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Feb 12

How I Bribe Myself with a Good Book by Charlotte Helgeson

Posted on February 12, 2021 at 3:55 PM by Genesis Gaule

There is very little I’d rather do than escape into a book though I am aware that life goes on around me. I have found a solution that keeps me balanced between work, home chores, my friends, family and reading.


I bribe myself with a chapter. Now, I’m aware that not all books have numbered chapters and some don’t have any breaks beyond pages.  I’ve found solutions for pacing myself through those too.


Now, how long is a chapter? First, I don’t get too wrapped up in the length of any chapter. Sometimes, I get lucky and it’s many pages long. Other times, they’re super short.  


Good titles with some short chapters are:


The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. It’s the third in the DaVinci Code series. When I read that, I was excited to see that as the action started to speed up so did the chapters. They were like springs.  I loved how the chapters jumped the action forward. One chapter was never enough.
Another is the Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I read this in Large Print and found that some chapters were just over a couple pages which in regular print would be one page. Here again, when a fine author can cut to the chase by being succinct, there is an inertia that pulls me forward into the story.

Some books break up chapters with a physical space between scenes or points of view.  The space on the page stalls forward thinking and resets the story in another place or mind. It is a poetic tactic. How words are lined up on a page can be as powerful as the words themselves. These spaces sometimes include a symbol as simple as a line.  In other books, there are elaborate symbols connected to the time period or culture represented in the story.  


Chapters can be numbered and/or titled. I have found that I fly right right past a number at the beginning of the chapter unless it is in a fancy script or calligraphy. A title often causes me to pause. Is it a clue as to what is coming next? Many times, I don’t think about it until I bump into the next chapter and do an ah-ha.


So, I wash the dishes and read a chapter.


The longer chapters simply have to be broken down to help those of us who have to get up in the morning to go to work, too. Chapters have a purpose not only in the story but in the rhythm of a reader’s life. If a book does have chapters, a bookmark can hold my place until the next workday is done. Or perhaps there is a break on a page and I can mark that spot. If those both fail, I’ll break at a full sentence that ends at the bottom of the page and on my return, start at the top of the following page.


First, I fold the clothes that buzzed halfway through the last paragraph.    


An essential key to make the bribe easy to maintain is that bookmarks can be found everywhere. If the stove timer for my muffins blares, a bookmark needs to be on the table nearby. If I’m sitting in the sun and the recycling truck empties my container, I want a bookmark on the end table so I can dash outside. If my kids call and I’m lying on the floor reading a book, the bookmark has to be within reach.  


Chapters or planned breaks in our books are essential to give us that pause to make a cup of tea, use the bathroom or do the laundry. Oh yeah, the breaks are also there to give a good pace to the story or information we’re reading.

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