Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of Read.Learn.Write

This essay was written by Brandon Monk.

Who: Without some restraint, I tend to devour books. Since starting this site I’ve managed to slow down, read with a pencil, and make notes. I’ve learned a lot from running the site. But, I wasn’t always that way. I went to law school and after law school I lost the ability to read for pleasure. So, my involvement with the site keeps me honest. It’s a way to be involved in the day-to-day conversation about books. I’m the founder-in-fact of the site, but the real contributions here have come from across the world. You’ll notice a revolving door of readers willing to share their experiences in an essay or comment here. For that, I am grateful. If you want to talk about a book you can always reach me at readlearnwrite@gmail.com.

What: I decided to start reading seriously about four years ago, not for school, not for work, but to expose myself to new ideas. Then I realized I actually liked reading. I want you to want to read as well.  If you read this site looking for contradictions, you’re going to find them. That’s by design. I like to present multiple sides of the story. Further, the contributions on this site come from a number of regular readers–all across the world, in fact. What you’ll find is that to some of the hard questions about reading, there is no right answer, there is only the answer that works for you.

My suggestion is to read the content here and think about it. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Did you read the message and give it a fair chance? Do you understand the message? Does the message raise any questions? Ask as many questions as you can, but don’t read this site looking for some scientific or final logical argument about reading.

The only thing that matters to me is that you find what works for you.

I will not tell you what to read or walk you through Western Literature’s canonical works. I don’t prescribe reading. You should, instead, work through this site as a supplement while also reading for pleasure  at your convenience.

Relax. There will be no tests.

Where: The location, readlearnwrite.com.

When: You should read something every day. Even if all you can spare is five minutes to read a short poem. Even if all you can find the time to do is read a children’s book to your kids before they go to sleep.

Why Read: You can read my reasons here.

I do not intend to go back and teach you how to read on this site. I will leave basic reading instruction to the educators with the proper credentials. Instead, I hope to go much deeper and teach you how to make reading a lifetime adventure.

A college degree used to mean reading competence. A college degree used to mean you could read any material for general readers and undertake independent research on almost any subject.  What does a college degree mean today?  I went to college. My professors exposed me to books I still consider favorites today. Even with those, though, we could only dig so deep.

No college reading program takes you far enough. The challenge renews each time you carry over concepts and compare different writers’ views on the same subject. Make your goal to continue in this way for life.

How:  Start reading. You can incorporate the articles on this site into your reading. Keep reading. What might you like to read? Find a book to try out. The rules of adult life dictate you can read whatever you want, but if you have no place to start, these books (the following links are referral links and site gets a few pennies if you purchase these books using these links) helped me understand the art of reading. I owe these books gratitude:

1.   Adler, Mortimer J., and Doren Charles. Van. How to Read a Book: the Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972. Print.

2.   Aristotle, and D. W. Lucas. Poetics. Oxford: Clarendon P., 1972. Print.

3.   Edmundson, Mark. Why Read? New York: Bloomsbury, 2004. Print.

4.   Calvino, Italo. Why Read the Classics? London: Vintage, 2000. Print.

5.   Sire, James W. How to Read Slowly: Reading for Comprehension. Wheaton, IL: H. Shaw, 1989. Print.

6.   Bloom, Harold. How to Read and Why. New York: Touchstone, 2001. Print.

7.   Bakewell, Sarah. How to Live, Or, a Life of Montaigne : in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. New York: Other, 2010. Print.

8.   Prose, Francine. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Loves Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. New York, NY: Harperperennial, 2007. Print

9.   Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature like a Professor: a Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines. New York: Harper, 2003. Print.

10. Zunshine, Lisa. Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2006. Print.

11. Fish, Stanley Eugene. How to Write a Sentence: and How to Read One. New York: Harper, 2011. Print.

12. Culler, Jonathan D. Literary Theory. New York: Sterling, 2009. Print.

13. Ulin, David L. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. Seattle, WA: Sasquatch, 2010. Print.

14. Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.

15. Manguel, Alberto. A Reader on Reading. New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2010. Print.

16. Conroy, Pat, and Wendell Minor. My Reading Life. New York: Nan A. Telese, 2010. Print.

17. Bacon, Francis. Of Studies … San Francisco, 1928. Print.

18. Seneca, Lucius Annaeus., and Robin Campbell. Letters from a Stoic. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969. Print.

19. Dirda, Michael. Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life. New York: Henry Holt, 2006. Print.

If you’re not satisfied with this list, email me at readlearnwrite@gmail.com and we’ll find something. Hell, I’ll even read it with you if you want.

Photo by Paul Jarvis.