I spotted this question on Quora: How does one become a better reader and what does it mean to be a better reader? Here is my answer.
Being a better reader, I would say, means that you choose higher quality books that can enlighten as well as entertain you. By high quality, I don’t just mean the established canon of literature, but instead I am referring to well-written, impactful books in whatever genre speaks to your interests. Over time, you’ll find that you more naturally choose these books, that you learn more from your reading and that you retain what you’ve read longer. Your reading will start to inform other aspects of your life, particularly your creative life. In all respects, your reading will be richer.
A good way to become a better reader is to practice close reading. Instead of skimming or reading quickly, try reading word by word. Pay attention to the word choices writers have made and the way they have structured their sentences and paragraphs. Think about the effect they are trying to accomplish with their choices. You will read more slowly and you may read less, but you will get more out of what you read. And you will be unable to tolerate poor writing! For more on this technique, see Francine Prose’s book Reading Like a Writer or her article on Close Reading in The Atlantic.
I believe I became a better reader after I started journaling my reading. There are many methods available: a notebook, a blog, social sites like LibraryThing or GoodReads. Discussing what you’ve read with others is also helpful. Over time, I found myself choosing better books and thinking more deeply about what I read. It helps me to think of reading as a conversation between me (the reader) and the writer. Once the writer has his/her say, then I respond. This definitely helps me internalize what I’ve read and remember it longer.