When I was a kid, my English teachers were always fond of promoting post-its. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sold more Post-It notes than Post-It note commercials. The point of post-its was to mark down anything I “didn’t understand” be it definitions, phrases, motivations, etc. and write down my findings after doing some research. For example, if I were to stumble upon the word “disruptive” and had no idea what it could possibly mean, I had to pause my reading, look it up, write its definition on a post-it, and then post-it the page on which the offending word appeared.
I love post-its, but post-it noting in books was far from my favorite thing to do. Let’s just say I’m a huge plot junkie so stopping in the middle of a sentence to look up a word whose meaning I could already infer was a bit too much to ask of me. It’s not an easy task. Now, it may sound like I wasn’t the biggest fan of the concept (I really wasn’t) but I cannot deny that it helped my reading comprehension skills.
I was rereading The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes the other day to prepare for its sequel. I ended up catching a lot of details that all of a sudden made so much more sense. For example, Shakespeare is quoted in the first chapter. Only during the reread did I realize which one of his plays it was from – I had to read Hamlet for school last year. And while, not entirely important, this small detail does add a little, teeny, tiny bit, of foreshadowing.
The Fixer is a political thriller so of course, there is a bunch of political lingo and processes and blah blah blah that are tossed around. Growing up in America, I knew enough for it all to make sense. But it was only after taking an American Government course in school that things started to click. I thoroughly understood the process of nominating a Supreme Court Justice and the position of the minority whip. Not that you need to know those things for the book to make sense, but it does help. I had a few “ah-ha!” moments while reading The Fixer again because of my newfound knowledge. And those “ah-ha!” moments not only felt nice but also really improved my understanding of the story.
So as annoy as research is, I still think it’s important. But I also think a good book shouldn’t require much outside research. If it’s well written, I should be able to have a sense of what’s going, just by using context clues. To me, if I have to research something from a book to understand the story better, something is wrong with how the story is being portrayed (that or something’s wrong with my comprehension skills). Context clues are everything.
Either way, I don’t think I’ll be pausing my book to do some research anytime soon. Maybe afterward. Or in preparation for a (re)read. Because like I mentioned before, I’m a plot junkie and for me, that means I like reading books in one sitting so I can swallow the whole plot, well, whole.
What about you? Do you research facts and trivia while reading?