Guest Posts

Guest Post: How to Improve Your Reading Experience

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Today, I’m excited to share with you a guest post from my daughter Michaela, who has recently started a blog of her own. This article is adapted from her blog article How to Improve Your Reading Experience. I know many of you are connoisseurs of Christian books, so I thought this might be helpful. Some of her suggestions can even help with your Bible reading.

How to Improve Your Reading Experience
by Michaela Lesley

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid reader. I have my mom, grandmother, and aunt to thank for this obsession, which began at a very young age. My mom would take me and my younger brothers to the library every few weeks, and it was an outing I always looked forward to. Every summer, my mom would pick out a book series and read out loud to me and my brother, Jordan, every day. My grandmother also enjoyed reading out loud to me, but because she lived in another state, she had to get creative. She would pick out books or short stories and record herself reading them on a cassette tape (it has definitely been a while since I wrote out the word “cassette”, and I almost forgot how to spell it). I would play these tapes whenever I was in my room playing, and at night while I was trying to fall asleep. My mom’s sister, author Kaye Dacus, was always the type of person to give books or Barnes & Noble gift cards as presents, and I always knew I was in for a treat whenever I got something from her in the mail around my birthday.

While I’m a few classics short to be able to consider myself a well-seasoned reader, I do consider myself good at reading. I know how to get through many books quickly, and I know how to stay in the loop when it comes to new popular books. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years to make the most out of reading:

1:– This is one of the easiest ways to keep track of your books. You can log in to Goodreads through your preferred social media account, or you can start a separate account through the site. There is also a very handy app, if you aren’t often near a desktop or laptop. On this site, you can mark books as To Read, Read, or Currently Reading. If you are currently reading a book, you can track your progress by putting what page you are on, and the site will tell you what percentage of the book you have finished. Once you have completed a book or marked it as “Read”, Goodreads gives you the options to rate the book on a Five Star scale and post a review of the book. You can also create your own “Shelves” to further organize books. I personally create a new shelf for every year, so I can keep track of how many books I’ve read that year. You can also see which books are trending, and Goodreads will recommend new books to you based on what  you have read. These are just a few of the many things you can do with the site, but these are the features I find the most useful. You can create an account here: Goodreads

2: Reading Playlists– This is something that I have been doing for a while now, and it makes reading so much more enjoyable. I use Spotify to create playlists specifically for reading. These playlists have songs and scores from some of my favorite movies. I also use Pandora to listen to the Movie Scores station. I mostly read fantasy and science-fiction, which means lots of intense fight scenes and bad guys giving monologues. I can picture the the characters and what they’re doing, and having music helps set the scene in my head. I’ve also found that I read faster when I listen to music.

3: Audiobooks and Ebooks– Thanks to being an adult, I don’t have as much time as I used to to sit down and read a book. But, there are currently 67 books on my To Read list, and I add more all the time. So, I have to find ways to get through that list somehow. My favorite non-traditional way of reading is listening to audiobooks (and yes, listening to a book counts as reading a book. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). I listen to books while doing house work, while driving, or just while doing something relaxing. I use to listen to my audiobooks. Audible is part of Amazon, and a membership is $15 a month (your first month is free). The $15 a month gives you 1 credit, which you can use to buy any audiobook. The great thing about this is that most of the books cost more than $15, so it’s a really great deal. You can listen to the books on your smart phone, tablet, or computer, even without an internet connection. Once you finish the book, you can remove it to save space on your device. However, you can re-download the book at anytime. Overdrive is a service that many libraries use, and it allows you to “borrow” audiobook and ebook files with your library card.  This way, you have the convenience without having to spend any money! Kindle (Amazon’s ebook service) and Nook (Barnes and Noble’s ebook service) are useful as well! You can either download the apps onto your phone or tablet, or you can buy the actual Nook/Kindle devices. Ebooks tend to be much cheaper than physical books, and you can take them with you in your pocket! You also have the option to read in the dark, which is helpful if you are traveling at night or if you have a roommate.

