How to Enjoy a Book—No, Really


You think this is obvious, huh?

  • Enjoying a vacation should be automatic, but you encounter tourists who complain frequently.
  • You can mess up a good kiss by using your brain instead of just letting your heart take over.
  • Simply being alive should make us happy, but we humans are kind of funny about that.

We also don’t always enjoy a book the way we should.

How to Enjoy a Book

Reading should be a pleasurable experience. It’s not just the writing that makes a book good or bad. The reader plays a role in this, too.

Here are some tips to truly enjoying a good read:

  • Make the words sound and flow in a way that appeals to you. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. The author strung the words together, but it’s up to you to say them (in your mind) in a way that appeals to you.
  • Read the book in an ambiance that will let you enjoy it. Don’t read it where you’ll be distracted. Silence your cell phone, please.
  • Don’t read when you’re in a mood that might spoil a good book, unless you’re willing to commit to the book, letting the book take over and pull you out of reality.
  • Consider the title and blurb carefully. Scrutinize the beginning. Weigh the pros and cons of the reviews. The more wisely you select the book, the more you can trust that you will enjoy it.
  • Check out the author online. Look for signs of passion and professionalism. Interact with the author a little. I enjoy a book much more when I have personally interacted with the author and periodically see signs of the author’s passion and dedication.
  • Sit back and enjoy it. Don’t analyze it. You’re the reader, not a coauthor. Enjoy it the way it is (or toss it out if you can’t); don’t think about how it should have been.
  • Approach it with a positive outlook. Focus on what the book’s strengths have to offer. Don’t look for faults in it, as that puts you in a negative frame of mind.
  • Don’t think about reviewing the book while you’re reading it. That forces you to look for criticism. Enjoy the book while you’re reading it. Don’t think critically until it’s over.

Suppose you go to a movie theatre to see a movie that you’ve long anticipated. You with your friends. You share a big tub of popcorn, get a drink, even splurge on your favorite candy. Your friends pay so you don’t have to sweat the bill. You’re really going to enjoy this movie. It has to really stink up a storm to make you not enjoy it.

Read your book under similar circumstances and you will truly enjoy it.

Help Others Enjoy Books

Recommend a good book that you’ve read to others for whom it would be a good fit. Periodically ask how it’s going. Discuss what you like or mention that something big is coming, without giving any spoilers. If they complain about an issue, highlight a strength of the book that compensates for this and help them focus on that. This improves the reading experience for others.

Are you an author? Occasionally, remind your readers how to truly enjoy a good book.

I’m a Reader Like You

Chris McMullen.

I love to read and write. As a physicist, I tend to analyze things. As a teacher, I tend to think critically: I see a solution and instinctively think, “What’s wrong with this.” This type of thinking is helpful when you’re solving problems or helping students learn. However, if you get into these habits, it can be a challenge to retrain yourself to just enjoy something like a good book.

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Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

9 comments on “How to Enjoy a Book—No, Really

  1. Hi Chris – you are so right with all of this.

    You actually see that in the reviews – I finally got my own first negative review (I’m not bothered, everybody gets those, it comes with the territory), and there it was – the person “couldn’t get into it,” and then, after persevering for near on 600 pages – or maybe just idly flipping through it – decided that the ending was disappointing.

    My first reaction was, “If you’re not into it, ANY ending is going to be disappointing! Why didn’t you just put it down?” (It’s not disappointing, by the way, or I wouldn’t have people diving into book 2 or impatiently now waiting for book 3.)

    It has always amazed me that people will persevere with a book they hate, then blame the book. Or worse, they don’t try to get into it, then figure they can speak with authority on the plot.

    Your advice here is excellent. A reader does play a part in the process. While a writer will do everything in their power to attract and keep a reader going, it’s up to the reader to be receptive in the first place and to make time for the experience.


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