The Story Experience

What is a story?

In attempt to find an answer, I looked up several definitions of the word story in various dictionaries: all mentioned prose, verse, or narrative; none accurately conveyed the nature of a story. So instead of listing definitions for you, I will present three aspects of story, particularly the written form (which I am most familiar with), for your consideration.

1. The written story is a form of entertainment. This is not the same entertainment found in TV or in movies, that kind of entertainment is amusement. (In other words, no musing required.) When we watch TV we are not using our minds to think or to imagine. The visual images needed to construct a story is presented on the screen, not within our minds. One could say this is a kind of mindless entertainment.

In the written story, one must use his mind in order to comprehend the words he reads, and he must use his imagination to create the world. The entertainment written stories provide is possibly more rewarding than television and films, yet it requires work. It is this work that distances many people from reading, that renders it a chore, not something to be appreciated or enjoyed.

Reading requires time spent alone in a place free from distractions, in quiet. In most public spaces in America, music is always piped through. Few places are quiet. Even at home there is TV, or computers, or phones, or video games, and in vehicles there is radio. Media is everywhere. Living constantly in this environment, we become alienated to being quiet and being alone. Particularly now in a culture dominated by computers and internet, everything is so fast. Slowing down requires effort. Many people—intelligent people—don’t have a desire to read, not just because they get bored, but because they dread slowing down, they dread the quiet and aloneness that is unavoidable.

2. The written story is an experience. I don’t mean an experience of reading words. The experience the written story offers takes place in a world completely different from (though not unlike) our own. This world could be described as a fictive world, but I prefer to call it a secondary world. It is a place that exists only in the mind: it cannot be seen, it cannot be found, in any place but the mind.

This secondary world can only be entered into when the reader has forgotten completely about himself, and about the world he lives in. Once inside the world, he does not doubt its reality; he does not consider it as fiction, as nonexistent. It does exist.

It is this world where the experience takes place. The entertainment the reader derives from stories comes from his exploration, or discovery, of the world. It is one he hasn’t seen before, one he does not fully understand. He doesn’t witness the events of the story, he experiences them.

This experience is also a form of escape. Our mind cannot co-exist, cannot live within a secondary world and also live within our own. So we escape from the banal torments of everyday life, and enter into something more magical. And it is not just an escape from our world. It is also an escape from the limitations of our own personality. We couldn’t normally have these adventures, or we’d be too frightened. When we enter into a secondary world, we leave all that we are behind us.

We also, for the moment, take on the personality of the writer. Everything we see in this secondary world, though made vivid with our imagination, is seen through the writer’s eyes, through his worldview, since every detail was written in his perception. In this respect, it is very possible that, in subtle ways gone unnoticed, our own perception, our own worldview, can be altered.

Unlike other forms of story telling—television and films, for example—the written story is an experience that lingers. (Particularly in novel form.) A very long movie might last three hours, then its over. A novel, especially a long one, can last for days, for weeks. This is something unique to the written story: no other form of entertainment (that I can think of) can be drawn out for so long.

3. The written story is an art form. Many have forgotten this. An “old classic,” or any modern or contemporary work of serious fiction, is art. But this alone will not persuade a man who doesn’t read to read. First he must discover an appreciation for art, and be willing to work for it. (Few have the patience, or the desire, to study a piece of artwork for half an hour or longer. Even those who explore art museums rarely spend more than a few minutes with each painting or sculpture, never reaching a point of true appreciation, never finding satisfaction.)

Maybe it is because people consider fiction merely as entertainment that they have forgotten its artistic value. Popular and commercial fiction is somewhat accountable for this. The books popular today are merely fads that come and go. These books can be thought of as disposable experiences: they are read, experienced, then tossed away, and the reader is ready for whatever popular book comes along next. The qualities found in great art are not found here. There is nothing worth studying for very long, and the satisfaction got out of the story is not sustaining. It can be equated with a candy bar: it is temporarily satisfying, but it leaves little substance.

Great books are ones that can be read, read, and read again. Coming back to the world of an exceptional novel the reader finds he has more appreciation for it than he did before. He discovers a world that can be preserved, that can never tarnish or pale. He finds, in the absence of himself, a lasting experience brimming with mystery.

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Inklings at the Eagle and Child

They met in a pub called the Eagle and Child. Usually it was on Thursday evenings, and they sat in the Rabbit Room beside a fireplace, and ate good plain food and drank beer if there was any, and sometimes hot cider with chunks of apple floating. In the course of these weekly meetings there was always good talk and good debate, but perhaps most enjoyable were their readings.

