Learn Literature in Ten Minutes


There’s nothing quite like the feeling of discovering a new author and enthusiastically diving into his or her back catalog for lapidary synonym. The problem is, you simply don’t have the time to read. So given your modern reading dilemma, what are you to do?

Whether you need a crash course before writing a paper on Wuthering Heights or simply want to refresh your memory before attending a book club meeting, this article will help ease your literary pains. In ten minutes you’ll have discovered enough about Daphne du Maurier’s work (or any other author) to feel confident and competent in discussing it with your colleagues.

1. Read the Summaries

If you’re going to be discussing a book, it makes sense to start with an overview of its plot. So before you dig into the book itself, read the publisher-provided synopses in your book. In ten minutes you can easily scan these and become familiar with the big events and characters.

2. Read What Other Reviewers Say

Luckily, publishers aren’t alone in summarizing books; reviewers do it too. While they spend more time reviewing than publishers and tend to have more lavish language (and definitely different formatting), they also have a lot of experience with literature and know how books work. So if you like the writer, their words will prove invaluable.

3. Read Your County’s Best-Selling Authors

Even though all books are written by humans, most of us prefer to read about characters who are relatable and connect with us in some way. So if you’re feeling particularly interested in a particular author, pick up his or her book and read the first few pages to get a feel for the voice. Even if it’s only your county’s best-selling novelist, you can learn something.

4. Merely Ask a Friend

The last thing you want is to think of an idea and then not have anyone to talk about it with. But sometimes you can’t find anyone and your imagination is still hungry. If so, don’t worry, just ask a friend if they want to watch the movie adaptation of your choice. If you can’t decide what to watch, whip out one of two questions: 1) Which books would you put in a time capsule? 2) What are your favorite books?

5. So You’ve Read It Already—Now What?

If you’re like most people, you’re going to only need to read the book once. But that doesn’t mean it will be gone from your memory forever. So what’s the point of reading a book that you’ve already read? Well, I will say there is one reason: to make yourself the best damn writer possible. So if you can read and re-read The Great Gatsby so many times, you can certainly read more.

6. If You Can’t Read a Book in Ten Minutes, It’s Not a Book

Yes, some books take up more time than others to get through; however, if you find it too difficult to get through any book within ten minutes, then it really isn’t worth reading at all. The key is to find books that aren’t frustrating in your attempt to get through them quickly.

7. Read the First 10 Percent

The first ten percent of a book is probably the most important, because it is where all the action takes place. If you read it and can’t follow along, there’s no reason to continue. So before you get frustrated with your inability to read every word on every page, stop and ask yourself: 1) Is this sentence clear? 2) Are there any words or phrases I don’t understand? 3) Do words like “no” and “never” make sense? 4) Is this sentence grammatically correct? If so, go for it!

8. If You Don’t Understand Something, it’s Probably Fine

As long as you’re not trying to teach a new language, it should be fine if you don’t understand something. The key is to go back and reread what you didn’t understand. After all, if the author is writing well, then this will probably only appear once or twice in a book.

9. It’s Okay to Read A Book in Chinese if You Read Two Books in Chinese While Reading English

The world is a vast place. Even though you may know English better than somebody else (whether due to personal experience or studying abroad), there are a lot of words that might be different when used in another language. So if you read a book in English while taking time to read two books in Chinese, then you’re sure to have a broader base of literature.

10. Now Read The Book

Now that you’re armed with enough knowledge to talk about the book at your next meeting, it’s time to dive in and do what you came here for: read the damn book! Have fun!


Here are an additional ten bonus steps for when you’re done reading: – Go around the room and ask everyone which books they think should be placed in a time capsule. – Ask them how many books they think were mentioned by others.


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