Tag Archives: must read

But How Much Are You Reading?

Listening Up

For me, it’s always a kind of relief to write a piece for Writer Unboxed. That’s because you, Unboxed one, are among the most consistent elements of publishing.

Writers tend to work through the upheavals of the industry by focusing ever more intently on writing. This actually is not the pathway taken by many others in the industry.

As economic and market forces bash and bang up the business, company people (rightly) believe they have a mandate not only to adapt but to innovate, to look for things that will accommodate and/or ameliorate the changing circumstances of a creative industry in profoundly changing times. The industry! The industry!

And so my reporting at Publishing Perspectives and at The Hot Sheet have a lot to do with change: lots of trial and lots more error, fits and startups, big trends that fizzle in under two years, minor fads that flatten everybody’s expectations, and the abiding difficulty that this industry has in understanding itself as part of a major entertainment complex that has overtaken it.

On that last point, it’s not everyone. I love the exceptions: some of publishing’s brightest leaders are working well to associate themselves with studios and other production players to reposition bookish content for survival in a screened landscape.

But another thing I value in the Writer Unboxed community is the authorial viewpoint that, of course, isn’t always factored into industry thinking.

And today, I’d like to “provoke  you,” to use a pleasantly over-strong term, to give me your input on an important distinction that I fear some in the business may be overlooking, and that I’ll bet many in the author corps are not.

Let’s say that there’s a difference in the content and the act: the story and the reception of it.

Heres what I’m on about. As you know, publishing’s shooting star at the moment is audiobooks. Oh, those double-digit gains. The Association of American Publishers just reported that between January and August of this year, downloaded audio was up 37.5 percent over the same period last year, by far the biggest gain in all publishing. And this is being replicated in other world markets we cover.

Audio is hot, hot, hot. (As long as it’s downloaded. Physical audio in the same time-period comparison tanked by 24.6 percent. We don’t need no stinkin’ CDs or cassette tapes, thanks just the same.)

So big is audio that at The FutureBook conference in London in November, my former associates at The Bookseller will be staging a full day of audiobook sessions–there’s an entire audio conference running parallel to the main stream. (And we could have bought stock in headphone makers,  you know.)

As I’m sure I’ve bored you by saying before here, my own pet pleasure in this thing about audio is that in some markets like the UK (but not yet in Canada, we just learned), guys are leading the way in audiobook sales. Yes, guys. Outbuying the women in books. Sounds like another planet, doesn’t it? But it’s true. As long as it’s audio, the guys are in the lead. They don’t like reading, but they like listening, especially while doing other things, surveys show.

But that brings me to my provocation for you today.

Reading Books vs. Consuming Content

Provocations graphic by Liam Walsh

If audiobooks are soaring, and more people (especially those British guys) are reading, this sounds great, right? Your books are being … consumed.

Of course, they’re not quite being read. Except by those saints who are prompted by one medium to turn to another.

Similar effect in film and television series, of course. PBS recently aired the all-too-short BBC/Masterpiece production based on Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. Granted, some viewers will be tempted to get the book. We have to assume, however, that they’re in the minority.

And as studio work becomes better–as even those audiobooks get better–what’s happening to reading.

My irritating question for you: are you reading as much as you used to?

Let’s make a few assumptions, to try to clear the table of a bit of understandable and natural clutter.

  • Writers don’t always get to read as much as they like because they’re busy writing. It was ever thus, that’s perfectly okay.
  • Writers also tend to become more discerning as their careers progress, so that they may read less but make more exacting choices of what they’d like to read, either to support their own writing or even to support colleagues at times. Also perfectly okay.
  • Writers may also from time to time need to avoid reading. Some find that another writer’s style can become tangled with their own, or another’s good story can sway them from their outlines. Also also perfectly okay.

So those caveats and any others you feel are appropriate are easily taken onboard here, no worries.

But what I think we’re seeing is that writing really is becoming “content,” as much as some may not care for the term. I mean to say by that that your next piece may be read by far fewer than it might have been 10 or even just five years ago. It might be heard by a lot more English blokes at the gym. Or it might be watched on Hulu or Amazon Prime or Netflix or HBO by a lot more people. It might even be murmured by Alexa from a whole lot of Echo devices, right?

