Improve Your Reading Experience – Add Context, Go Deeper

Hey, Book Geeks! It’s been a little while since I’ve posted an update – I’m still alive and kicking (barely!) while doing my masters, and in other news I’ve a new job and I’m potentially about to buy a house. Yep, it’s been all change round these parts in 2019!

Excited Queer Eye Gif

Another big change in 2019? My reading habits.

Since starting the masters, most of my reading is prefaced with that lovely word “required”, which means it’s usually a bit more theoretical and definitely more heavy (both in content and literally) than I’m used to.

When I graduated in 2012, I delved head-first into reading just for fun again. I read a diverse mix of fiction and non-fiction from a broad range of genres, but I read pretty much for entertainment only and didn’t delve deeper, other than making a few notes for writing a review.

Now though, my reading is much more in-depth – I’m making detailed notes, linking ideas from one text to another, analysing texts critically, applying what I’m reading about in real life, and reading around a subject to give it more context.

I’ve previously talked about eight reasons reading is a superpower, which included the fact that it can help you to unwind and de-stress. While I think that’s true of reading fiction for entertainment – because the story becomes yours and you can construct vivid worlds in your mind that you almost experience with the characters – it doesn’t quite feel the same when reading non-fiction, particularly when reading it with purpose, because it requires much more effort and concentration.

While I’m looking forward to being able to read just for fun again – and some genres lend themselves very well to this, what I like to call take-your-brain-out reading – going forward, I’m going to try and read with purpose more often. Here are a few things I’ve found help me to read with purpose, and get more out of my reading experience:

1. Learn More About The Author

I don’t always find it easy to do, but sometimes you need to separate the art from the artist – especially in the context of the time the piece was written. For example, people may enjoy H.P Lovecraft’s work but understand the significance of racism at the time and that xenophobia likely contributed to the subject matter of his work.

Learning more about the author, their background, and giving context to the time the book was written can help you to understand the culture, society, and perspectives that helped to shape the piece. 

2. Reach Out To The Author

For some globally recognised authors, you may think this is a shot in the dark, but you would be surprised who might just reply (if I hadn’t reached out, I would never have gotten the chance to interview Diane Chamberlain, who I think we can all agree is pretty recognisable!).

For more niche authors with a smaller readership, there’s a higher chance you will be able to engage and learn more about what their influences were and what their inspiration was for the book. You might think it unlikely that you’ll get a response, but who wouldn’t love the chance to get in to an in-depth conversation about their own work?! Set your email up correctly (check out this guide if you have a Mac – https://setapp.com/how-to/set-up-icloud-mail-on-your-mac), with at least a semi-professional email address, and get ready for those replies!  

3. Read The Grounding Texts

I’ve found this really useful for my studies – it often helps to go back and read some of the seminal texts before tackling some of the more modern interpretations and theories. For example, when looking at modern leadership theories like authentic or servant-based leadership, it was really useful to read about the “Great Man” theories first.

Taking the initiative to read outside of your comfort zone and delve deeper into a subject area (even if it’s theories from over one hundred years ago that you think don’t apply today) means that your understanding of the topic goes much deeper than just surface level. This has also been really useful because you can see where modern expressions, terms, and context come from based on a deeper understanding of what came before. 

4. Discuss Your Reading

This one should have been really obvious to me – when you think about it, it’s why I set this blog up in the first place. I didn’t have many people “in real life” who enjoyed reading as much as I did. So I joined an online community where I could fan-girl to my heart’s content.

While I haven’t joined an “in real life” book club (yet!) I do have a class of professionals who are doing the masters with me, and part of our programme involves lots of reflection and discussion. Each individual brings their own perspective and interpretation to the conversation based on their own life experiences. This has helped change my perspective, made me think differently about a subject, and broadened my understanding in ways that reading solo would just never do. 

Over to you guys – do you enjoy reading purely for fun and escapism, or do you like to delve deeper into the books that you read? Do you read fiction and non-fiction differently? Are you a note-taking fiend? Or are you part of a book club and love nothing more than discussing your latest read in great detail? Let me know in the comments! 

About Rachel

Avid reader & book blogger. Lover of Business. A fan of drinks & dancing. Ever optimistic. Feminist.

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