Man Booker Prize Progress

There are twenty-six days left before the Man Booker Prize winner is announced. Twenty-six days remaining for me to complete reading all six shortlisted finalists.

I’ve got halfway through my first book. I am way behind schedule.

I’m not daunted by what remains – fortunate given that according to my Kindle I’ve got another 26 hours of reading time to get through.

The process so far has been enjoyable and enlightening. I made the tactical decision to read up on the best strategies for reading novels quickly.

How To Read A Book has been invaluable. It’s reminded me of the need to not get too bogged down in the detail, to maintain a ‘light touch’ when reading, and to strive to answer a few questions as I read.

Those questions are, put simply: what is the book about as a whole; what is said in detail in the book; is the book ‘true’, accurate or ‘authentic’; and my favourite question because it’s so pompous and potentially dismissive, what of it?

How To Read A Book advocates a similar approach to reading – be active in your attentiveness and immerse yourself totally – as I’ve taken to listening to classical music over the past couple of years. It’s not that reading a book will relax you and improve your focus. What’s vital to reading a book effectively is making sure you’re reasonably relaxed first and you’re focussed on the goal.

On the one hand that seems like a really obvious thing to say. But, like the book points out, reading is something that we just assume we can do. Once we’re taught one of level reading – recognition and comprehension – we assume that’s as far as we need to go. But what if we need a spot of guidance on how to read at a deeper level, just in the same way listening more attentively in the concert hall can yield a deeper emotional attachment with the music being played?

The overriding advice in How To Read A Book has been to trust yourself as you cast your eye over the text. The stuff that’s important will stick in your mind. The detail will probably be lost, but sufficient data necessary for comprehension will remain. Approaching a book in a slightly more trusting way makes for an entirely different reading experience. It has maintained attention, increased stamina and, ultimately, increased words per minute.

But perhaps the most surprising piece of advice was the idea of writing notes as you read. I’ve always done this for non-fiction and, of course, written notes during coaching sessions, lectures, press conferences and the like. The process is less about creating an extant record of proceedings, more about committing key points into my memory via the tactile experience of scribbling on the page.

How To Read A Book goes further, suggesting that the process of writing notes about key points, thoughts, reflections and reactions as you read is an important part of forming a relationship with the book you’re reading. I’ve never thought of doing that with fiction before now. My assumption had always been that if it’s fiction and it’s well-enough written, I’ll remember everything simply by virtue of the fact that I can’t put the book down.

Some thoughts emerge about reading as a pastime which I hadn’t considered before:

• Reading doesn’t take as long as I sometimes think it might do
• There’s an element of procrastination at work when I approach
• The key to successful reading is being able to get in deep as quickly as possible
• There needs to be little or no distractions to get focussed
• Reading creates ties between reader and author which are quite creepy
• Books make television drama look like child’s play
• Television crushes imagination
• Just because something is written on the page doesn’t mean it’s easy to understand
• It’s OK not to like something, so long as you can explain why

I’ll be posting about the first book I’ve read as part of the Man Booker Prize Challenge – Do Not Say We Have Nothing – in the next few days.

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