After much small talk, one man said: “Well has anyone got anything to read?” Someone in the room pulled out a manuscript, handwritten, and prepared the papers in correct order, and the others continued chatting.

“This is what I have so far of my next chapter,” he said, and waited for everyone to quiet. He began to read from the manuscript. It was the usual sort of thing they heard each week.

This particular chapter was about a company of men and elves and dwarves and small creatures called Hobbits. And of course one old wizard. They had just arrived at a door of stone in which were elvish engravings revealed by moonlight. Next came a journey through darkness, with distant echoes of shadow and flame. Jack Lewis was very fond of this story—most of them were—and they all listened intently, and he read on for the next hour.

For them it was commonplace to hear regular readings from The Lord of the Rings, as well as Lewis’s novels, such as Out of the Silent Planet. They also suggested changes to each other’s stories as they saw fit, and criticized one another, sometimes rather harshly. But of course they were all just a group of friends, and they called themselves The Inklings.

They were mostly Oxford dons brought together by university connections. It all began with the meeting of Tolkien and Lewis, who at first didn’t get along too pleasantly. They both seemed the other’s opposite, and hardly talked.

But soon after Tolkien met Lewis, he began a club dedicated to the reading of Icelandic mythology (in the original text.) The group was called the Coalbiters (the Icelandic name was Kolbíter, a jesting term meaning “men who lounge so close to the fire in winter that they bite the coal.”) Lewis was invited to one of these meetings, and it just so happened that he fervently loved Icelandic mythology. After one Coalbiters meeting, he and Tolkien stayed up till 2:30 in the morning discussing the gods and giants of Asgard.

A friendship began. It was the kind of moment, as Lewis once remarked, when someone who has till then believed he was all alone in his feelings, cries out: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

The Inklings began later after Lewis and Tolkien had met the other Oxford professors. I imagine they all had theWhat! You too? experience when they first met. They each had writing in common, and they all loved their secondary worlds. But this unity between them, something one might call friendship, made all the difference. Without C.S. Lewis there would be no Lord of the Rings, nor would there be Narnia if not for Tolkien’s influence.

So these Thursday night Inklings continued, until Lewis’s death in ’63. There seems to be something magical in those meetings—even more magical than drinking tea and eating cakes with a Fawn in a snowy land—a magic element that’s only found when all the members are present: when all are laughing at a bawdy joke, or when all are listening to a story read, or drinking from pub glasses in the Eagle and Child.

Much of a writer’s time is spent in solitude: working at his desk, listening to those voices in his head, dreaming the fictive dreams. When, by good Providence, he finds a group of like-minded people, others who are strange like him, who understand the burdens and mysteries of being creative, it is (as Lewis would say) “good magic.”

This was a guest post on another literary blog, Ian Duncan Books. Check out this great site: www.IanDuncanBooks.com

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Why Write? On Motives for Writing

Here’s a common misconception not listed in the Wikipedia article: A novelist’s ultimate goal is to publish a book. I suppose getting published could be a goal for some novelists, but it seems to me a lot of people think the chief end of a novelist is to publish a book, and somehow that justifies their existence.

If I say in public, “At the moment I’m currently writing a novel,” I won’t be surprised by a response similar to, “Make sure you send me a first edition when it gets published,” along with, “Why don’t you give me your autograph now so when you’re famous I can sell it on eBay for easy money.” I’ll laugh at the sarcasm, but what’s irritating is the implied assumption that I’m working towards being published and famous, that my motivation is a want for success.

You can imagine an author sacrificing night and day for fictive nonsense, constantly infusing caffeine into his system to keep awake, feeding on hopes of getting published and becoming a success. When he tells you, “I’m a fiction writer; I’m currently working on a novel,” you can hear the underlying pride that speaks of future fame and riches. But if this is his motive to write, he’ll either remain a failure or become a miserable success.

In an essay on fiction writing, Flannery O’Conner discusses the difference between someone who is interested in being a writer, and someone who is interested in writing. The first is interested in publishing something, and if possible, making a “killing.” They’re interested in seeing their names at the top of something printed and successful. That’s their motivation, but it’s a motivation that will never be fulfilling.

