January 29, 2023

Save the Net Books

Blogazine on Books, Arts, and Music

6 questions to help you shape your reading practice

Every person who lives by faith has what we call a “spiritual practice,” which involves incorporating activities that help develop our spirituality into our daily lives. “Walking a path” toward a goal is a common metaphor to describe a spiritual practice. I contend that when we have spiritual practices, we also have reading practices that are just as profound, meaningful, and fulfilling. Let’s discuss what exactly a “reading practice” is, and then we’ll delve into how to cultivate one by answering a few questions.

For many readers, books are sacred objects, and reading is a meaningful activity that leads readers to a higher connection with the divine that you can interpret as any religion, or no religion at all. “The Divine” could very well be agnostic, atheistic, or belief-based. What I take into reading practice with The Divine is a deep connection to literature, poetry, books and writing.

The fact is that reading is a spiritual activity for many people. They maintain a mindful reading practice guided by several personal goals and guidelines. They read to live more fully and to understand the big themes that encompass stories, including finding connection with others, developing personal morals, defining values, nurturing diverse voices and experiences, and being a responsible person. You read to understand the world more deeply; for some, this means seeking a self-taught learning experience to discover new information, and for others, reading to connect with stories.

It is not for nothing that storytelling is one of the oldest traditions of mankind. Through stories, we witness our heroes’ journeys, learn valuable lessons, challenge our beliefs, and provide a pathway to positive outcomes. Books offer hope, connection to other readers, and sheer entertainment in dark and often difficult situations. Books save lives. I am sure if you are reading this you would agree.

For these readers, reading is a lifelong effort to follow the path to literal enlightenment, on the path of reading to understand the world we live in, the human experience, and the grand themes that dominate our lives, including love, Friendship, Acceptance, Inclusiveness, Diversity, War, Evil and Morality to name a few.

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How do you build a reading practice? Try answering these six questions to get you on the path to reading more mindfully and with more intention.

1. Why are you reading?

This is perhaps the most basic but deepest question of all. So answer the question: Why are you reading? In a world with thousands of distractions and possible activities we could be doing at any time, why do you choose to read? What does reading offer you? How is the actual reading experience for you?

2. What would you like to learn from books?

What should books teach you? Some read for new information. Books are a way to explore new areas of knowledge. For them, reading is a learning process that complements, overshadows or replaces formal education. I feel this question deeply. For many years I was afraid to read non-fiction. I didn’t consider myself “smart enough” to capture information in non-fiction. But then I read some great narrative non-fiction books and got hooked. I read non-fiction to broaden my worldview, to learn new things, and to understand the world a little more deeply.

This question also applies to fiction: through fiction we live vicariously through the actions of the hero. What do you hope to learn through storytelling?

3. What goals do you have for your reading tour?

If a spiritual practice is guided by goals for a spiritual journey, we can also embark on a book journey, setting goals to guide our reading. What goals do you have in your reading practice for your reading tour? Start with the most basic goal of all: Set a reading challenge goal for the year. Whether your goal is to read 12, 50, or 100 books each year, such a goal will set you up with a significant goal to read more. And isn’t our general goal to read more? You may also have additional reading goals, such as For example, completing Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge each year or reading X books in a new genre. For this question, look at short, medium, and long-term goals. For example, a short-term goal might be to read eight books this month, a medium-term goal might be to complete your annual reading challenge, and a long-term goal might be a transition to more diverse reading.

4. How will you document your reading tour?

Without proper documentation, your reading experience can become data that is lost when it could have been found. At the very least, you should log your reading in progress, completed, and to-read on a site like Goodreads, StoryGraph, or LibraryThing. Adding books with shelves to mark with each book you pick up can help you remember a book. But maybe you want to dig deeper and review each book on a social reading site, start a blog, or chart your reading with a special spreadsheet. You could also keep a notebook and record your reading dates and reactions. No matter what you do to document your reading journey, you will create valuable data that you can refer to later. Otherwise, I know from experience, everything becomes a blur.

5. How will you read more diversely?

This is one of the most important questions of all. How will you expand your knowledge, expose yourself to unique experiences, and develop more empathy for those whose background and identity doesn’t match your own? Simple: by reading more and keeping an eye on more diversity and inclusivity. It’s so important to read from authors writing about their own identity to understand the experiences of others from different backgrounds. Using reading as a vehicle to explore our diverse world is crucial.

6. How will you connect with other readers?

Connecting with other readers is part of your reading experience. Before the internet and social media, it was harder to connect with fellow bookworms. Now it’s possible to get involved on the literal web via the Bookstagram community on Instagram or BookTok on TikTok. You could also find a connection by joining online or in-person book clubs, or starting a book blog and reaching out to other book bloggers to encourage you to be the best reader you can be. The point is: reading no longer has to be an activity of isolation. You can immerse yourself in the world of books online and in person and experience the joy of books with others.

And there you have it: six questions to help you develop your personal reading practice. What questions shape your reading practice? What are your book goals? Start reading with more intention by establishing a continuous and ever-evolving reading practice.