Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: how to read a book

How to Read a Book #1

Ok, I’ve decided something. I’ve been posting quotes from the books I’m reading to social media, Instagram mostly, and I just can’t do it anymore. Long story. Still working on how to explain my issue there. I’m going to try something else for a while.

For the rest of the month of May, each time I sit down with the book I’m reading, I’m going to pull something out from those pages and write about it here. No pretty graphics, no trying to get a good keyword, no SEO stuff, just me thinking back on what I just read. I may post more than once a day this way, and some days I won’t post at all.

I’m almost to the end of How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler, so I’ll be jumping to the end pretty quickly. Going back to the beginning of the book and summarizing just isn’t my style. I may do some of that for my last post about each book I read, but for right now I’m jumping in right where I am.

“…’purism.’ This is the error of supposing that a given book can be read in only one way. It is an error because books are not pure in character, and that in turn is due to the fact that the human mind, which writes and reads them, is rooted in the senses and imagination and moves or is moved by emotions and sentiment.”

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler

Every book we read has so much inside it and so much we bring to it, that every reading is different. It’s like a friendship. You meet in elementary school, and then again in high school or college. Years later, you happen to run into each other at the airport or the grocery store. You are years older, so much has happened, that you feel like strangers. Maybe you meet again at your high school or university’s 40th Reunion and it’s all different again.

There is no one way we meet an author through their work.

Something Crazy, Hold on to Your Potatoes

My dear, dear reader, I have done something crazy. You may want to sit down while you read this. Oh, wait, most people ARE sitting down while they read. At least, I hope they are. Maybe you’re one of those, “I’ll read on my phone while I walk” people. What? Why?! Explain yourself!

Never mind that. Here comes the news.

I have joined an in-person book club.

I know! I warned you it would be crazy!

And guess what? It’s local, like right here in my own town kind of local. And I’m going. I have the book and I’m reading it, now all I have to do is summon (that world does not look right at all) up all the courage I have and actually get in my truck, drive over there, walk in the door, and introduce myself.

“All I have to do…” Ug…my heart races and I feel sick just writing that. But I’m going to do it!

There are lots of reasons not to join a book club. First of all, there are people there. And second, they may be reading books that mean absolutely nothing to me. And then…did I mention people?

But, you guys, I need to get out and meet new people. I’ve gotten out of practice and THAT’S why it seems so complicated. What better way than at a book club? Nothing can go wrong, not really. And I’m not bound to keep going for any reason. The worst can only be showing up and feeling a bit awkward for an hour or so. I can handle this. I’ve been awkward all my life!

Just writing that made me think of something I could use to get through this first encounter with new people. During my meditation practice, I’ve been learning to simply BE in my feelings, allow them to hang out even if they are ugly, and not react to them. What if I did that at the meeting?

Instead of working myself up these next few weeks, worrying about who they might be, what they might say, or whether or not I’ll make a fool out of myself, I’ll just read the book. And that day, when I’m supposed to be getting my stuff together and driving over there, I’ll simply do that.

I’ll be nervous about getting there on time and not getting lost. I’ll feel sick about it and not be able to eat dinner before I go. But that’s ok. That’s only ancient instincts reminding me that new people, new situations, may be dangerous. This is not dangerous, so I’ll calm myself by taking deep breaths and giving myself a hug, maybe bring a nice, iced lemonade with a shot of tequila hidden in it.

Want to know what my other biggest fear is? My mouth running out of control.

When I’m nervous, I fill any pause with incessant chatter, and sometimes it’s not pleasant. It’s like I’m two people, the person making noise and the person in my head saying, “Shut up! Oh, my…why must you open your mouth?! Wow, that’s just great. They are never going to invite you again.” Which only makes me more nervous and then more talkative.

I’m wondering how I can solve this problem. How do I find a way to be ok with some pauses in the conversation? How do I relax and think, instead of filling up space with anything that comes to mind? I really don’t know. Tequila probably doesn’t help.

Wait…there’s more to this book club thing. You’re going to laugh.

I’ve joined two of them. Yep. I heard that Meet-Up was a good place to find groups, so I joined it…again (I have run away from it before) and started looking around. I found several that meet online, but virtual people will not help me get back into the swing of making friends, so I kept looking.

something crazy
I have a new book journal too!

One that I settled on is local, like right here in River City kind of local. And the books they’ve read over the past year are ones that I would read. One book is actually sitting on my TBR shelf! The book I’m reading for that group is God’s Hotel: A doctor, a hospital, and a pilgrimage to the heart of medicine by Victoria Sweet.

