What Are the Best Methods for Reading Fiction?

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  • Written By: Mark Wollacott
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There are many methods for reading fiction. The best method for a reader depends on why they are reading the book or short story in the first place. Motives can be divided into two categories: to enjoy the story or to analyze the work. Fiction analysis can be further divided into studying the structure, the content and the linguistics.

The term fiction covers a broad spectrum of written work. A work of fiction is a made-up or imagined story concerning individuals who tend to be creations of the writer. These can be set in the real world, in an altered version of the real world or in a totally created world such as Middle Earth or Narnia. Anglo-American fiction is usually divided into literary and genre fiction. Asian and French literature rarely distinguishes between the two.

Immersing reading is where the reader does not look to analyze the book, but to enjoy the story. In this sense, the reader cares only about what happens. The best method for this is to read the book in one sitting, in a comfortable place and with a good light source. This is not always possible, so many books are divided into chapters or manageable chunks that can be devoured when time allows.


If time is precious, then readers can employ skim reading or speed reading techniques. This includes the Evelyn Wood reading dynamics program, which teaches individuals to read works very quickly. This is usually employed for non-fiction and has found great favor with US presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

Semiotics involves studying the use of language when reading fiction. This form of analysis looks purely at the language and is unconcerned with the details of the content. Grammar and syntax are not nearly as interesting to the student here as archaisms as those found in Shakespeare and Chaucer, or the regionalisms and slang found in other novels.

Reading fiction to examine a novel’s structure aims to see how the writer pieced together the story. This may include detailed examinations of plots. The crime novel and the thriller are two genres well-placed for structural examinations.

Sociological studies when reading fiction aim to look at how the writer presents the society in which the story is set. To such students, the milieu of the novel is more important than the story itself. This includes how societies and cultures are represented and whether historical information is accurate.

When reading fiction, some students and analysts look towards the psychology of the book and of its writer. This includes a psycho-analysis of the characters and their motives. It might also look at characters as archetypes, an idea expressed by psychologist Carl Jung. Many critics also look to find elements of the writer’s psyche left behind in the novel.


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Post 3

@pleonasm - People are always going to be judgmental about reading habits. I've seen debates about reading e-books versus reading paper books and reading YA versus reading adult novels and reading classics versus reading modern literature and it always seems to be based around the idea that you are comparing apples with apples.

But if someone enjoys modern romances, forcing them to read classic thrillers isn't going to change their habits. It's just going to make them avoid reading altogether.

Post 2

@umbra21 - That could be the difference between readers who read slowly and thoroughly in the first place and readers who read quickly the first time and then more slowly the second time.

Reading is a hobby. It's an important hobby and one that I think should be encouraged but I don't think that there is one right way to do it. There seem to be a lot of judgmental people around these days who want to force teenagers, in particular, to read certain books in certain ways and I think that's ridiculous.

Post 1

I've always found it interesting that some of my friends will refuse to read a book more than once. It doesn't matter if they loved it, or if they read it years ago, they simply will not read it again, because they "already know what happens".

I guess I don't really read in order to find out what happens, or at least, not just for that. In fact I've been known to sneak a look at a summary to make sure my favorite character isn't going to be killed off or something so I can enjoy the book more without dreading the end.

I like to reread books after a few years to see if I see them differently. I

don't chew through them so quickly once I know what is going to happen so I enjoy the writing a lot more.

A couple of times I've been disappointed, because a book wasn't as good as I remembered, but I've also been delighted to realize there was even more to a book than I knew the first time.

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