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What Are the Best Tips for Reading Literature?

Dan Cavallari
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many people find it challenging to make time to read literature, since work schedules and other obligations often take priority. Reading literature does not have to be a chore, however, and it does not necessarily have to take up a lot of time, either. A person can begin reading literature on a commute, during downtime at the doctor's office, or even for a few minutes before the workday begins. Instead of turning on the television during breakfast, try opening up a book or magazine to read for a few minutes. This will help develop good habits that will make literature more enjoyable and accessible.

It is important for the reader to decide what kind of literature he or she will enjoy reading. This will help the reader stay interested in the material; it is not always necessary to begin reading literature by choosing a book you feel you should read, or a book you're told you need to read. Instead, choose a book you think you will enjoy. Save the more challenging texts for later, after you have developed your routine for reading literature on a regular basis. The point of literature is to educate and entertain, so be sure the subject matter is compelling enough to hold your interest.

As you develop a stronger sense of what you like and don't like, consider branching out to more challenging texts or texts you would not otherwise read. A great way to do this is to join a book club or to begin reading book reviews online or in the newspaper. Book clubs allow you to continue reading literature while branching out into new subject matter and styles of writing. Be prepared to like some texts and dislike others; do not feel as though you have to like something just because others do. The fun of literature is figuring out your preferences and dislikes.

Sometimes challenging literature will feature vocabulary and figurative language that can be difficult to understand. It may be helpful to keep a pad and pen nearby to jot down words or phrases you do not understand. Once you finish reading a chapter or section, you can look up those words to gain a clearer understanding of what was said in the text. Try to learn more about figurative language, such as simile and metaphor, so you will be able to more clearly understand the themes and ideas the author is trying to convey with the text.

If you need an extra helping hand, consider hiring a specialized tutor who is an expert in teaching reading comprehension skills.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By hamje32 — On Dec 27, 2011

@David09 - My son is preparing for the PSAT exam. The biggest challenge for him is vocabulary. I keep telling him, if you want to increase your vocabulary, then you must read literature.

That’s the only way, really. As you read you will stumble upon words you never knew. You can look these up and gradually you will increase your vocabulary.

I keep reminding him that this is really the best way to learn new words, better than picking up the Reader’s Digest and going through its list of new words that it puts out in each issue. What you read in fiction you are more likely to retain, in my opinion.

By David09 — On Dec 27, 2011

@miriam98 - That’s a great idea. I also think genre fiction makes it easy for people to choose works that they will enjoy. They can choose romance, mystery, drama, suspense, science fiction and so forth.

My wife is a big H.G. Wells fan. She loves his masterpiece The Time Machine and other works written by him. I don’t know that she cares for much modern science fiction but she does enjoy the classics, where the plots were simpler and not bogged down too much in the technicalities of the science elements.

By miriam98 — On Dec 26, 2011

I majored in English in college. While I certainly don’t believe everyone should do as I did, I do believe that everyone must read classic literature, at least sample it.

I think you will become a better rounded individual. By classics I am referring to Shakespeare, Milton, Fitzgerald and Hemingway to name a few. It’s not as hard as you think and you can get access to online commentaries that will help you understand the material, especially those works written in the “King’s English” where the prose might be difficult to understand.

One of the greatest benefits, as the article points out, is that you will be exposed to similes and metaphors that have become part of the lexicon of our language. That stuff will just roll over your head if you hear it mentioned in common speech but don’t know where it came from.

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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