The other group is a little more outside my comfort zone. It’s a little farther away and it’s only for women. You know how I feel about women, right? That’s a whole other story. A sad one. A “Why do I not fit in!” kind of story. But it’s time to face my fears and get out there. Besides, they are reading an awesome little book called The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn, a self-help book written by a woman and published in 1925. If a self-help book is still in print 100 years later, it has to mean something.

The best part, the part that says these women might be fun? They’re meeting at The Yard for drinks while we chat about the book. Drinks AND books? Yes, please!

The book club reads mean that I’ve had to put aside How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler to read other books. How funny is that?! I haven’t completely abandoned it. That would be so cruel. I’m reading it for about a half an hour in the morning each day, like an appetizer. The first chapters have been depressing, talking about changes in the education system and how it had been affecting college students and university professors.

It was written in 1940, so we can see where those changes have gotten us, but then again everything changes and it’s not the end of the world. Reading The Opening of the American Mind by Lawrence W. Levine softened my stance quite a bit. But that was written in the 90’s in response to the same changes that Adler is complaining about, so things have kept changing for sure and we all see the negative effects that Adler was worrying about.

I’m hoping he gets to the part that tells me how to read better soon. I love to read, but I find myself forgetting most of it and I’d love to be able to connect the dots between books more often, which is why I picked up the book in the first place.

And here I am, over one thousand words later, on a day in a month that I said I wouldn’t post. It looks like over the last four months I’ve created a habit that I don’t want to break. I think what I’ll do this month is keep it up, but instead of making sure I write and post every single day just to get that dopamine hit when I see this:

I’ll not make myself (more) nuts trying to create and post on days when I need to be out of the house at 7am.

So, you WILL hear from me in May after all! Aren’t you excited?! I am. I like sharing my thoughts here, what I’m reading and thinking, what I’m seeing and experiencing. I hope you enjoy reading it.

How To Read A Book: New Read

Four straight months of daily posts, you guys. That’s a personal record. And now I’m facing a dilemma. Do I keep going? Part of me loves habits, the other part loathes them.

Should I keep writing daily? Yes, I believe so, but what? Posting about what I’m reading doesn’t seem to be catching anyone’s eyeballs or interest, but it is what I love and that’s why I started this blog in the first place. I wanted to share my daily thoughts about the books I read. I learn more than what the author originally intended when I read. Every book I read triggers new ideas and memories, links one thought to another, and pushes me forward. How do I do a better job of conveying those ideas here?

Should I change my posting schedule? For the past four months, I’ve been posting every day what I wrote that morning after I read. It’s more of a stream of consciousness, triggers, and reactions, than planned thought and ideas. I don’t know what I’ll end up telling you every day. Is there a way to change that?

Should I take some time off from posting completely, but keep writing daily? THAT is what I think I’ll do in May. I’ll keep reading and writing every day, and then work toward a more manageable posting schedule to start in June. For the month of May, I would like to commit to one post a week to keep myself accountable though, I’m just not sure what that post would entail. Maybe only posting when I start or finish a book?

So, my faithful reader, you may not hear from me much the next few weeks, but rest assured, I am not dead.

how to read a book

I’ll leave you today with the book I began reading yesterday, How to Read A Book: The Art of Getting a Liberal Education by Mortimer J. Adler. This author was a bit of hero of mine when I started homeschooling 18 years ago…sheesh, I just said that, scary. I first heard of him when I heard Oliver DeMille speak at my first homeschool conference. That presentation changed the way I looked at education and how I ended up educating my kids and myself.

Reading great books was the basis of our whole system. No curriculum, no testing, no writing essays or answering detailed questions. We simply read books, any and all books, together every day. We talked about them, questioned the story and what the author intended, looked up words we didn’t know. We found other books (both fiction and non-fiction), movies, and documentaries, related to what we were reading. And we learned so much.

I found this book in a friend’s collection of giveaways and saved it for myself. I’ve decided to read it now because I feel like I need a reminder of why I read, and a refresher course on how.

Sitting here, writing this, I’m not sure where I’m going, both with my reading and this blog. And writing? Well, I’m not sure that’s my main focus anymore. I just don’t know. What I need is some quiet focus time and I’ve never been very good at that.

Do I need a goal, a reason to write here? Do I need a purpose at all? I’m not sure that I do. Can’t my reading and writing follow my interests the way my mind and heart always has? It seems to have served me well this far.

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