4: Book-to-Screen Adaptations– We live in a time where it seems like every popular book is getting a TV show or movie. If I see a preview for a movie or TV show that looks like it might interest me, and I see that it’s based on a book, I immediately add that book to my To Read list. That book becomes a top priority. I feel an urgency to read that book. If you make yourself finish the book before seeing the movie or watching the show, then you will have a reason to finish it quickly. It’s exciting to see a story you love come alive on the screen, and watching that movie or show can be your reward for finishing the book. On the flip side, if you have a favorite movie or TV show that you find out is actually based on a book, then it will be easy for you to get into that book. This is a great way for people who aren’t already readers to get into reading.

5:  Reading with Friends– back in 2012, all of my friends and I were reading a popular trilogy. We had seen the previews for the first movie, and we knew we wanted to read the books together and see the movie together. We would all carry the books with us to class. We would read them in the van on the way to basketball games. We would stay up late and text each other our reactions to certain chapters. We all finished those books in about a week and a half. Reading a book with friends is a very fun way to bond as a group. You can encourage each other to read, and you can discuss the story together. My best friend and I are currently reading a book series together. A new book comes out every year, and we read it together and have fun conversations about where we think the story is going plot-wise.

6: Developing Reading Habits– getting through books can be hard if you are like me and you are easily distracted. With Netflix, YouTube, and Social Media, it’s easy to waste your free time on other things. Setting a designated time to read is a good first step to prioritize reading. Many people like to read before bed, to help them unwind before they fall asleep. Having a specific place to read can also help you focus. I have stopped reading in my room, because I am more easily distracted in there. I prefer to read in my living room, on the couch, with my reading playlist playing on my phone. This specific setting helps me concentrate. If I find that I’m still getting distracted, I pull up my phone’s stopwatch, and try to see how quickly I can read one page. I hit the “lap” button every time I make it through a page. When my phone is being used for a purpose like that, I find that I don’t check Facebook or Instagram as often.

Happy reading, my friends! ❤

Michaela Lesley was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She loves to travel and wander around new places, and is always reading a new book. She is a certified Jesus Freak, and is 100% OK with that. Michaela blogs at Michaela of Baton Rouge.


The Mailbag: How can I be discerning about books?



How do you evaluate a book (for instance if you know nothing about the author)? I have about half a bookshelf right now of books (both fiction and nonfiction) that I need to evaluate and I have no idea how to commence doing so. (The books range from children’s fiction to Bible study books and lots in between.)

A couple of the steps in this article would apply for any book: know your Bible and pray for wisdom as you research the book and author.

For Bible study, theology, or other non-fiction Christian books, I would vet the author pretty much the same way I described vetting teachers in the article. That will often be faster than reading the whole book. Also, go to Amazon and peruse all the other books the author has written. You might get a better idea of where the author stands, theologically, by reading all of his book titles and summaries. Many authors have an author page on Amazon, too. It’ll have a bio and customer reviews.

I don’t hold Christian fiction books to quite the same theological standard as non-fiction for discerning Christians who know their Bible really well (for example, see the section on Karen Kingsbury here). Some of them are really just clean “family friendly” fiction with the occasional cow pie of bad theology that you can “step over” as you’re reading, but some, such as The Shack are pretty egregious in their false doctrine. For Christian fiction, one quick “litmus test” that might be a possibility is to check out who’s endorsing it. If you flip to the back cover and see endorsements by a bunch of false teachers, it’s probably one to stay away from.

Asking around can help as well, especially with Christian books. Ask trusted friends if they’re familiar with the author or book and what they think of it. Join some theologically sound Facebook groups and ask about the book in the group.

For all books, another possible shortcut might be book reviews. Scads of bloggers review books. The key is finding bloggers and review sites whose opinions or theology you trust, and that may take a little time and effort. Tim Challies and Aaron Armstrong do a lot of trustworthy book reviews- mostly Christian non-fiction, but other genres on occasion. There are a lot of Christians on GoodReads that review all kinds of different genres. Finally, you might want to try a book summary web site like Books at a Glance. They’ll give you the “Cliff’s Notes” version of books.

If you go through all those “screening process” steps and still have books/authors you haven’t been able to vet, the only solution is to actually read the book and compare the concepts and statements in it to Scripture. Then you can write a review of it and post it on line for the next person who comes along wanting information about that book.

Let’s hear from you readers out there! Got a favorite book blog? A go to reviewer on GoodReads? Comment below!

If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.