David Foster Wallace was an author who, severely depressed, committed suicide in September 2008. He once said in an interview that for a long time his motivation to write was his want of becoming published and successful and gaining recognition. Eventually he did get published and became a success and received recognition, but he realized none of the success he experienced gave him any happiness. He came to the conclusion that his writing was pointless, because achieving his only goal brought him no joy. He started thinking: “If the whole reason I write doesn’t make me happy, then why am I writing?”

If you ask a writer, “Why do you write?” he will most likely reply with something like, “Because I have to, I don’t have a choice.” Maybe to us that’s the most unsatisfying answer, but maybe to them it’s the only conceivable one.

But the question seems to be a mystery. If not to be published, if not to become famous, if not to be successful, what would drive a writer to write? Why would any sane person stay up to indecent hours struggling miserably over sentences and word choices? (Though I suppose one could argue that no writer is sane.)

The only satisfying answer I’ve found is this: that for a writer, telling stories is a part of who he is. It’s a God given talent and a God given desire, and he should write for His pleasure, and also for his own. He won’t find happiness in his work any other way. It’s the difference between the man who is interested in writing, and the man who is interested in being a writer. The first is motivated by a love for storytelling. He will be content with his accomplishments and content to accept whatever rewards they may or may not bring. To him publishing is secondary. It serves only as a means through which he can share his work, so that an audience of readers might also experience and enjoy his fictitious creations.

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Interview with Pieter Collier

I was very fortunate to be able to interview Tolkien-collector and expert Pieter Collier, the founder and webmaster of Tolkien Library (www.tolkienlibrary.com). Tolkien Library is an excellent site and resource, where you can learn pretty much anything you need to know about Tolkien books. If you haven’t already I highly recommend you visit the site and take a look—I’m sure the bookshop of rare Tolkien books will interest you.

Pieter with a First Edition Silmarillion, signed by Christopher Tolkien

Justin Hall: When were you first introduced to Tolkien, and what was your first impression of his work?

Pieter Collier: It is hard to say when I was first introduced to Tolkien, but it must have been when I was still a very small child, and well before I was able to read. It was my eldest brother, who was into role-playing and table-top games, who first introduced me to the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien. So I knew all about hobbits, elves, and orcs from when I was an infant. The Hobbit must have been one of the first “books” I read. Around the age of eleven I finally read The Lord of the Rings. Much later I found out that the copy I read was the first printing of the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings. I still own this set and see it as the most precious item in my collection. While it is now over 20 years ago, and I have re-read the books many times, I can still recall how I was unable to stop reading and how I felt at that time. At that time I was literally devouring books, reading a couple a week, but so far only The Lord of the Rings had such a big impact on me.

JH: What made you want to become a Tolkien collector?

PC: As far as I can see it now it was my search for “more Tolkien” that did make me start to collect Tolkien books. At first I just wanted to have his books close by so I could read them when I wanted. Then I found nice illustrated editions, books with Tolkien inspired art, and soon wanted to learn more about the man behind the books, and ended up with several books about Tolkien. By the time I was 14 I had a nice Tolkien book collection and went to see several Tolkien exhibitions. The year was 1992 and we celebrated the Tolkien centenary, so I went to Tolkien exhibitions in Belgium, The Netherlands, and England, where I learned that there was much more to discover and read by and about Tolkien, and from that day my collecting passion only grew. It was (and still is) a very nice adventure. While I started out being passionate about Middle-earth I soon found many new passions: books, collecting, and the author J.R.R. Tolkien. Because I started very early on, I managed to obtain some very nice items.

JH: What are your thoughts about Peter Jackson’s movie adaptions?

PC: That is a rather difficult question for me. In general I’m very much a book person and don’t watch too many movies. I have to admit that I was very scared to go and see the Lord of the Rings movie adaptations. From early on I had created a visual image of how the landscapes, characters, etc. looked like. Probably I was scared that the movies would not be in line with my own imagination. At first, probably the first 15 minutes of The Fellowship of the Ring, I was completely blown away and in general I very much liked the first movie. But when the second movie came, and especially the third movie, I got more and more disappointed. For me Peter Jackson (and team) did an amazing job and really did change the movie landscape. If anything the love for Tolkien’s work could be felt in all three movies, and at the time this was probably the best possible adaption of the books. Still, even though there are now many more Tolkien book fans because of the movies, I sort of had wished they were never made. For me the most frustrating thing in the movies is the use of language. Maybe I’m sensitive to this, but when you read the books, you only need one sentence to hear, feel, and know who is speaking or which race is talking. Clearly the books are written in English, but the subtle differences in use of English by the different characters is the most amazing achievement by any author ever. It gives a credibility to the book that is hard to find anywhere else. By letting characters recite phrases that are clearly not theirs, the whole movie lost out on an opportunity to bring the most credible story ever.