But reading? That’s where I’d like your input.

Being writers here, we’re all likely agreed that the act of reading is valuable in many important ways–the cultivation of imagination, the development of concentration capability, the joy and necessity of critical thinking (whatever happened to that?), the marvelous gift of vocabulary expansion, and so on. There’s little need for us to defend the value of reading to each other; other choirs need to hear us preach that one, not us.

But how say you, then? Whither reading? Not books, reading.

By
Source: writerunboxed.com

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The Halo Effect: Your Readers are Applying it

So the hero in my latest release has a few unlikeable traits (as in, pretty unethical and unsavoury behaviours), which would be fine in some genres, but not so much in romance. I realised that if I was going to have an online stalker who has come to some pretty dark conclusions about humanity, I needed to address this fairly early on in the book if I wanted my readers to fall in love with him alongside my heroine. Actually, if I wanted them to read past the second chapter!

I decided on the strategy I was going to use, but I began to reflect on the psychology behind Blake Snyder’s famous tactic. The tactic (which some of you would have guessed by now) we’ll discuss shortly; the science behind is the bit we’re going to delve into first, and it’s called the ‘halo effect.’

The halo effect

The halo effect is a type of cognitive bias in which our overall impression of a person influences how we feel and think about his or her character. Essentially, your overall impression of a person (“Gosh, he’s nice!”) impacts your evaluations of that person’s specific traits (“He’s probably also smart!”). We assume that because Johnny is good at A, then he must be good at B, C, and D. Conversely, it also works the other way (called the horn effect); if Danny is bad at A, then he must be bad at B, C, and D.

 

Psychologist Edward Thorndike first coined the term in 1920. Thorndike asked commanding officers in the military to evaluate a variety of qualities in their soldiers. These characteristics included such things as leadership, physical appearance, intelligence, loyalty, and dependability. He found that high ratings of a particular quality correlated to high ratings of other characteristics, while negative ratings of a specific quality also led to lower ratings of other characteristics. Soldiers were far more likely to be assessed as good in all areas or bad in all areas, even when there was no obvious correlation between the traits.

So yes, first impressions count out in the real world (which means they also do in your story).

Check out these other examples of the halo effect:

  • We tend to perceive celebrities as attractive and successful, meaning we also tend to see them as intelligent and funny.
  • Teachers are subject to the halo effect when evaluating their students. A teacher who sees a well-behaved student might tend to assume this student is also bright, diligent, and engaged (it’s actually how I see many students slip through the cracks in our educational system).
  • The halo effect can also impact how students perceive teachers. In one study, researchers found that when an instructor was viewed as warm and friendly, students also rated him as more attractive, appealing, and likable (I’m glad I made it a point to smile at my students during my teaching years!).
  • In the work setting, the halo effect is most likely to show up in a supervisor’s appraisal of a subordinate. In fact, the halo effect is probably the most common bias in performance appraisal. The supervisor may give prominence to a single characteristic of the employee, such as enthusiasm, and allow the entire evaluation to be coloured by how he or she judges the employee on that one characteristic. The employee could have areas they have yet to achieve competence in, but if they show enthusiasm, the supervisor may very well give them a higher performance rating than is justified.
  • Marketers take advantage of the halo effect to sell products and services. The iPod is a great example—a popular product, it functioned as a great launching pad for the iPhone.

What’s more, researchers have found that attractiveness is a factor that can be influential in the halo effect. The truth is, we tend to rate attractive people more favourably for their personality traits than those who are less attractive. Several different studies have found that when we rate people as good-looking, we also tend to believe that they have positive personality traits and that they are more intelligent. If a prospective employer views an application as attractive, they are more likely to rate the individual as intelligent, competent, and qualified (and no, that’s not fair). What’s more, one study even found that jurors were less likely to believe that attractive people were guilty of criminal behaviour (so crime writers out there—consider making your murderer attractive if you’re looking for them to get away with it).

