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Tips on how to deep read

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Did you ever sit down to read a book, get a half page into it and realize that absolutely nothing has sunk in? Or maybe you finished a book the other day and when it came up at a party, you realized, wow, I don't remember anything about this. Even under the best of circumstances, deep reading is hard, and it's even harder once you throw in a device in your pocket that is constantly clamoring for attention. But if you want to get better at it, our Life Kit team put together this guide on reading deeper. Here's NPR's Andrew Limbong.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Maryanne Wolf has written a number of books about the science of reading. Her latest is "Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain In A Digital World." And she's a big advocate of deep reading, which means what exactly?

MARYANNE WOLF: At the heart of it is the point where we, the reader, go beyond the wisdom of the author to discover our own.

LIMBONG: Wolf says it is something that we've all done to a certain extent - you know, get completely immersed in a text to bring our own thoughts and opinions to it. But it's hard to do, particularly if you do most of your reading on a screen.

WOLF: The screen itself is a source of attention disruption. And by that I mean we have so much information that we have a built-in defense mechanism - we skim.

LIMBONG: And skimming is the enemy of deep reading. So if you really want to read deeply, step away from the screen and give print a shot. This doesn't have to be just for books. You know, Wolf prints out articles she needs for work or contracts she needs to comb over. And if you're out of practice deep reading, it's going to take time and discipline to get it back. A few years ago, Wolf tried to reread a Hermann Hesse book she once loved and found that she just couldn't lock in.

WOLF: I was very stubborn. My mind was almost protesting stubbornly, I don't want to read this (laughter).

LIMBONG: In your - for listeners - in your book there's a funny moment where you're like, maybe this book is just bad (laughter).

WOLF: Exactly.

LIMBONG: Yeah.

WOLF: You are so right. I mean, that was a piece of it. I was stubbornly rejecting the book and thinking - and, you know, I hate to say it on NPR - but I said, who in the world gave him a Nobel Prize for this, you know? (Laughter).

LIMBONG: Wolf says it was as if she was fighting against her own inclination to skim. So the answer was to slow down.

WOLF: For two weeks, I forced myself to read 20 minutes a day, to try to be that older version of a reader. Each of us, if we're serious, can ferret 20 minutes of our day away and try to read at the pace of the book. And different books demand different paces.

LIMBONG: Wolf says don't be too concerned with the rate of books you're reading. We're looking for quality over quantity here. As for remembering the things you read, Wolf says, if your deep reading, your mind has a way of storing that information, even if it feels like it's beyond your recollection.

WOLF: There is more memory that consolidates than we have immediate perceptible access to. On the other hand, when we skim, we consolidate less.

LIMBONG: But to really savor something you read and help encase a quote or thought or idea in your memory, write it down.

WOLF: I write in on the margin, and then I write in the back of the book - the pages of the most important insights for me.

LIMBONG: Obviously, only do this for books you own. Do not start defacing library books, please. That wouldn't help anybody deep read. Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREE NATIONALS AND CHRONIXX SONG, "ETERNAL LIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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