Read With Some New Perspective

50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2008: Relax when reading to enjoy it more

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Dan Chaon had always been a big reader, but after a few years as a graduate student and writer, he felt like he was losing that love. "Every book began to seem like work," he says.

When reading becomes a chore, you run the risk of reading less often. You also lose perspective, as reading allows us to see beyond the everyday and imagine, says Esther Lombardi, a writer and bibliophile. So here's a thought on how to make pleasure reading more pleasant: Relax!

Chaon, now a professor at Oberlin College and author of You Remind Me of Me, says when he was young, he would bring home dozens of books from the library each week—from cartoons to scientific picture books—and skim one, read another, and choose bits and pieces of a third. "Remembering this old pleasure, I wondered how I had gotten to the point that I now felt somehow responsible to each book I picked up.... It took me a while to realize that, as a reader, I was no longer beholden to anyone."

One song. Chaon says he often reads as much for parts as for the whole. "Sometimes you get a whole album just for one song;" he explains, "sometimes you listen to one song just because you love that one moment where the backup singer comes in at the bridge; and sometimes you want to read one particular part of a book."

So don't pressure yourself to scour every page. Spend 20 minutes rereading the same passage, if you like. Or if the book doesn't grab you, put it down without finishing. After all, who is holding you accountable?