Harnessing the halo effect in your story

Deliberate use of the halo effect can be a powerful writers tool. The idea is to create the impression you want the reader to build upon early on. If you’re looking to create a good impression, you can do this by showing your character as funny or smart, and possibly attractive. Your readers brain will extrapolate from there without even realising it. My character was certainly smart, and the reader got that sense from his hacking knowledge and sharp dialogue. And yes, he’s good looking, but he’s also significantly scarred. Capturing a romance reader in this scenario was going to be a challenge.

The literary device that I used was Save the Cat; a term coined by the late Blake Snyder—a scene relatively early in the story where the reader meets the hero and he/she does something ‘nice.’ Often it will have a heroic flavour, like oh, saving a cat. If that action has enough emotional impact, your reader will start making generalisations about the character’s other personality traits.

In my particular scene, chapter two in fact, we’re introduced to Erik, who is stalking his peers online without them knowing of his existence. What’s more, the reader realises he’s been doing this for some time, and he does not have a very high opinion of humanity. By the end of the scene he also saves one of said peers from being blackmailed by his brother.

On the other side of the coin, you have the ‘kick the dog’ scene. If you want to create a first impression of your villain, then have them commit some act of unpleasantness. If a villain is kicking a dog in chapter two, my brain is going to put two and two together and conclude this dude isn’t very nice in other areas of his life. It’s fascinating that this cognitive shortcut happens outside of my awareness will set up my expectations for the remainder of the book.

The cool bit is that this allows you, the author, to either confirm these suspicions, or blow them off the page.

Source: psychwriter.com.au

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How to Captivate Hurried Readers with a Magic Opening Line

Can I skip the opening sentence for this post?

Pleeeease?

Let’s say you skip reading the first few sentences and start with the fourth?

Or fifth?

I don’t like the pressure of writing a first sentence.

What if I fail to engage readers? What if I’m boring them? What if I’ve wasted my time on this article because my first line sucks?

The task of writing a first sentence can paralyze even the most acclaimed writers. In an interview with the Atlantic, Stephen King admits he can spend months, or even years, on writing the opening lines for a new book.

Sounds crazy, right?

As business writers, we don’t have the luxury of time. We have other things to do than worrying about one line of text.

So what can we do?

Let me share with you a trick for writing a first sentence super-fast. But first, let’s define what a good opening line is.

Okay?

An outrageously good opening sentence

This is how the novel “Nervous Conditions” by Tsitsi Dangarembga starts:

I was not sorry when my brother died.

Why is this sentence good?

It entices you to read on.

That first sentence creates drama because it instantly raises two compelling questions in readers’ minds: Why did the brother die? And why was the author not sorry? A reader reads on because he wants to find out the answers to these two questions.

Stephen King says it like this:

An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.

One of the most famous opening lines

This is how “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger starts:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

This famous opening line is 63 words long.

Is such a long sentence a good idea?

Ben Blatt analyzed what makes a good novel great, and he also reviewed first sentences. His conclusions are not clear cut, as he summarizes in his book “Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve:”

The first sentence is only as popular as the rest of the book, and brevity alone will not make a first sentence great.

Our literary heroes may write lengthy first sentences.

But when writing for the web, we need to remember our readers. They’re not curled up on a comfy sofa with a book and a glass of Rioja. They’re hurrying across the web, searching for interesting articles to read and share. Who has the patience to start reading a block of text?

So, instead of following J.D. Salinger’s 63-word mammoth sentence, take your cue from Toni Morrison, the master of short first sentences, like this one from “Tar Baby:”

He believed he was safe.

From “Paradise:”

They shoot the white girl first.

From “God Help the Child:”

It’s not my fault.

Each of these sentences makes you curious to read on.

Your first sentence has two purposes. First, get people to read your first sentence—a short sentence works better because it’s easy to read. Then, make sure they want to read your second sentence.

The worst opening lines

Ben Blatt quotes the opening line of the book “Paul Clifford” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton as one of the most ridiculed opening lines ever:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Not only is that sentence awfully long, its worst crime is that nothing happens. Nothing grabs attention. Nothing makes me curious. It’s simply a description of the weather. So what?

Of course, in business we rarely write about the weather, but you may have come across similar opening lines that fail to whet your appetite for reading more. For instance:

Many ways exist to choose your words.

