Reading, for me, is a space for dwelling on true things, storytelling, and a way out of myself. It is a quiet escape into another place, a deeper thought, or a better vision. I read from many genres, and a novel is usually accompanied by a book on personal growth or a biography of some sort. Both fiction and non-fiction serve me well in their own ways.
On its own, reading is a sufficient and worthy way to spend a rainy afternoon, pass the time in a waiting room, or say goodbye to the day before turning off the light on the nightstand. But, I have recently found three ways to enhance the reading experience (as if it needed anything else). One has a sort of utilitarian purpose, and two are more enriching in their use, but all three have served to supplement my reading.
If you are looking for some ways to inspire your reading life, I say try this! One or all of these may be helpful or motivating for you to keep reading, or to branch out and read from different genres. Worth a try. Here are three things that have enhanced my reading in some way:
Background music. This is the one that has that more utilitarian use for me. I discovered this solution one evening while my husband had a sermon video of some kind in the background. I had to drown out the background noise, because I find it impossible to read when there is a lot of talking in my ear. I need quiet space to think, receive, and process the book in my hand. The first time this happened, I was reading The Lord of the Rings (I believe it was The Fellowship of the Ring) and I thought some instrumental background music on low volume may be just enough to drown out the outside noise. I found the soundtracks for The Lord of the Rings movies on Spotify, and made a new playlist called “Music To Read To.” Not only did the music block the outside noise, but it also enhanced my reading experience in that it fit the mood of the book. I tried this again with Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. Not every book has a movie soundtrack to go along with it, so I have added various classical or instrumental pieces to my “Music To Read To” playlist that are not too distracting for my reading. I only listen to background music when I have trouble concentrating because of outside noise. This is not something that I particularly enjoy all the time when I read, but on occasion it has served me well.
Podcasts or Online Book Clubs. I have been a part of book clubs, and I enjoy them immensely. I just love discussing a book with friends. But sometimes it is also nice to listen to other people talk about a book I am reading. I am currently re-reading Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow and I found a book discussion on it on CIRCE Institute’s podcast called “Close Reads.” Each podcast singles out a few chapters and then three people discuss their thoughts and ideas on those chapters. I listened to one episode while folding laundry yesterday. A book like Jayber Crow is meant to be contemplated, so anything that causes me think more about Berry’s style, characters, or central message is a win in my book (pardon the pun). 😉 There are websites and podcasts on other books that may be helpful for you as well. They simply serve as supplements to our reading, but there is something to be said about a good old-fashioned book club, which is also helpful and easy- just grab a book and a few other people to read it along with you.
Commonplace Book. For centuries, scholars have kept books where they recorded important or meaningful excerpts from other works as a way to learn and remember what they have read. I first heard about the commonplace book on Sarah Mackenzie’s blog, and I began keeping a commonplace journal myself about a year ago. In my journal I have passages from books, meaningful quotes, and personal reflections on what I read. I don’t journal every book I read. What I usually do is have my commonplace journal within arms reach when I read (if I am at home), and then write in it whenever it seems necessary. It is not necessarily organized, but it is a place filled with true words, wisdom, and inspiration. Give it a try. It may encourage and enhance your reading experience.
These are just three ways that can serve to supplement reading. I think reading helps us come out of ourselves, become more empathetic with others, and expand our knowledge of history, the world, and humanity. But as Solomon in his wisdom instructs us, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is weariness to the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Books can only do so much for us, but the small things they do can make a world of difference.