Improve Your Reading Life

Welcome to the Dear Book Nerd podcast, a bi-weekly show that answers your questions about life, love, and literature! My special guest co-host this week is the wonderful Rachel Smalter Hall. Rachel and I tackle two listener-submitted questions and discuss the following topics (among others): how to deal with reading-induced headaches, how to train yourself to love audiobooks, and how to read for pleasure, not just comprehension. Don’t miss it!


Rachel is former librarian who is now an associate editor for Book Riot, where she runs the Book Riot Snapchat account and writes the audiobooks newsletter. She also knits wonderful things for Lady Bits Knits (which you can find on Instagram at LadyBitsKnits). You can also find her on Twitter @Rach_Smalls. Thank you for joining me, Rachel!

This episode was sponsored by The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen and Book Riot Live.



Hi Rita and special guest,

First of all just want to say how much I love this podcast. I love to read because I feel my vocabulary, punctuation and grammar aren’t as good as they should be considering my education and also because I love good books. But the thing is, when I read for like 30 minutes or an hour, I get a migraine and then it puts me off from reading for a couple of days and then I go back to read eventually. Anyway, does anyone else experience this and what should I do? I have tried listening to audiobooks but I feel that I get distracted and therefore not totally consumed by the book as I would if I was reading it. Hope you can help, because I am a bibliophile!


Dear Book Nerd,

First and most important, I LOVE your podcasts. It’s surprisingly pleasant to realize that I can actually listen through podcasts longer than half an hour! I have tried many different types and topics of podcasts (mostly self-development, business, etc) but whenever it goes beyond half an hour, I start to disengage the talk. However, the Dear Book Nerd podcast was (and still is) completely different! So thank you for your hard work and wonderful job on making this amazing podcast.

So now to the question:

As you might already have noticed, English is my second language. I was born and raised in Korea (South, because I still get that question: Where are you from, north or south) until 18 – then, long story short, I moved to Canada. I am in the final year of my university study. It’s so time consuming to explain the education system in Korea but one thing for sure – it is definitely different than Canada’s. It’s more competitive, focused on admission to “respectful” universities. The competition is so high that parents are thinking about college when their kids are as young as 5. So through my teen life, my reading almost entirely consisted of books I “need” to read and get tested for. So my approach to understand certain symbolism, identifying different literary tools (metaphor,) are focused on “what my teacher thinks is the answer” because my goal was to get a good mark and eventually go to the university.

So not only am I confused about reading for joy (As silly as it sounds, I just don’t know or feel what it is like) but reading books in different language poses me a great challenge.

Whenever I read books in English, I automatically go into the mode of “understanding everything”. So caught up with looking up words I don’t know, I feel like I am missing out an appreciation of beauty of good writing. Also sometimes I just don’t understand what the author refers to. It would mainly be a reference that you would know if you grew up in North America as a kid but not necessarily as an adult. (like nursery rhymes or kids’ book that were popular at that time)

I also want to improve my English and reading books is one of the best way to achieve that. I have tried so-called “leveled” reading, but I feel like I’m circling the same loop and I know expanding your horizons is important. I am curious to know what your thoughts about my situation.


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