How to Read a Book (Or How to Date One)
Updated: Jan 27
Pick a book you might like to read.
Take the book in your hands. And feel it its pages fly from your thumb.
Hold its glossy, or matte, or cloth cover up to your face and take a big breath inward, closing your eyes for one golden, stolen moment. Take-in the smell. Remember it and imagine the journey this book has taken to get to you.
Purchase, rescue or borrow with confidence. There are no regrets. Only possibilities. Everything can be redeemed, even a bad date with a shitty book.
Warning: If someone hands you or orders you a book and says, "You NEED to read this book!" Say, no thank you, and run! This puts a sense of obligation into your reading and you'll be constantly wondering what your friend mean for you to get out of it while reading. Not an enjoyable experience. Like a blind date, they rarely work-out.
Set a date. Carve out some sacred space in your day; a place and time where distractions find it difficult to find you (If impossible, you are spiritually slothful and undeserving of the good book's attention).
Invite two or three silent friends to join you: pen, journal, beverage.
Flip to the very first page or two and find out when the book was born. Or when it's vows were renewed...so you know.
Choose one review or two, if present, and try not to judge. Are there any people in here that I know? If not, perhaps I should find out who the author's friends are. Or not.
If it's a hardback with a fancy accordion cover, undress it. Books like to be naked. Burn the outfit or if you think the book might be embarrassed, keep it for when you're not having an intimate time together.
It's rude to be on your phone.
Check-out the book's body while taking a leisurely walk through the Table of Contents.
Skim through the Foreword (not "forward" or "foreward"). Don't spend too much time talking about past relationships.
Take a moment to see what she's thankful for. Acknowledgements. Who wants to be around people who are constantly complaining? Grateful books beget grateful readers.
Find out who he's dedicated to. Dedication. It could be to you. If not, it's a good time to reflect: Do I live a life worthy of having a creation dedicated to me?
If your book had a gender. What would it be?
Never, EVER, skip the Introduction (or Preface). Not only is it extremely rude to do so, showing a lack of genuine interest, it can be detrimental to the fundamental understanding and enjoyment of your reading experience if neglected. The creator often embeds vital pieces of backstory, context, and instructional information to guide you on the journey, not to mention The Why.
Prologue. Yes, it's part of the story. It's the glass of wine before you order; likewise, the epilogue is the coffee after your meal.
Back Matters. Treasure maps, photos of children and old lovers, secret codes (abbreviations), glossary, Index, suggested resources, bibliographies, appendix, chronology (you could be reading a book in a series and in the wrong order!), and the creator's bio. It's like doing online research about your date before you meet to make sure you're not going out with a creeper. It's also like packing for a camping trip. You want to make sure you have all the tools and information you need before setting out into the wild. I mean, how would we have ever gotten through The Hobbit without the map of The Lonely Mountain?
Now, it's time to take her back home. After exchanging goodbye-pleasantries ("It was so nice to meet you. I really enjoyed getting to know you. Let's do it again sometime. Etc." - followed by a friendly hug or perhaps a very light kiss on the cheek - like Europeans do), gently close the book and return it to its resting place. Letting the anticipation for your next date quietly build. Trying to cover all that and trying to score in one night is simply not appropriate. Now congratulate yourself for displaying restraint and self-respect. Remember: fools rush-in.
All of the above should take place before or on the first date.
The second date will show you whether or not you should pursue a committed relationship. With non-fiction, you should know after the first chapter. Novels will take at least two, before you decide to define the relationship.
Remember your manners. You're still getting to know one another, so keep the distractions to a minimum. And stay off the phone, unless you're looking up a word you don't know.
If the pages continue to turn, you know she (or he) is the one. Continue to enjoy the rapture. Plan for another date and/or stay out all night talking and romancing.
Side Note for Non-Fiction. Sometimes you can get more out of the relationship by pickling in smaller moments. The conversations tend to get deep and may require a bit of reflection before you jump into another life subject. So pace yourself. A good rule of thumb with non-fiction is one chapter per sitting.
If the pages don't turn, it's time to take her (or him) home for the last time. Be cordial, but direct, "This is not going to work out for me." or something of the like. If you decide to end the relationship, don't throw the book in the trash, or hold it captive on some distant shelf, never to be touched again. Send it out, into the world. Perhaps it will find love from another.
As I said above, most books like to be naked, once the relationship has been defined and the bonds of commitment ensured. Once you've got you've got her naked, take out your pen and give her a tattoo. Inscribe your name on her flesh. Make your mark. Now don't be timid to fold her pages, or bend her corners. She doesn't mind it a little rough, but careful not to abuse and neglect. She actually likes the look of her skin with smudges of ink and drips of coffee and wine on it. It shows the others that she's spoken for.
Make marginalia (writing notes or scrawling doodles in the margin - you can include underlines, circles, boxes, and double (or even triple) underlines here too, with exclamation points!!!). This is where you write your story on hers (or his). It's where you show her (or him) what you like about who they are or what they have to say. It's where you become one. Where the dialogue begins. Where the magic happens. Where memories are recorded. Marginalia also reassures your lover that your relationship will continue, even after the honeymoon. That you will rekindle romance, and revisit what it means to be in love.
Don't forget the epigraphs. These little darlings are the quotes or verses that poetically frame-up the impending chapter. Some of it is fill. Some of it is priceless.
When you finish a good book, keep it near you for several days. Reflect on the good times you spent together. Draw from its energy. Write a love letter or memoir in your journal. Steal some of your favorite sayings and use them in your conversations or next writing projects.
Brag about the book to your friends (but never tell them they NEED to read it). Share it, if you're into that sort of thing. But make sure to get it back! (It's a good idea to create a library check-out system - there is an app for that). If you really want someone you love to read a book you recently enjoyed, introduce them to her beautiful twin sister (buy them a copy and give it to them freely, careful not to attach any agenda or obligation to your gift - most people tend to rebel when given unsolicited advice or suggestions). Otherwise, she'll feel abandoned by her first love.
Give it the perfect home on your bookshelf, or let it linger on a coffee or end table.