As you know, Rome wasn’t built in one day.

In business, you have to take risks.

Duh!

The above opening lines may be short, but they’re obvious statements, killing readers’ interest. There’s no incentive to read on.

A little-known shortcut for web writers

Getting nervous about writing a good first sentence?

No need for nerves, when you know this blog writing trick …

Unlike novels, a blog post is often a conversation with our readers. And what easier way to engage readers than asking them a question?

A few examples:

Do you hear that nagging voice, too? (source)

Do you ever feel a pang of envy? (source)

Has it happened to you, too? (source)

In a face-to-face meeting, you often start a conversation with a question, like: Cup of tea? How did your meeting go? Or: How’s business?

Why not do the same in your writing?

The one magic opening line doesn’t exist

So, no need to search for it anxiously.

Instead, remember your reader.

Imagine him hurrying across the web. He’s feeling restless. He’s impatient because he’s been wasting his time reading lousy blog posts.

How can you engage him? How can you make him read your first sentence? And then the next?

A good writer draws a reader in, and doesn’t let him go until the last word.

By
Source: enchantingmarketing.com

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10 Cliffhangers That Make Readers Turn The Page

Have you read a book you feel compelled to carry on reading? You know the kind of book I’m talking about. You read it past your bedtime and during your lunch breaks. You read it because you want to not only know what happens next, but you also wonder what is really going on.

Chances are the author is using a series of cliffhangers to keep you interested.

What Is A Cliffhanger?

According to Oxford Dictionaries it is ‘a dramatic and exciting ending to an episode of a serial, leaving the audience in suspense and anxious not to miss the next episode’.

The term itself originated with a Thomas Hardy serial when one of his protagonists, Henry Knight, was left hanging off a cliff.

Writers use cliffhangers as a literary device at the end of scenes, chapters, and books. These end without the questions raised being resolved. The reader has to carry on reading to find out what happens.

The History Of Cliffhangers

One of the most famous examples of using cliffhangers can be found in One Thousand and One Nights. Scheherazade tells a series of stories to the king for 1,001 nights, ending each on a cliffhanger, to save herself from execution.

They were also an important element of Victorian serial novels, including those by Charles Dickens, a pioneer of the serial publication of narrative fiction.

Television series are notorious for ending seasons on major cliffhangers. The most famous example was the ‘Who Shot JR Ewing?’ ending in Dallas.

Today

Modern writers are using this device more often because readers can easily be tempted away from books. Instead of ending each scene satisfactorily, it has become quite commonly used to prolong suspense.

Cliffhangers are the clickbait that get the reader to turn the page. James Patterson has used this technique successfully using short chapters that end without major resolutions.

Here are 10 ideas for cliffhangers:

1. An Unanswered Question

This is the most common cliffhanger. Ask a provocative question or make sure that the one that started the scene is still unanswered.

2. A Loss

The loss can be physical or emotional. It can be a tangible thing or a relationship, but try to make it something that the protagonist thinks he or she can’t do without.

3. Dangle A Carrot

Show the character that something he or she wants desperately is there, but out of reach.

4. A Glimmer Of Hope

A pronouncement is made that something something that is needed, new, different, or exciting will happen soon.

5. A Physical Threat

Put the character, or somebody that he or she loves in immediate danger. If you have created empathy between your readers and your character, they have to carry on reading.

6. A Sense Of Foreboding

Use foreshadowing and body language. Use signs and symbols. Let your characters know that they will be going off into a dangerous place or a risky situation.

7. A Ticking Clock

End with a sense of urgency. A deadline has to be met.

8. An Accident

This can be a physical accident or a slip of the tongue. Set off an alarm. Reveal a secret. Break a leg.

9. Unexpected News

This includes any important information, or even a person, that shows up unexpectedly. End a scene with the protagonist receiving devastating news

10. An Unmade Decision

A character has a decision that needs to be made.

By Amanda Patterson
Source: writerswrite.co.za

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Poetry: Making Music with Words

Most writers are primarily concerned with the meaning of the words they choose. Is the language precise and accurate? Do the words provide the best connotation for what the writer is trying to communicate? Does the language show, rather than tell?

