Tips for Reading an Assigned Book You Dislike

As a student, you will occasionally be assigned reading materials that simply don’t interest you. However, there is no reason to let your dislike for the reading affect your grade. Here are four tips for reading an assigned book you dislike:

1. Create a character tree

Certain books include family trees or character diagrams in their first pages, especially if the characters span several generations or have similar names (i.e. One Hundred Years of Solitude or Wuthering Heights). If your book doesn’t provide one of these graphics, you can make your own. Create a diagram in your notebook or on a scrap piece of paper that you can insert in the cover of your book. Besides listing character names, consider writing out qualities and major accomplishments for each character. You can also draw arrows between characters, and describe the relationships and similarities between them. Diagramming a character tree can help you keep track of who’s who, and it can also help you make connections – a critical thinking skill – as you read the book. These 3 tips on note taking may also be able to help you.

2. Consult a study guide while reading

Consider using a study guide as a supplement to your reading material, rather than as a replacement. This can be especially useful when reading long books, when synthesizing information may be difficult. Reading study guides can also help cement details in your mind, and these guides can point out major events that you should be aware of. However, be mindful that your teacher may decide to focus on different themes and details than those discussed in your study guide. Also be sure to use it as a guide – make your own connections, and do not borrow its analysis or language when writing reports or essays about your book. Study guides are a great way to ensure your understanding and to introduce yourself to new viewpoints on an assigned book you dislike. Here is a guide to the study guide that you may find useful as well.

3. Discuss the book with a friend

Talking about books with someone else can be extremely enlightening and helpful, especially if you dislike the assigned book. Find a classmate or someone else who has read the book before – an older sibling, a cousin, a parent, a friend outside of class, or an english tutor. These are some of benefits of group study. When you discuss a book (even to express your distaste for it), you are articulating events and characters in a way that can help you write about them later. Your discussion partner is also likely to bring up aspects of the book that you haven’t thought of. A book conversation can include paraphrasing or summarizing what you’ve read, in addition to questions or confusions you may have about the text. Take the time to talk about any upcoming assignments, as well!

4. Look up articles, book reviews, and interviews with the author

Background information about a book can deepen your understanding of the text. There are many online resources you can access quite easily. For instance, use a search engine to find articles, book reviews, and interviews with the author. This kind of supplementary material allows you to make text-to-text connections that can build your critical thinking skills.

Follow the above tips for reading an assigned book you dislike, and get the most out of the experience. Doing so can be great practice for you, as you’ll likely experience many more less-than-desirable reading assignments throughout your academic career. Plus, when you reach books you do enjoy, you will have developed reading skills that can help you succeed in class.