Wednesday, 14 May 2014

How To Read Impossible Books

Every book deserves a chance, right?  Even if it's not the sort of thing you usually read. Maybe it's been recommended to you by a friend, maybe it's part of a course or class, or maybe it's one of those books that has such a place in the world's literary culture that you feel a bit of an ignoramus never having picked it up.

Sadly, not every book is going to be an easy ride - or, more to the point, an enjoyable one. Even if you're a person who prides themselves on being able to tackle supposedly impenetrable work, as I am, there's always going to be that one book that you just cannot deal with.

Well, no more! Get that book off the shelf right now, and prepare yourself for glorious victory.

Available in any combination of the following flavours.


1 - Read It Aloud

No matter how dedicated you are, you have been staring at that paragraph for the past half an hour. Text on the page can be as dense as two blocks of deep-frozen Costco mince, but you can pry it out of its stubbornly impenetrable hideout with the power of your voice. Or, if you're not feeling up for that yourself, enlist the help of a trusty friend or audiobook.

Silly voices are recommended, but optional.

2 - Word Games

Pick a word - any word. A nice noun is my personal recommendation; something frequently used, but not so essential to comprehension that its loss would leave you more bemused than the lost sock on its trillionth round of the washing machine.

Now, change it. To what? To anything. Pick another word, the dafter the better.

Then, read the book, reading the alternate word as you go. Trust me, it's far more amusing than it sounds. I'm pretty sure I could recite half the battle scenes of the Iliad thanks to the fact that the entire war was fought with lightsabers.

3 - Discuss It

You know what they say: never go into an adventure alone - you'll always need cannon fodder when the dragon comes along. Sadly, there are no dragons in this book (it would make things far too interesting), but having a valiant friend to brave the perils of the Deadly Boring Prose and the Brain-Drainingly Complicated Plot is worth a thousand dragons any day.

You'd be surprised how much of a tricky book you can work out just by talking to someone else in the same boat. If no friends are on-hand, online forums are always a great place to start. You'll find people who have read the book there, too, who can help you out if you get really stuck. After all, they will admit, Chapter Five is a bit of a pain in the backside...

4 - Reward Yourself

Sometimes, reading is about as much fun as being dragged backwards through a hedge of goblin-infested thorns while mean-faced pixies pull your ears and make rude remarks about your choice of footwear. Also there are spiders.

Thus, it's only fair that you give yourself a little treat for making it through your appointed number of pages per day. My favourite reward is keeping another book on hand - something light and fun and amsuing, but nothing so addictive that it will devour your motivation for its impossible counterpart. For every target you meet with your nasty, allow yourself some time with your reward book. It'll make the time go by much faster.


There you have it, dear readers. What do you make of these ideas? Thinking about trying any of them? Or have you tried them already - what did you think? Did you come up with someting better? Leave a comment, and let me know!

~ Charley R


  1. *thumbs up* That second suggestion sounds particularly interesting. I'll have to try that with assigned reading sometime. Unfortunately, it won't work for all books-- Shakespeare, for instance, uses so many different words that, except for prepositions and articles, you wouldn't get much use out of a single word-swap (unless you swapped a name). But Shakespeare uses so many funny words anyway, you don't even need it. The first step, however, is essential for Shakespeare.

    Good post.

    1. It's a lot of fun, particularly with very dry texts with long passages of description.

      Shakespeare, as you say, is best read aloud. Plays tend to sound best that way anyway :P