But poets take language a step further and push it into the realm of music. Poets care about meaning, precision, and accuracy as well as connotation and imagery. But they also care about how words sound, because musicality is a fundamental feature of poetry.

Poets use various elements of music to compose a poem. But because the written word is read and not heard, some elements of music aren’t available, like pitch and timbre.

Spoken word and performance (or slam) poetry are exceptions, because these works are designed to be heard and can incorporate musical elements that aren’t available to authors who write to be read. But most poets rely on a variety of literary devices and techniques to bring music to their work. Foremost among these are meter, sound, rhyme, repetition, and structure.

Meter (Rhythm)

In poetry, meter is a syllabic pattern, which is determined by stressed and unstressed syllables. We’ll use bold to denote stressed syllables in the first line of “What Kind of Times Are These” by Adrienne Rich:

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

Let’s see what happens when we strip away the language, so we can see the raw meter of the line:

da-da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-da DUM DUM da-DUM

As you can see, the meter gives the poem rhythm, an underlying drumbeat. This demonstration shows why it’s important to review the syllables in the lines of your poetry to check the meter.

Sound (Melody)

A song’s melody is determined by the sequence and length of notes played or sung by musicians. In poetry, melody is driven by the vowel and consonant sounds within the words of the poem. Consider this simple tune: la de-da, la de-da, la-la-la. 

Now compare it to this: doo-da, doo-da, doo-de-da.

We don’t know the exact notes or melody just from reading these sounds, but there is an implied tune when we read them aloud. We can bring a little rhythm to the sounds as well by placing stress on select syllables:

LA de-da, LA de-da, LA-LA-LA. 

DOO-da, DOO-da, DOO-de-DA.

So how do we put it all together? By choosing words that match the melody and meter that we’re aiming for:

LA de-da, LA de-da, LA-LA-LA. 
On the dock, six o’clock, stomp on rock

DOO-da, DOO-da, DOO-de-DA.
Stooping, drooping, boorish king

You’ll notice that in addition to rhythm and meter, we introduced some rhymes.

Rhyme

The most common rhymes are perfect end rhymes–words that appear at the end of lines in poetry and that rhyme perfectly. Here’s an example from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot
Nothing is going to get better, it’s not.

The words lot and not rhyme perfectly and are placed at the end of the first two lines, respectively. The placement of rhyme in a poem, coupled with its meter, can give the lines a sing-song quality. We can use different meters, sounds, and rhyme placements to pull different musical qualities into our poetry. Here’s an excerpt from “Spelling” by Margaret Atwood, which shows internal rhymes:

At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rock breaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite

Try reading these lines aloud to hear the inherent music contained within. Notice that the lines do not use a metrical pattern, but the layered internal rhymes give it rhythm:

  • away and breaks
  • hot and rock
  • bones, open, and flows
  • The word point appears three times in these five lines, but the repetition of this word is barely noticeable.

It’s worth noting that some poems don’t rhyme at all. Rhyme is important in poetry, but it’s actually a subset of a broader and even more important poetic device that is essential in both poetry and music: repetition. After all, rhyme is just repetition of sounds.

Repetition

Repetition is the technique that really sums up how we make music out of words in poetry. All of the techniques mentioned above ultimately use repetition:

  • We create a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables — and a pattern is really just repetition.
  • We choose words and arrange them in such a way that they create a pseudo melody, which is achieved primarily by patterning (or repeating) certain sounds.
  • And we use rhyme — maybe end rhymes that ring like cymbals or internal rhymes that jingle like a tambourine. Rhymes are, by nature, repetition.

Layering the repetitions of these elements creates greater musical dynamics in a poem.

As you can see, a poem’s musicality really comes from the repetition of various elements within the lines and stanzas. And there are more elements that we can repeat. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in close proximity: prickly pears. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in close proximity: hat rack.

Some poems even use repetition in their very structure.

Structure

A poem’s music also comes from its structure — the length of lines and stanzas, placement of line and stanza breaks, punctuation, and spacing. All of these elements contribute to the poem’s structural sounds and therefore contribute to its musicality.

