Utne Blogs > Literature

How to Be a Better Reader

by Elizabeth Ryan 


Tags: Bookworm, Michael Silverblatt, radio shows, books, how to read, reading, The Iowa Review, The Believer,

Bookworm

The latest issue of The Iowa Review has a fascinating interview with Michael Silverblatt, host of the nationally syndicated radio program Bookworm. Silverblatt talks about his reading habits and how he’s trained himself to plow through the complete works of the guests on his show. Here’s a great slice:

Sarah Fay: So, have you been teaching yourself to read more deeply over the years?
Michael Silverblatt: I’ve been teaching myself how to have the stamina to sit still. When I’m starting a book, I try not to read in bed. I read a hundred pages at a time and don’t get up. At the end of a hundred pages, I’ll go and have lunch. But I feel that it takes a hundred pages to be gripped by a book, so I try to read them in one sitting.

SF: How did you discover that?
MS: Trial and error. I didn’t know anything about it….I left graduate school before I had to take an oral exam, so I never had to find out if I could do concentrated stints of more-reading-than-is-humanly-possible. It wasn’t until I had the show that I read voluminously, and that was how I trained myself. First, a hundred pages at a time. Then I would see if I could read two hundred pages a t a time. Then I’d see if I could read War and Peace in four or five days, because wouldn’t that give me a really thrilling and unusual aerial view of the whole of the book, a book that many people stretch over an entire summer vacation or two or three months? I thought that would really give me a sense of the shape of the novel. I’m aware that my experience as a reader is not like other people’s. I don’t know how someone carries a book in his or her mind over the period of several weeks to a month. I get too hungry and excited.

The Believer also has what appears to be part of the same interview by Sarah Fay at the University of Iowa if you’re dying for more.

Sources: The Iowa Review (article not available online), The Believer

Image by wrestlingentropy, licensed under Creative Commons.