Ten Ways To Read Better (Or How To Improve Your Reading)

Did you know I haven’t finished a book in a month? Well, almost a month, but it feels like ages. Sometimes life gets in the way, or you just simply can’t find the time or the mood to read, or because 2015 is a #ReadWomen year, you want to read more! No matter the reason, I’ve encountered people who simply wanted to start reading on a daily basis, and people who wished to devote more time to their reading but couldn’t find it. So, after much thinking, here are some tips that always bring me closer to my books:

How to read more

1. Make reading a priority: Promise yourself you will go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual, and just sit in bed with a good book. It’s time to read, so just read. I know this is hard, because we all have very busy and chaotic lives, but think of reading as nourishing to both your mind and body. You will feel more relaxed and happier after you read.

2. Keep all your devices off: Internet access and TV are evil to reading routines, so keep all your devices off and focus only on the book in your hands. This comes from someone to who binge-watching CSI is a weekly routine, but sometimes you need – you have to – turn everything off and go back to paper. Paper is almost always better.

3. Try it for at least 30 minutes: Research suggests that only after 30 minutes devoted to reading, not only can you start falling back in love with reading, but you can also create a daily habit that you will eventually need.

4. Read what you like: This may sound obvious, but maybe you’re a sci-fi lover, or you prefer YA novels, or comics, it’s totally fine! Make peace with your reading tastes and embrace them. I love newly published crime fiction, and for society it always feels less than other genres – especially so-called ‘The Classics’ – so don’t let society tell you there is right reading and wrong reading. There. is. not.

5. Create a cozy, warm environment: I like reading in my bed, with two lamps on and fairy lights rather than with the main light turned on. Find what relaxes you. Some people like to sip tea while reading, while others prefer eating. I am an advocate for fluffy blankets and cushions because I don’t fall asleep with a book in my hands, but to each her own!

6. Keep track of what you read: Taking notes, or just simply noting down the titles will help you realise that you’re actually doing some reading and – most importantly some thinking.

7. Don’t worry about quantity, worry about quality: If you’re up to a challenge with yourself, that’s fine, but make reading something you can look forward to even after the most stressful and terrible of days instead of just another task to tick off your To-Do list. Make sure your reading time is high quality (and a priority!)

8. Find people who are also interested in books: I never feel like reading as much as when I’m on Twitter and my friends are sharing their love for a book they’re reading or an upcoming release. Human beings are social animals, and even though reading is partly a lonely activity, you can talk and share everything with other people and keep each other inspired.

9. Take a book with you, always: I commute a lot, so you can always find a book in my handbag, ready for the journey. You never know when you’ll find yourself alone during the day, and is there any better company than a book?

10. There is a reason: Remember how it felt to read a book when you were 10, or that summer ages ago you devoured a book in two days. If you are a book collector, like me, you can stick a post-it to your books and write the reasons why you bought it/requested it. You are clever, there must be a reason why that book is taking up space in your bedroom. Just try to remember it.

Why #ReadWomen2014 Has Changed Things, And Why #ReadWomen Matters

This year started in the best way possible for us feminist book bloggers: with #ReadWomen2014 a hashtag used on Twitter to promote and support books writen by women. Any genre. Any length. Any kind. The only requisit was that they were written by women. Founder, Joanna Walsh, describes the campaign as ‘A year-long celebration of women’s writing’ on their Twitter profile page, and The Guardian dedicated the campaign an article on an effort to spread the word. They say:

Female authors are marginalised by newspapers and literary journals, and their books are given ‘girly’ covers. Take action against this inequality by making sure the next book you read is by a woman.

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As a feminist book blogger this campaign was trying to achieve what I – among many others – try every time we pick up a book, every time we visit a book shop or every time that we come here to write: we want women writers to be recognised for the work they do. But, there is a huge problem for both us and for #ReadWomen2014, and that is that we are fighting a battle that a huge part of our society considers non-existent. Asking literature students about gender equality at my university proves a surprise and a shock every year. Most of first year students will claim that there is gender equality in all aspects of our lives, and they deem feminism old-fashioned and unncessary. As I said before, it’s a quiet and invisible fight that we are fighting. If we are facing a generation who thinks there is no need to fight for gender equality, then, what are the odds that they will question the literary status quo? If in a capitalist system they do not believe there exist a gender gap, why would they question their choices when picking up a book?