In music, a rest is an interval of silence. In poetry, these intervals are indicated by line breaks, stanza breaks, punctuation, and spacing. Rests are similar to the concept of white space in art.

For example, punctuation provides indicators for pausing (or resting) with commas and periods or inflections for questions and exclamations.

Do You Make Music with Poetry?

Plenty of excellent works of poetry aren’t especially musical. But musicality is an important aspect of poetry.

How do you infuse your poetry with music?

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

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In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books

Somebody once asked Warren Buffett about his secret to success. Buffett pointed to a stack of books and said,

Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will…

When I first found this quote of Buffett’s two years ago, something was wrong.

It was Dec. 2014. I’d found my dream job. Some days, I would be there, sitting at my dream job, and I would think, “My god what if I’m still here in 40 years? I don’t want to die like this…”

Something wasn’t right. I’d followed the prescription. Good grades. Leadership. Recommendations. College. Dream Job. I was a winner. I’d finished the race. Here I was in the land of dreams. But something was terribly, terribly wrong.

Every day, from my dream job desk, I looked out into their eyes. Empty, empty eyes.

There were no answers.

In January of 2015, I found Buffett’s quote. I decided to read. I was going to read and read and read and never stop until I got some damn answers.

I didn’t quite make 500 pages a day, but, in these last two years, I’ve read over 400 books cover to cover. That decision to start reading was one of the most important decisions in my life.

Books gave me the courage to travel. Books gave me the conviction to quit my job. Books gave me role models and heroes and meaning in a world where I had none.

I want to say reading 200 books a year is an amazing thing. But the truth is, it’s not. Anybody can do it.

All it takes is some simple math and the right tools.

1. Do not quit before you start

When average Joe hears the advice “Read 500 pages like this every day,” his snap reaction is to say, “No way! That’s impossible!”

Joe will then go on to make up reasons to justify his belief without doing any deep thinking at all. These might include “I’m too busy,” “I’m not smart enough,” or “Books just aren’t for me.”

But what if we go a little deeper? For example, what does it actually take to read 200 books a year? Two years ago, I stopped to do the simple math. Here’s what I found: Reading 200 books a year isn’t hard at all.

It’s just like Buffett says. Anyone can do it, but most people won’t.

2. Do the simple math

How much time does it take to read 200 books a year?

First, let’s look at two quick statistics:

  • The average American reads 200–400 words per minute (Since you’re on Medium, I’m going to assume you read 400 wpm like me)
  • Typical non-fiction books have ~50,000 words

Now, all we need are some quick calculations…

  • 200 books * 50,000 words/book = 10 million words
  • 10 million words/400 wpm = 25,000 minutes
  • 25,000 minutes/60 = 417 hours

That’s all there is to it. To read 200 books, simply spend 417 hours a year reading.

I know, I know. If your brain is like mine, it probably saw “417 hours” and immediately tried to shut off. Most people only work 40 hours a week! How can we possibly read for 417 hours?

Don’t let your monkey brain turn you away yet. Let’s do a quick reframe for what 417 hours really means…

3. Find the time

Wowsers, 417 hours. That sure feels like a lot. But what does 417 hours really mean? Let’s try to get some more perspective.

Here’s how much time a single American spends on social media and TV in a year:

  • 608 hours on social media
  • 1642 hours on TV

Wow. That’s 2250 hours a year spent on TRASH. If those hours were spent reading instead, you could be reading over 1,000 books a year!

Here’s the simple truth behind reading a lot of books: It’s not that hard. We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important…

All it takes to start reading a lot more is to take “empty time” spent Twitter-stalking celebrities or watching Desperate Housewives and convert some of it to reading time.

The theory is simple. It’s the execution that’s hard.

4. Execute

We all know reading is important. We all know we should do more of it. But we don’t. The main reason this happens is a failure to execute.

I’m not so perfect at it yet, but here are some tactics that have helped me get results.

I. Use environmental design

If you were quitting cocaine, would you keep it lying around the house? Of course not. Media is designed to be addictive. Moving away from media addiction can be as difficult as quitting drugs.

The biggest bang-for-buck changes here are environmental.

If you want to read, make sure (1) you remove all distractions from your environment and (2) you make books as easy to access as possible.

