Reading Reflection:

Wordsmithy, Douglas Wilson (Canon Press, 2011) You know a book’s going to be good when the title alone sets off your spell check. This is a book about writing, but even if you do not particularly consider yourself a writer, you will still find this read a treasure. I’m going to post two Reading Reflections from this short, 120 page book to prove it. Today’s is a good follow-up from my last article on reading, and you’ll have to stay tuned for the special weekend edition. To be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. So, Wilson gives us several points of advice on reading. One is to “Read like a reader and not like someone cramming for a test” (34).  Sometimes we forget that we don’t read for the pop quiz anymore. Unfortunately, much of that form of testing did not help our reading skills very much.
We test students right after they read something mostly to ensure that they have in fact read it. From this, many have drawn the erroneous conclusion that the only good that can be extracted from the reading is that which can be displayed on or measured by such a test. This is wildly inaccurate. Most of the good your reading and education has done for you is not something you can recall at all… You read widely to be shaped, not so that you might be prepared to regurgitate. Read like someone who can afford to forget most of what you read. It does not matter because you are still going to be shaped by it (36-37).
People often tell me that they could never read like I do because they forget so much of what they read. So do I! That’s why I’m always talking about what I’m reading. I’m using you people to process my thoughts and allow my reading to shape my thinking. Talking about what you’re reading is like amplified underlining. Go for the big picture and the details will fall in place easier. But if they don’t, that’s okay. It’s in print. If it’s that important, you can look it up. So instead of asking yourself if you are going to remember what’s on page 67, reflect on how this particular book is shaping your thinking. People are also timid to give book reviews at my way better than a normal book club, club. (This is not true if you’ve actually attended your first one to discover that we are a bunch of knuckleheads with no formality.) Sure, we want to hear a little about your book, but again, it is not a pop quiz. You don’t need to regurgitate the whole book. A review should tell us things like the main message, the writer’s success in delivering it, and whether or not you agree. What questions did it lead you to ask? What imaginary dialogue did you find yourself having with the author? Of course, different genres lead to different nuances in the review. Giving a review of a book is a great way to gain retention, and a better understanding of the book’s effect on you. But I wholeheartedly agree with Wilson: Read like you can afford to forget most of what you read. Be an extravagant spender of reading time. Indulge in many good books!