JH: Can you remember the first Tolkien book you owned? What edition was it, and do you still have it?

PC: There were a couple of Tolkien books in our house before I was born. The first copy I “owned” was the first edition of In de Ban van de Ring, the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings. Of course I still have it, and it is the book that my wife used to read, and hopefully will be the book that my kids will use to read for the first time.

JH: Besides collecting Tolkien, do you have any other passions or hobbies or other collections?

PC: Besides Tolkien I do have my family—my wife and 4 kids—which is my greatest passion. Next to that I do work a full-time job as head of department Web Design at Android, where I spend most of my time. Tolkien comes in third place and most of the time is reserved for late in the evening or night. Because there are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week there is no room for other passions, hobbies and collections! The only thing I like next to good food and good wine, are documentaries, but it’s hard to find very good ones.

JH: What is your favorite moment or quote from the Lord of the Rings, and why?

PC: My favorite scene / quote by Tolkien comes from The Silmarillion, and is said by Beren: “‘It is fulfilled. Even now a Silmaril is in my hand.” It is one of the turning points in a great story and in the history of Middle-earth. As for the Lord of the Rings, my favorite scene depends on the day, and maybe even the time of the year. There are so many scenes I love and so many passages I like that it is hard to pick just one.

JH: Besides Tolkien, what other books would be in your Top 10 list?

PC: The top 10 questions are always hard ones. But I think I can give you 10 of my favorite authors here. Authors I like very much are J.R.R. Tolkien, Orson Scott Card, William Gibson, Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Terry Pratchet, Anne Rice, Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert A. Heinlein,… as you can see this is a classic list, but I like to read their books!

JH: What gave you the idea of Tolkien Library?

PC: The idea probably came from the fact that my house had turned into a Tolkien Library. In all rooms there were bookshelves and Tolkien books. At a certain moment there were over 6000 Tolkien related books in my house. Since friends called it the Tolkien Library, and since I had decided to start a website about my passion, it was a logical name to use.

JH: How many books do you have in your collection? Are you always adding more books to it?

PC: Over the last years I have not been adding many books to my collection, and in general I now only collect high quality items. So I am trading in quantity for quality. At the moment I must have over 1000 books, but the core of my collection—the items that will remain here—are around 300 books altogether.

JH: Would you say Tolkien is the greatest writer of all time? If not, who would you put above him?

PC: There is no other author that had a greater impact on me then Tolkien. But to call him the greatest writer of all time would be a strange thing. The history of writing is a very long one, and I’m certain if I had more time to read I would be able to come up with many other writers to add to the list of great writers. But so far, there is no other author that changed my own life as much as Tolkien.

JH: Have you ever written any books or stories of your own, or any Middle-earthian fan fiction?

PC: So far I have not had the desire to write any Middle-earth related fan fiction. I have started on a book when I was younger and it is still hanging in my mind, but that will be a book that would probably be put in the category of science fiction or cyberpunk. But since I have no time to work on it I don’t expect it will ever be written. Who knows, one day…

JH: Out of all of Tolkien’s works, what would you say is his best, and why?

PC: Another difficult question. But my favorite book by Tolkien is The Silmarillion. While I found it difficult to read the first time I picked  it up, it has been growing on me with every time I re-read it. The more I understand the book the deeper it goes, and the less I understand how just one man could have written it. Next to that I’m extremely fond of the Notion Club Papers, and my all time favorite is Leaf by Niggle.

JH: If you could go anywhere in Middle-earth, where would it be?

PC: It is a question I get asked more often and in general I don’t think I would ever want to live in Middle-earth. I’m probably too realistic to know that it can never be so never thought it an interesting idea to ponder about too much. But if you would make me pick a place it would probably be the Grey Havens. I imagine the busy elven ports, windswept rocky beaches with spray catching the breeze from the breaking waves, and rolling hills rising into the Blue Mountains. A land in which you can find both busy streets and quiet valleys. I like the sea, I love to see mountains and have an open view from the house I live in. While I’m not over social, I prefer to live in an area that lives, and would not be able to live in a desolate place like, for example, Beorn’s home.