As an example, here’s my immediate environment:

from original
(Charles Chu)

I travel a lot. That doesn’t stop me from reading. The picture on the left is of my “bookshelf” in Thailand. I try to keep books everywhere so I can just pick one up and start reading.

The picture on the right is my smartphone desktop. Notice there are only two apps. One of them—the Kindle app—is for reading. The other is for habits… Which brings me to my next point.

II. Upload habits

Willpower is not a good tool for lifestyle change. It always fails you when you need it most. Instead of relying on strength of mind, build a fortress of habits—these are what will keep you resilient in tough times.

If you’re not familiar with habit science, my favorite book on the subject is Tynan’s Superhuman by Habit. It’s infinitely practical, and practical is all I care about.

Getting good at habit formation took me years. Many of the mistakes I made were avoidable. If I could go back, I’d find a habit coach. Here’s how I see it. One game-changing idea from a good book is worth thousands of dollars. If a coach helps you read ONE more good book a year, you already get your money’s worth.

(A shout out to Cherry Jeffs and Nathan Sudds, two coaches who have helped me out a lot.)

III. Go multi-medium

When it comes to reading, be a jack of all trades, not a specialist.

If your goal is to read more, you can’t be picky about where you read or what mediums you use. I read paper books. I read on my phone. I listen to audiobooks. And I do these things everywhere—on park benches, in buses, in the toilet… Wherever I can.

Make your reading opportunistic. If you have a chance, take it. If you don’t have a chance, find one.

I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.

— Orhan Pamuk

If I hadn’t started reading, perhaps I’d still be at my dream job. Perhaps I’d still be at my desk, taking peeks at the clock and wondering if that was how I was going to die…

If you’re looking for answers, give reading a try. You may find much, much more than what you were looking for.

Source: qz.com

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First Lines from the Best Books of the Year

We try to not judge books by their covers, but first lines? Well, that’s a different story. In a world of so many books (and so little time!), we have to be selective…and a great opening can make the difference between “want to read” eventually and “want to readnow.

Check out how the winners of this year’s Goodreads Choice Awards hooked readers below. Which first lines make you want to read more?

“Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.”

 

BEST MYSTERY & THRILLER
Into the Water
by Paula Hawkins
“There was something you wanted to tell me, wasn’t there?”

 

BEST HISTORICAL FICTION
Before We Were Yours
by Lisa Wingate
“My story begins on a sweltering August night, in a place I will never set eyes upon.”

 

“Dougal—you settle down now, please.”

 

“I have an impressive collection of trophies that I did not win.”

 

BEST SCIENCE FICTION
Artemis
by Andy Weir
“I bounded over the gray, dusty terrain toward the huge dome of Conrad Bubble.”

 

“If you’d asked me back at the beginning of my career to guess which character I was most likely to return to, fifteen years after I’d played her for the first time, there would have been only one answer.”

 

“Regardless of how you got here, I’m so glad you did.”

 

BEST MEMOIR & AUTOBIOGRAPHY
What Happened
by Hillary Rodham Clinton
“This is my story of what happened.”

 

BEST MEMOIR & AUTOBIOGRAPHY
The Radium Girls
by Kate Moore
“The scientist had forgotten all about the radium.”

 

“In recent years, no more than a week goes by without news of a cosmic discovery worthy of banner headlines.”

 

BEST FOOD & TECHNOLOGY
The Pioneer Woman Cooks
by Ree Drummond
“When I was in my early twenties, I thought I was busy.”

 

BEST YOUNG ADULT FICTION
BEST DEBUT GOODREADS AUTHOR
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
“I shouldn’t have come to this party.”

 

BEST YOUNG ADULT FANTASY
A Court of Wings and Ruin
by Sarah J. Maas
“The buzzing flies and screaming survivors had long since replaced the beating war-drums.”

 

BEST MIDDLE GRADE & CHILDREN’S
The Ship of the Dead
by Rick Riordan
“‘Try it again,’ Percy told me. ‘This time with less dying.'”

 

What’s your favorite first sentence of 2017? Share it with us in the comments!
By Hayley
Source: Goodreads

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