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Despite this total negation of sexism and inequality in the literary world, there is evidence of underlying prejudices against women writers, starting with the ‘chick-lit’ and ‘women’s literature’ labels that deem the female experience as alien, an Other that is specifically written for and by women. Because, which man in his senses would like to read about this? Or so they say. However, more and more organisations and people are making an effort to make women’s works in the letters count. VIDA is one of those organisations, and they kindly provide us with statistics on the number of men versus women reviewed in the main literature journals in the USA, even though those statistics are appaling. In 2013, The New York Review of Books reviewed 387 books, and only 80 of those were written by women. Not only that, but out of 264 reviewers employed, only 52 were women. But not everything is so bad for women writers, there are actually journals like The Paris Review and Poetry that show that readers are also interested in reading about women writers. You can check more statistics here.

These statistics beg the question of women’s works quality and quantity. Are there enough women writers to even the percentages quoted above? And do they write as good stuff as men do? Sadly, some people may answer a rotound ‘NO’ to both questions. While the reasons for such an answer are deeply routed in our patriarchal society – there, I’ve said it –  they can also be explained if we questioned people and what they really believe about women writers. Namely, that women write about women’s experiences, and therefore those texts are only interesting for women, or even that they are full of romance, shopping and beauty plots that men are no way interested in reading. The list could go on and on, but I am sensing your anger through the screen, so I will stop here.

For me, reading works by women has never been an effort or something I had to stop and think about. It actually pains me a little that #ReadWomen2014 had to call the attention of the public to this issue, because, why wouldn’t you pick up a book because it was written by a man or a woman? Also, this campaign has made me realise that most authors, publicits and editors I deal with are women. So, why isn’t their job recognised? Maybe because the Twitter and blogging sphere I move in is fighting for women writers’ rights every day, in a quiet way and just trying to make it into the so-called ‘universal’ lists in which men had a right to be, while women still have to win their entrance.

As you can imagine, the aim of this post is to stress the necessity and great work that #ReadWomen2014 has done, from founder Joanna Walsh, to all the readers, bloggers, writers, publishers and editors who have joined efforts to make women writers count. Now, #ReadWomen2014 has become #ReadWomen in an efftor to change the reading habits of millions of people. I am up for the fight, and so are my favourite bloggers, writers and editors, and, I’m 100% sure, all my readers. We live in a world where women’s works and the arts and humanities are not going throught their best moment, but it is our obligation to keep fighting for both.

You can learn more about #ReadWomen here.

Ending the Year with Books

How can it be December already? Where did the year I started as a M.A student and finished as a PhD candidate go? How can it be possible? Well, it may be true that time goes faster as you grow older, because although I have achieved more than I could think of this year, it really seems like it was yesterday when I published the first review of 2014! For the last month of 2014 I have great plans, some of them already accomplished.

I wanted to read The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell only if and when I had free time to spend as many hours reading as I wanted. I managed it during the first week of December. Needless to say, it was awesome. I would wake up and know that anything and everything I had to do was read a good book. Pure joy!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins had been sitting on my TBR pile for too long. I was one of the lucky people to get a physical review copy last August, and everyone on Twitter insisted so much on how addictive this book was, that I knew I had to wait. It took me 3 sittings last weekend to read it.

Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen seems the perfect novel to read before Christmas. I know most people prefer a cozy, moral tale, but how can I give up my favourite literary genre on my favourite time of the year? Not possible, I tell you.

This year I had the pleasure to discover Liane Moriarty’s Little Lies and it was so good that I requested the publishers a review copy of her first novel, The Husband’s Secret. I have been saving it for a special time, because I loved Little Lies so much that I don’t think I can look at my TBR pile and not see a Moriarty there. It means comfort reading, it means a great novel! But, wouldn’t I be happier if I just read it? I have long thought this will be my last book of 2014.

How are you thinking of spending December? Book-wise and not! The Christmas enthusiast in me would love to hear your plans because only two weeks til Christmas Eve!

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DISCLAIMER: All the bookish plans on this post are thought as of to be dismantled if necessary :)

 

 

Writing, Reading and Life: October

October has been one short, crazy month. It is the second month – out of 4 – that I am supposed to devote to reading for my PhD, but there are a lot of other things happening at the same time, most of them good and challenging and all of them time-consuming. I am actually writing this on my first non-weekend free day in 30 days. It’s a hot, Thursday night and today I have finished reading a book, all my tasks for October and, tonight I will finish watching Mad Men until it returns next January. Also, why is it so hot? Why am I still wearing summer clothes?

My reading and writing are going fine. I read one theory book a month and I combine reading with writing articles and attending conferences, which has pretty much taken me out of the house, for good. The PhD life is a great one, but also a solitary one. I try to go to college at least once a week so that I force myself to go out, meet people, get some fresh air! The fact that most of my friends are all over Europe and the USA until December does not help. Girls, I miss you.

