Can we improve our enjoyment of a book by altering our approach?

I’ve recently discovered the satisfaction of pairing music with what I’m reading.

Sometimes you just need the tranquility a relaxing piece of music provides to be able to chill, but when you’re able to align the music style with the tone of the book, it really does take things to another level. We’ll come back to this in a minute.

Most people need to feel a degree of immersion to enjoy a book. It makes sense, right? If you lose yourself and forget to come up for air; if you read 100 pages without even realising, that’s a good book. And I think 90% of that is the responsibility of the author.

That other 10% though requires some work on the part of the reader to reach its full potential. Sure, maybe the truly elite authors can just throw words at you and build a vivid picture, paragraph after paragraph. I have recently come to the opinion however that most books can improve in our minds by altering our approach somewhat.

I absolutely breezed through the first two Witcher books. It was the first time in a while I’d felt completely immersed. Why? Well I suspect that the books are great anyway, which helps. But I’ve read loads of great books.

I think a big part of it was my imagination. I played The Witcher 3 video game for 350 hours+ a few years ago when I lived with my parents. I got a real feel for the characters, I adored the music, the medieval Polish setting, the landscapes, everything. The developers captured the essence of the world fantastically and it always stuck with me. So when I started the books, I already felt such a familiarity, a recent nostalgia even, and my mind was already a lot more susceptible to enjoying it (despite the fact I probably would have anyway) but the point is I already had this world, this whole essence, ready to go in my head. As soon as I stuck The Witcher soundtrack on whilst reading, my imagination was soaring.

A personal annoyance I have with myself is that my subconscious often seems to create the most basic, boring and unimaginative mental images when reading something I am unfamiliar with. I can sometimes read a book with settings or events intended to be pictured on a grand scale and I’ll imagine something that doesn’t do it justice, without really thinking. It’s just my mind creating the pictures for what I’m reading. Would I have done the same thing with The Witcher if I wasn’t already familiar and invested? Am I a lazy reader? With a new book, there is always an element to begin with of asking yourself, ‘is this book worth my time?’ Is it special enough to become invested in?

And if I’m letting my imagination create a bit of a dull picture, I’m already setting myself up to become bored. I think therefore that it’s essential to approach every book with the mindset that potentially, it could become a new favourite. And sometimes, I’ve started taking a step back and reading a little more slowly, consciously imagining the descriptions the author gives as the best possible image my mind can create, rather than the easiest picture that is created in the subconscious when reading at a faster pace. It slows things down but it makes things feel more interesting to me.

So, as I mentioned above – the music. As well as making a conscious effort to imagine the scenes as the most exciting, grand way I can, I sometimes spend some time pairing the book with pieces of music. Nothing complicated. But there are some absolutely fantastic soundtracks and pieces of music and I find it really helps with the immersion and the grandeur. It’s like food for your imagination in a way (or if the book is the food for the imagination, the music is the supplements). Some of you might have an awesome subconscious imagination and you won’t need to slow down, or you won’t care about music or taking steps to imagine things the way you need to because you already do it.

My conscious imagination is much more exciting than when I go onto autopilot and it vastly improves my enjoyment of a book just by taking these steps. Mostly I do this now at the start and then those pictures are already built up for the rest of the book. The music isn’t essential but just adds that extra facet. It becomes more like a movie. Imagine your favourite film without any of the music; it might still be really good but just think what that soundtrack does for it. And I really feel that epic premium vibe with fantasy and science fiction books paired with a bit of background theatrics.

There won’t always be the opportunity or time to listen whilst reading and unfortunately some people will be unable to for various reasons, but taking a step back in general just to re-visualise something that you’re not quite feeling is something I definitely recommend.

Don’t get stuck in a book you’re not enjoying if it might be a lot more fun giving yourself a minute to reimagine things your mind supplied initially. Or cranking up the atmosphere with some music. If you’re happy with the way things are and enjoying things just fine, power to you and carry on!

It would be great to know your thoughts, thanks for reading.


5 thoughts on “Can we improve our enjoyment of a book by altering our approach?

  1. Wow what a thought provoking post Alex! Absolutely food for thought. Loved it, a subject I’ve not yet come across regarding reading. My OH always has a soundtrack for his books, (at the moment he’s on a Robin Hobb megaread) and Hans Zimmers’ scores are his go-to to improve his experience. I personally need complete silence to read. I’m too easily distracted (nosey!!) 😆

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Music doesn’t help. I’m easily distracted and anything that grabs concentration is counterproductive for me.
    Either I get into the flow or I don’t.


  3. This is such an interesting post! I’m a very visual person so my mind automatically supplies a sort of movie in my head based on what I’m reading. But the interesting thing is, I don’t think I can change that visualization! The reason I don’t think it’s changeable is because whenever I reread books, no matter how long it has been, my mind visualizes everything exactly the same way that it did the first time I read the book! I also can’t listen to music while I read because I find it too distracting, so I’m unable to use that to set the mood as well. I guess I’m just stuck with whatever the author wrote and whatever my mind decides to conjure from that writing!


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