don’t try reading *Important Classics* from Project Gutenberg. I see people doing this all the time at the French meetup I go to.”

      Unless, of course, you’re reading those classics because they’re fun. Seriously, the French wrote some pretty good stuff in the 1800s, and if somebody likes reading “Les trois mousquetaires”, there’s no reason why they should stop. I’ve seen spy movies with fewer action scenes.

      Still, I know what you mean. Too many people read the French classics out of some sense of obligation, the way I eat peas. (And don’t get me started on L’Étranger.) Seriously, folks. French pop culture is massive, there’s something for every taste, and your regular Amazon account works just fine on Two weeks from now you could have a big stack of excellent graphic novels, a TV series or two, and enough reading material to keep you busy for a long time.

    • Anon85
      May 22, 2013 at 02:27

      “The language in those books would be challenging to a native speaker.”

      Not always. In French, Dumas is really easy to read as he’s really just an adventure novelist. The thing though that will really be tough for non-native speakers is the grammar used in those books is not really only found in literature and learners won’t have had access to that grammar unless they read these books.

      So I do find fault in your quote as native speakers (I am one in French) do not find those books difficult. They might not want to read the book, but they’re not difficult.

      Now, CLASSICAL MEDIEVAL French is hard and incomprehensible.

      • Dangph
        May 22, 2013 at 14:32

        “Not always. In French, Dumas is really easy to read as he’s really just an adventure novelist.”

        Maybe, but language, especially vernacular, has changed since then. As beginners we have no way of knowing what is current language and what is 19th century.

        • Anon85
          May 23, 2013 at 01:40

          Oh, I definitely would not recommend Dumas to a beginner! My referring to Dumas was in response to the “even NATIVE speakers find it hard to understand” because native speakers do understand it. Very easily, in fact.

    • Jenni
      May 24, 2013 at 07:29

      There is a reason why I have near-native English ability and still haven’t read any Shakespeare. I’m not ashamed to say that the only way I would understand it would be with so much effort that I would not consider it good use of my time. I still dare to say that my English is good enough.

      I think it is the same with classics in my native language. They really need to be updated for the younger generation, because language evolves and the book isn’t worth anything if no one reads it because it is too damn hard for the general population.

      • Anon85
        May 25, 2013 at 15:10

        How would you update a classic? Instead of Don Quixote riding on horseback, do you want him to drive a Ford truck? I’m not understanding why it needs to be updated. Try reading a classic and you’ll see it’s not really as difficult as many seem it to be. But I understand some people just find them boring and that’s a different matter as that is just a question of taste and what you like. But classics are definitely worth it. Oh goodness are they worth it. Some amazing books out there. And I wouldn’t want a single word “updated”.

        • Jenni
          May 25, 2013 at 17:55

          I mean update the *language*. When the language has evolved so much that most people can’t understand the original anymore, it needs to be translated into modern language. I enjoy classics very much, and have read more classics than most people my age (including Don Quixote – although translated into modern Norwegian, so I have no clue how the language in the original is in terms of ease of understanding). I just find it too slow and time-consuming to read books whose language is so old and outdated that I can’t easily understand them. I read a lot for pleasure in several languages, but I need the reading to be at a certain speed for me to take pleasure in it.

          If the language was modernized a bit, more people would enjoy those books. Don’t you agree that that would be a good thing?

          • Anon85
            May 27, 2013 at 08:12

            Unfortunately I don’t think that it’s the language that deters people from reading the classics. Oh well.

            • Erik
              September 4, 2013 at 17:37

              Never cared for Shakespeare in school because of the language barrier. Sure it was English but it wasn’t the same English I grew up with…

  3. ケイトリン
    May 21, 2013 at 14:13

    This is exactly what I needed to see today. Your advice on how to stop being neurotic about reading is helpful!

  4. Tha Smacka
    May 21, 2013 at 22:05

    Is this geared towards those reading non-fiction? Why would you want to skip the “boring” parts of a novel you’re reading? Or even skim through it, for that matter.

  5. Cavesa
    May 22, 2013 at 15:22

    Firstly, I have always wanted to tell you, Khatzumoto: Thanks a lot! This piece of the web is totally awesome. Even though I lack your dedication, I have got tons of inspiration from your articles and they have helped me with my own learning path. And I trully enjoy reading you.

    This piece is one of your finest, in my opinion. Too many people are worried to be seen reading what they would like to read. And too many choose books based on prejudices of others instead of using their own brains and hearts. And choosing something you are interested in, or even passionate about, is the best way to ensure you will get through no matter the harder parts.

    In response to others in the comments: I love A.Dumas and V.Hugo and I’m going to read them in French during the summer. The fact that they are available for free on Gutenberg is a nice bonus but I would even buy them or borrow them in the library if they weren’t. But when reading the translation, I did skip parts of Les Miserables. I loved the story but I hated those ten pages long descriptions of old battles and stuff like that. So the advice about skipping is not a bad one actually. It’s better to skip a page here and there than to throw the book away.

    I have a trouble with number 9. I tend to find a few minutes here and there very easily but they often become the long hours I cannot afford.

  6. 魔法少女☆かなたん
    May 24, 2013 at 03:37

    12? Twelve? I see 15. I’m going to not agree with this blog post in its entirety, just to be meta about it.

  7. Livonor
    May 26, 2013 at 01:27

    the 11# totally hit my lazy butt, I receive a package from J-list with 2 dictionary-sized magazines, full of manga エッチ and stuff, and thought to myself “mannn, would’be too 恥ずかしい if read this in public, better do that just at home”

  8. ウイ好きー
    May 31, 2013 at 23:14

    “the true value of a book isn’t in the words on the page but in the thoughts and associations it sets off in your head.” This extends to pretty much every for of creative medium and has got to be one of the most, if not the most important aspect of enjoyment. You gave me the warm and fuzzies by posting that line. (晴れやか笑顔)

  9. June 11, 2013 at 19:27

    I do want to be thin and pretty like you 😉
    Seriously though, one of the mistakes I’ve been making is avoiding books that are popular. That’s not a good strategy. It doesn’t matter whether the popular book is in fact badly written… it’s worth reading anyway.
    It will probably become a pop culture reference too.

    • Dangph
      June 11, 2013 at 21:53

      When we read in a foreign language, it’s as if we take a hit in intelligence. It’s as if we become dumber. We could lose 20 IQ points or more. We could even become borderline retarded. In that case, yes, it is entirely appropriate to read popular books!

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