As for my pleasure reading, it is nuts. This month I only read two books for pleasure: From Potter’s Field and Bad Feminist. I was quite angry at myself for this, because I have managed to watch the complete Mad Men series this month… But, checking my schedule, I am doing a lot of reading for my PhD: from articles to doctoral thesis. I am also borrowing books from the library and I try to meet the deadlines, because I’m actually scared of what would happen if I return a book late (you and I both know the answer is ‘nothing’, but still….).

And life? I have wondered about this for some years now. Is my life work-oriented? Do I work my days away and do I want it to be so? I had some friends who needed to meet almost everyday for coffee and a chat, a 2-hour meeting so that they could function. Other people I know see work as the means to get money and just get it done. Neither of these lifestyles has ever been my priority and my school schedules never allowed me the luxury of  ever considering them: I have always loved learning, attending lessons, reading and writing and now I am lucky enough to have turned them into my ‘job’ (and society agrees!). The short answer to this worry is another question: Are you happy? And yes. Actually I have never been happier becuase I have finally found that place where the line between my passion in life and my work life is so blurred no one can discern it.

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If you want to read more about the PhD life, follow Naomi’s blog: http://thehumanmermaid.wordpress.com/

July Reading

Although I enjoy free time in both June and September, I very much consider July and August to be my summer months. And being already 31st of July, this means that summer is almost over. Well, not exactly, that was one big exaggeration, but the 1st of August marks the middle of the summer and it is time to check on what I wanted to do this summer and face it with what I have actually done.

Back in July I wrote a Top Ten list of books that I wanted to read this summer knowing that I wouldn’t read them all, but writing that list helped me sort my reading priorities. You can revisit the post here. Ouf the 10 books, I have read only one: East of Eden of which I wrote a study guide I’m pretty chuffed with. However, since I wrote that list on the 17th and it’s summer, I’ve decided not to give myself a hard time about it. Plans are made to be broken and adapted! In July I read 4 books:

  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck.
  • Linda, as in the Linda Murder by Leif G.W. Persson.
  • Strange Girls, Ordinary Women by Morgan McCarthy.
  • The Fever by Megan Abbott.

These four books pretty much stand for the diversity of stories that I wanted to read this summer: a classic, a Scandinavian crime novel, a story about women’s lives and a contemporary American author. Now I only have to review three of those books!

I also reviewed Top of the Lake, a crime fiction show that breaks away with masculine traditions on the genre thanks to an amazing female police as a main character who investigates the rape and pregnancy of a local 12-year old in her hometown in New Zealand. Could it be more different?

I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Marina Sofia about my passion for crime fiction. Big thank you to her for making one of my dreams come true!

I received some awaited review copies and some other unrequested ones. Because I do not live in the UK, I do not get as many unrequested review copies as other bloggers do, so I am always thankful for the extra-bookish love. These were the books I received this month:

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So, now that August is already here, I’m thinking of allowing myself to read what I want, because I feel like it. Since I am to start my PhD next September and I’ll be reading on a tight schedule, I think the best way to wave goodbye to the amazing summer 2014 is by reading as much as I want and whatever I want to.

What have you planned for August 2014? Are you following any Summer 2014 reading plan?

It’s gonna be a long, hot summer

I thought the best way to write a post about the summer was with a country song in mind. The title from this post is taken by the optimistic and sunny  – can a song be sunny? – Long Hot Summer by Keith Urban and it never fails to remember me how awesome summers can be.

Things have been a little bit quiet over here because I allowed myself the luxury of spending the last 15 days of June doing whatever it felt right at the time. I am already done with my M.A and all the paperwork for my PhD until August so, basically these are the things that are making this one of the best summers in a while. I guess it has to do with a healthy combination of balancing things to do and knowing that you have a fair amount of free time and the possibility to enjoy yourself. So, there are the things that have happened, have planned to happen or just look like great ideas:

  • There are the books that I would love to read this summer although I realize that it is a pretty ambitious list.
  • I have started to do some research on crime fiction for my PhD.
  • I have taken up running and it feels amazing. The running shoes my parents bought me for my grades do help, though.
  • The puppy is teaching me go and fetch instead of the other way round. But don’t we enjoy running in the sun together!!
  • I discovered rice and soy ice-cream at a local store and I’m in awe. They taste the same diary ice cream does, but they don’t make me sick.
  • I would love to do some creative writing this summer. Let’s see how it goes.
  • There are a lot of crime TV shows that I should watch and that I’m slowly getting and watching. Right now I am living in Gant with Detective Hannah Maes and I love her (Code 37). If you have any suggestions, please let me know! I need to watch an immense amount of TV a day to remain sane.
  • I discovered this collection of free articles by Routledge via Sarah Ward and I can’t wait to read them all. Be sure to check them before December 2014.

What have you planned for this summer? :)