6 ways to immerse yourself in reading
6 Ways to Immerse Yourself in Reading
You know when you see a million dollar budget blockbuster movie and the production value makes it so that you forget that your life exists for an hour and a half? I’m here to tell you that most of my reading experiences are like that but better, and yours can be too.
One of the main complaints of non-readers about novels is their “lack of pictures”.
This was baffling to me as a teen because I actually found images distracting (please ignore the irony of my role as illustrator). I have trouble reconciling even a cover image with the image that I’ve created in my mind of the main character. I actually believed that everyone did this until a year ago when I was planning the illustrations for Caterpillar Portraits and my mother told me flat out that not everyone sees things like I do, in synaptic high definition. When I was in highschool and enjoying the peak of my novel consumption (it’s easier to devote time to reading when you don’t have to pay rent) I would open a book and as cliche as it sounds, I had left the room. My family was particularly amused by the antics required to return me to myself if I was lost in a book. We’re talking significant volume and multiple callings of my name. They didn’t understand how easy it was for me to switch off my outside ears and switch on my inside ears. Every sense is altered by by a good book. And as far as not having pictures… I’m not spending hours seeing rows of letters and words. I may be looking at them but I’m not seeing them. I’ve got an unlimited budget blockbuster playing in my head.
My mental blockbuster is funded by my imagination.
You know when you’re really into a film: the premise, the design, the action, the character interactions… but you’re prevented from being completely immersed? For me, it’s usually because they’ve cast an actor who I have categorized in my mind as someone else, so strongly that there is no room for this additional personality. It doesn’t matter if Daniel Radcliffe cultivates a believable relationship with this cute indie girl who’s already involved with someone else… I’m sitting there wondering when he’s going to tell her he’s a wizard and how they’re going to move past it. This never happens in my head. Recasting isn’t a thing. And… it’s not even about knowing exactly what everyone looks like, it’s about being so immersed in their reality that you are them, you share their insecurities and confidences and you don’t look in a mirror that often. I’m less interested in what colour a character’s hair is and more concerned with their capacity for emotional vulnerability.
So… how can you get there? How can you join me in reading immersion that causes you to miss your bus stop, or ignore the weird position you’re sitting in, but can also get you out of yourself when you most need it?
1. Cultivate your visual vocabulary.
The less often your are jolted out of a book because you don’t know a word, or can’t picture a thing, the more easily you will be able to immerse yourself. You can train for this by keeping a dictionary or a google-image-search handy while you read. Alternatively, I find Young Adult Fiction a lot easier to become immersed in because chances are that you already have all the vocabulary necessary.
2. Avoid books with pages of unnecessary scene description.
I’m looking at you, J.R.R.Tolkien. Sure, the landscape is really pretty, or really desolate, but if nothing is happening, I’m out. I’ll skip to the end of the page. When I’m forced to skip to the end of the page I remember that there is a page, and then I remember that I’m Brianna and it takes me a whole five minutes to forget again. So frustrating.
3. Read the first novel in a series.
If the author is worth their salt this novel will function as a stand alone story and as an introduction to the universe in which it is set. (That universe can be a high school, or a legal office, or a galaxy far far away. A universe is just the world as it is perceived by the protagonist). Therefore, if you like the first installation, you can read the sequel, and etcetera and you don’t have learn how to embody a new character at the start of every book. This is the same reason why we re-read certain books. Familiarity is comforting.
4. This one may just be for me. (warning! Brief feminist rant!)
I can’t handle protagonists that are sexist or racist, even if that makes sense within the story. For every thought that protagonist has that I could never have, I am wrenched from the story’s universe and set down firmly in myself. I’m sure I could benefit from reading a wider representation of humanity, but it comes down to why I read. I read to escape.
5. Get a library card… get the library card app… read books on your phone.
I know, I know! I co-run a micropublishing house that specializes in handmade paper books! What am I even saying!? Well, my love of beautiful books and my love of reading are related to one another, but not completely intertwined. Beautiful, handmade books are a special treat, like real ice-cream or a high-quality sweater. They’re all the better for their rarity, the actual smell of ink in their pages, the feel of debossed imprints, the fact that despite my very best efforts, no two of them are identical. But when you read one book/week like I do, or 4 books/week, like Natalie does, sometimes you need to find those convenient, cheap solutions, like ebooks. They cultivate your love of reading so that when you get the special treat of a beautifully bound Penrose Press original, you can enjoy it to the fullest.
6. Remember that you are the Creative Director inside your head.
Technology right now is all about user directed content and individual customization. Books have been making space for just that kind of activity since forever.
I hope these suggestions help you to immerse yourselves like I do! Please share any other mental-blockbuster strategies in the comments! And let us know: what do you think of us releasing Insomniac’s Assistant in June as both a beautiful hand-made volume, and an ebook?
Micropublishing Blog by Brianna and Natalie of Penrose Press