JH: What advice would you give to beginning collectors?

PC: There are many tips I would like to give to new collectors, but the most important are these:

- Go for quality and never for quantity.

- Enjoy the tales behind the books more then the books themselves.

- It is nice being able to buy the more expensive books, but the quest in finding them will always give you more pleasure.

- Building a collection following these rules will take much time, but it will be an adventure that will bring the most enjoyment.

- Share your passion with other collectors and learn from others while talking about your passion.

- Focus on one topic, it is impossible to own everything.

- Always keep your family in the first place, collecting is a bug and you always need to remember that…

JH: Which illustrator of Tolkien’s work is your favorite, and why?

PC: There are numerous Tolkien illustrators that I like and admire. I’m very much an art lover and can enjoy all kinds of Tolkien illustration. In general I prefer the preliminary drawings over the finished result, since there I can really feel the creative process.

Among my favorite Tolkien illustrators are Stephen Hickman, Alan Lee, John Howe, Ted Nasmith, Michael Hague, … as for Tolkien artists I like the work by Cor Blok, Philip Smith, Pauline Baynes, Ruth Lacon, … Since I have been working on tracking down the art works by Cor Blok for several years I have now a close bond with his art work. But I can’t say that I prefer his art above that of others. I’m glad there are so many active artists illustrating and being inspired by the works by Tolkien to create fabulous pieces of art and I hope that the upcoming movies don’t bring us back to a “one dominating view” on Middle-earth. It is always best to stimulate the readers imagination in the broadest possible way and not to push them into one general direction.

JH: What would you say is the most important theme throughout the Lord of the Rings?

PC: There are numerous themes in The Lord of the Rings, but for me the most important one is probably the theme of “Power, temptation, and corruption.” I have to quote Tom Shippey here who mentions Lord Acton’s famous statement from 1887, that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…”

It is present from the beginning to the end of The Lord of the Rings and is an important lesson. But what I always remember when thinking about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings—in that light these are two very similar tales—it is possible for even the smallest person to overcome this, and step by step grow into a big and great man, without falling into the traps that power and corruption bring.

 

Thanks again to Pieter for a great interview! Remember to visit Tolkien Library.

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No More Narnia Movies?

It appears the fourth installment of the recent Chronicles of Narnia movies is in peril. Walden Media, who produced the first three, has lost the rights to the books—this may mean no more Narnia movies for a long time.

This is taken from Cranach: The Blog of Gene Veith:

Fans of popular book series The Chronicles of Narnia have been left in limbo over when, or even if, they will see a new movie from the franchise on the big screen.

Walden Media, which produced the first three Narnia films – “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (2005), “Prince Caspian” (2008) and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (2010), apparently no longer hold the rights to the movies. What is more, the C.S. Lewis Estate must wait a number of years before they can resell them to Walden or another studio, NarniaWeb.com revealed.

Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C. S. Lewis, confirmed the news in a radio interview to Middle-Earth radio back in October. ChristianCinema posted an excerpt from the conversation:

“If you’re aware Walden’s contract with the [C S Lewis] Company has expired, that’s true. And that leaves us in a situation that, for a variety of reasons, we cannot immediately produce another Narnian Chronicle movie. But it is my hope that the Lord will spare me and keep me fit and healthy enough so that in three or four years time we can start production on the next one,” Gresham said.

The exact length of time that the estate has to wait has not been reported, but if Gresham’s hopes that production can only begin with within the next three or four years come true, fans may have to wait another six or seven years before the movie is finalized and ready for the big screen.

Michael Flaherty, co-founder and president of Walden Media, shared in an interview with The Christian Post back in March that the company was planning to make The Magician’s Nephew, and not The Silver Chair, as the next Narnia movie, which is a prequel to the very first book in the series. However, now it is unclear whether Walden will be able to reclaim the rights, or which movie a new production company would like to do.

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How to Use Facebook

In this post I will be explaining 5 main features on Facebook (click on pictures to view larger):

1. It’s called the Status Box. This is where you post your complaints, your most recent misfortunes, your ranting on pet-peeves, and—if by chance the day is going fairly—tell the world of your peanut-butter and jelly sandwich you are eating for lunch.

2. This is called the Photo Uploader. This is where you can upload the most recent photos of you looking into your bathroom mirror…..

 ….or the the most recent picture of your feet.

3. It’s called your Family List. This is where you can put your best friend as your grandson, your cousin as your mother, and where your actual brother is…not listed at all.

