Read Too Much? Unlikely, But Read More Mindfully

Read Too Much?

Is it possible to miss out on life by reading too much?

I suppose it is. Anything can become too much, subtracting from our life instead of adding to it. Even reading.

But most people aren’t in danger of reading too much. If anything, we read too little.

That’s why it’s important to get the most out of what we do read. To read mindfully. Artfully. Joyfully, like a child.

The real danger is reading absent-mindedly, not getting enough from what we read.

We just aren’t paying attention.

Read mindfully

The Art of Mindful Reading

Ella Berthoud has a plan for that. She is a bibliotherapist. She prescribes fiction books as therapy to her clients (yes, that’s really a thing). Her new book, The Art of Mindful Reading, can help us be our own bibliotherapists, getting more out of our reading.

“As a bibliotherapist, I believe that every novel you read shapes the person that you are, speaking to you on a deep, unconscious level, and altering your very nature with the ideas that it shows you.”

She points out that reading might help you live longer—it slows your heart rate and produces a stress-reducing meditative state in your brain.

But this book isn’t just about the effects of reading on the brain; it’s also a how-to on enjoying reading more, by being more mindful. She gives advice on how to lose yourself in a book. She encourages exercises on discovering a new awareness of reading, depending on whether you’re an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic reader.

For poetry lovers (alas, I’m not much of an aficionado), she also includes a section on reading poetry mindfully. (Which makes me want to actually go read some poetry.)

She encourages her readers to create a reading nook, to learn passages by heart, and how to make reading a daily habit.

We often read for different reasons—knowledge, wisdom, emotional intelligence, excitement, escapism,catharsis—and that’s why it matters what we read, but it’s also why it matters how we read. This book addresses both.

Whether you consider yourself an avid reader or not, you’ll likely read advice you can benefit from in Berthoud’s book.

Pay attention to what you’re reading. 

* * *

Why do you read? For pleasure, for information, for help? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

My thanks to Net Galley
for the review copy of this book

19 thoughts on “Read Too Much? Unlikely, But Read More Mindfully

  1. Martha J Orlando

    I read for many different reasons, Lisa, and I do think I’m pretty mindful when doing it. I’ve never been a “speed-reader,” though if I get caught up in a story, I’m always tempted to pick up the pace to see what happens next. Thanks for the review!

  2. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Thank you for this recommendation. I have many (MANY!) books, aNd the library is holding this for me. Another older book on reading is by Mortimer Adler called How to Read a book:
    Oh no! You don’t like poetry?! Try British Anglican Malcolm Guite’s books. My favorite is Word in the Wilderness (Lenten readings) and a close fave is Waiting on the Word. In both he writes devotional commentary, which is rich and rewarding. He also alludes to other poetry in these devotions. I really think you would enjoy it. Ck out his other books too . . . also Christian poets Luci Saw and there are a host of wonderful secular poets as well. REading poetry will automatically slow you down and make you a mindful reader.
    Tping hurts(neck shoulder pain). But thank you!!!

  3. Barbara Harper

    A former pastor used to say something like your future self will be made up of the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read. I think there are a whole lot more influences than those, but those are major ones.

    I read for probably every reason there is to read: pleasure, information, broadening of horizons, experiencing settings and eras I could experience no other way, seeing others’ points of view and hopefully gaining empathy, to glean from the minds of great thinkers, probably more I can’t think of right now. I generally tend to process things better through reading than hearing.

    1. Barbara Harper

      I had to go ask about that quote to see if I had it right or wrong. 🙂 Evidently it is: “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for two things, the people you meet and the books you read,” said by Charles “Tremendous” Jones, a speaker about leadership. I still think there are more factors than that, but these are some of the biggest.

  4. Trudy

    I love the quote about every novel shaping the person we really are, Lisa. So true, even when we aren’t consciously aware of it. I just finished reading an author’s newsletter, and as soon as I read this great quote, I thought of you. 🙂 “I would rather be a poor man in a garret with plenty of books than a king who did not love reading.” (Thomas Babington Macaulay) Though I’m not an avid reader like you are, I have always loved reading and would be lost without books. 🙂 Love and blessings to you!

  5. Mother of 3

    I love this idea! I have long since used to books to help calm myself when I feel stressed (like today’s doctor appointment!). They help take me out of the now and regulate my breathing so I feel more at ease. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

  6. Rebecca Hastings

    This is an interesting perspective, for sure. Your title and question at the beginning is lingering with me.

    As much as I love books and words and all that they offer, I know that sometimes it’s not about reading too much as it is about reading too many of the wrong things. If I devoted as much time to reading the Word as I do to reading others words I think I would be very different. God is showing me the value in the words of others, but that ultimately His Words matter the most. Not an easy (or comfortable) shift in my thinking!

  7. Aryn The Libraryan 📚

    Oh wow! I had no idea this was a thing. I might have to look into it! Reading mindfully is what I try to share with my readers. Yes the book is an awesome adventure, but think about more than the obvious. Put yourself in their shoes…

  8. Pam Ecrement

    What an intriguing book! As a retired clinical counselor, I very much agree on the value of assigning books to those who came to my office.

    I LOVE to read and I read for more reasons now than ever before. I likely started by reading to gain knowledge, but then it became so much more of an adventure into the thoughts, ideas, and understanding of authors of all kinds that expanded my world and captured my imagination. I read often for inspiration (I think a writer needs that as good fertilizer for our own writing.) and I definitely prefer to read a passage or book of the Bible more slowly to savor it and see little nuances that Bible reading programs of ALL types seem to lose for me. As a result my life is ever richer.

  9. Joanne Viola

    I’ve always loved to read. It’s my favorite thing to do with my time. So I guess I would say I read because I love to do so and along the way, I’m blessed to gain some knowledge 🙂 I enjoyed this post!

  10. Jean Wise

    “The real danger is reading absent-mindedly, not getting enough from what we read. We just aren’t paying attention.” OUCH this is so me. I want to read more and do read, but don’t retain like I used to. Too many distractions. My “attention and focus muscles” need strengthening!! Yes reading helps in so many ways and enriches our lives. Thanks for a great post!

  11. Linda S

    This sounds so interesting! I am afraid I am guilty of ‘mindless’ reading. I enjoy sitting down with a book in order to escape reality for a bit – I am intrigued now. Thank you for this recommendation!

  12. Marty Hadding

    On my nightstand right now is Karen Swallow Prior’s book On Reading Well, Finding the Good Life through Great Books. A central idea for her is that we must read promiscuously and read well.
    I have always been a veracious reader but without any guidance or direction so now, as an adult of almost fifty years old I am trying to learn to read well. Not an easy feat but I am loving it anyway 🙂

  13. David

    Sounds like a nice book! – although I’m more of a “cats sleep anywhere” kind of reader. I’m sure being a reader protects against senility and other kinds of brain decay (just a handful of people I’ve known). Poetry is all about mindful reading – sometimes (e.g. John Ashbery, one of my favourites) it doesn’t seem to be about anything else. I’m a fairly omnivorous reader, though I have my hobby-horses – currently reading another history of early Christianity “The Conversion of Europe”.

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