One way to become a better, more attentive reader is to choose one author and dive in deeply. I selected James Joyce. Of all Joyce’s works, Finnegans Wake is the most daunting. Herewith my advise on reading Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake, unfortunately, comes with a lot of academic baggage. As one example, emphasis was placed on deciphering the portmanteau words and attempting to translate what Joyce wrote into something resembling conventional English. This is unfortunate, really misses the point, and subverts Joyce’s project. The best way to approach Finnegans Wake is, quite simply, to read it straight through without worrying too much if you understand every word. Face it, you will not. But you will notice patterns and develop snippets of understanding. Meaning will bubble up. Trust me. It helps, too, to read it aloud or, barring that, to mentally vocalize the words.
Once you have read the book, then it is OK to start checking out the secondary literature. I have included a couple of links below. However, if you don’t believe me and want to start with a guide, then by all means choose The Finnegans Wake Experience, a short book by Roland McHugh. While McHugh is also known for his collection of annotations, The Finnegans Wake Experience, discusses his personal history with the book. Importantly, McHugh came to the book cold, so his retelling of his experience will provide you with confidence and reassurance should you get bogged down in Finnegans Wakes’ compexities.
Do not make the same mistake I did. Never read the hopelessly reductive, superficial “Skeleton Key”. Here are some of the more useful books I have found. Clive Hart’s book is out of print, but your library may have it and you can probably buy it used.
Structure and Motif in Finnegans Wake, by Clive Hart
Joyces Book of the Dark, by John Bishop.
Hart’s book is particularly good on structure, while Bishop’s will give you a good feel for the language.