4. This is called the Ticker.  This is where you can read all the things your friends say that you’re not supposed to see.

5. Finally, this is the Chat Box. This is where you can talk to your friends—with eloquent internet lingo.

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A Tolkien Celebration!

Yet another picture of Professor Tolkien and his pipe.

J.R.R.Tolkien’s birthday this past Tuesday, one hundred and twenty years. A well respected age, even for a hobbit—just nine years older than Bilbo at the start of the Lord of the Rings. If I were older, and if I weren’t a teetotaler, and if I could venture into the likes of a Hobbiton pub, I would most heartily raise a pint in tribute. But, being younger, and being a teetotaler, and it being impossible to reach the likes of a Hobbiton pub, I can only raise a mug of coffee with my best impersonation concerning hobbits.

And this is also a big Middle-Earth year, with the first of The Hobbit movies being released at year’s end, so I felt it only suitable to do something for the occasion. I decided to order for myself, in celebration of Tolkien’s birthday, a new edition of the Lord of the Rings. (You must remember, in Hobbiton it’s custom that hobbits each receive a gift on another hobbit’s birthday). It is next week arriving, so you can be waiting—if at all you care—for an in-depth review.

In the mean time, take some time to raise a mug of coffee—if you can’t get hold of a pint from the South Farthing—and ready yourself in this rising anticipation for the coming of the great Middle-Earthian blockbuster.

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Morgan Weistling

Where Stories Were Told

For a long time I’ve been captivated by the artwork of Morgan Weistling. I can’t describe his work to you, can’t in any way do them justice, so I highly recommend you visit his website and see for yourself. (www.morganweistling.com) Here are a few paintings borrowed from his site.

Country Schoolhouse, 1879

Alice

The Quilting Bee, 19th Century Americana

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Pocket Calvin

Truth for All Time, John Calvin - Banner of Truth Trust, Leatherbound 2008 edition

This morning I finished the first out of the one hundred books to read this year. Truth for All Time by John Calvin, a small leatherbound book I call my “Pocket Calvin.”

This paragraph, taken from the preface, I believe very well describes it:

“[This book] is a small but priceless jewel. It has lain buried and forgotten for far too long, but now that it has been unearthed you shall find that it shines as brightly as ever and has lost none of its value.”

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Tips to Improve Your Reading

In the early hours of a new, dawning year—I say hours, not days, not weeks—many people around the world are inspired with ambition. It’s a time when resolutions and goals are decided and written down.

One of my goals is to read one hundred books before next year, so recently I’ve been thinking about ways to improve my reading ability. Maybe you’re like me, you wish to improve your reading.  If so, perhaps these tips will help.

But first I should say this: if you think these tips will magically ease the reading experience, you’re wrong. If you don’t plan to put in any effort, you might as well go to your couch and sit down and click on the power button on your TV remote. Though you might not plan to read one hundred books before another year dawns, any amount of ambitious reading requires effort and work. Keep that in mind.

1. Plan what to read. This means a list of books. Hardly a chance to get by reading one hundred books without planning exactly what those books will be. Be meticulous. Put in the author, perhaps the birth date and death date of that author, perhaps the year each book was published. If the list seems boring, be creative: throw in a splash of red or blue or green, change the text sizes—have different fonts for every single letter. Reading isn’t a boring thing. Be creative. It was creativity that gave birth to each novel on your list.

2. Schedule what you read. I don’t mean to schedule a whole year’s worth, though you’re welcome to if you feel ambitious enough. Plan two weeks ahead. If there’s a 350 page novel before you, and you want to finish it in one week, get a calculator and divide by seven. At the moment, I know I need to read 45 pages a day of Bleak House in order to finish it in two weeks. Once I know that, it’s easy. I can look ahead and know to stop at page 304, don’t even have to worry about the three inches of pages that follow. I’ve already taken care of that.

3. Research. Sounds like fun, huh? It’s helpful to do a background check, see what it’s all about. Read about the genre, read about where the author is coming from politically, philosophically. Wikipedia is free. Why don’t you go and try it out?

4. Interest. This is paramount. Everyone has, once or twice, abandoned a started book. Why? Because there was no interest in the content, the characters, the setting. Interest is your choice. You can consciously decide to either be interested or not in what you read, even if it appears boring. This also goes along with Tip #1: plan what to read. If you know that the last thing you want to read is a who-dun-it, then you know to exclude it from the list.

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