The Art of Reading
Day 2 of “One Day, One Blog” — a challenge I set for myself for the month of January 2019.
I was caught hiding in our linen closet, my nose buried deep in a mystery novel.
The act of hiding served two purposes — one was to disappear into a world inhabited with wonders and possibilities and the other was to disappear from a world where I was expected to smile and be courteous to people I didn’t particularly care about.
Unfortunately, when you are seven or so, your parents do not care much about your life choices and I was dragged out of the cupboard.
Growing up, I received mixed signals from my parents about my obsession with books. They seemed very happy when people commented on my reading habits and then I would get into trouble for , well… hiding in the closet with books.
To be fair to them they nurtured my love for reading far more than they discouraged it. Also, to their credit they never censored what I read.
Today college students and friends/peers often ask me for tips to develop and strengthen their reading habits.
And since it’s still “New Year” the resolution to read will be high up on everyone’s list. To help in this endeavor, I submit my humble suggestions ( and that’s my attempt at pretentious writing).
The “Reading Resolution” comes under various types.
A. I will “Start Reading”
I have a close relative who abhorred the idea of reading. I used to think it was a matter of principle for him as he associated it with school and he never liked school either. But in 2018, I got him to read two books. He was super proud of this accomplishment — and I was proud of him.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people fall into this category. For whatever reason, they did not develop this habit early on and then it just became progressively more difficult to start reading.
B. I will “Read More”
While this category do not have an aversion to the written word, they just do not find the right time ( or enough time) to sit down with a book.
C. I will “Read Above My Level”
This is me.
I have always thought of reading as serving two masters. (A) To entertain and (B) to broaden your thinking. In the last one year, I have been reading for purely entertain purpose. Crime thrillers, romance, travelogues, self-help books — anything that is easily digestible for me.
When I pick up a book that is written in a style which is a tad more difficult to comprehend, I immediately put it down.
I frankly know very few people in this category but it exists. We who aspire to read better but never get around to doing it.
D. I will “Read X number of books”
These are the marathon runners of the reading world. Unless you are reviewing books for professional reasons, this is a category I do not understand very well.
The concepts of “speed reading” or reading summation of books ( which seems to be an in-thing these days) do not sit well with me.
Having said that, before we proceed l want us to suspend all judgement about others’ reading habits. If you chose to read only “Mills and Boons” for the rest of your life, that’s perfectly fine by me. But if you are interested in moving from one category to another, here are some thoughts.
How to read BETTER
A. The “Start Reading” category:
Get a friend to recommend a book in your area of interest. If you don’t have such a friend I will be glad to volunteer my services — just leave a comment below with your areas of interest.
For people in this category, this is a habit building exercise more than anything else. It also helps in breaking that mental block which says “I will fall asleep if I open a book.”
There are just two very simple steps for you to follow:
- Read 2 pages. EVERYDAY.
- Do this non-stop for 21 days.
Why 21 days? In my personal experience that’s how long it takes to form a habit. After that, even if you skip a day, the resistance to continue reading may not be as high.
Of course, feel free to increase the number of pages anytime.
B. The “Read More” category:
The way I deal with this is to leave books in my bathroom.
Just observe your day. There are pockets of time which are wasted. I find such pockets of time while standing in queue at the Supermarket, when the client makes me wait indefinitely after agreeing to meet, when Chandu is dragging his feet about getting dressed for a wedding and so on.
I have a not-so-great habit of reading while eating which I do not recommend.
If you drive to work, try audio books.
The important thing is to always have a book in your bag. So when the opportunity arises, you are prepared.
Please have a look at some suggestions on “Finding time to read” from Farnam Street.
C. The “Read above My Level” category
This is what I intend to do in 2019 to read better.
Needless to say, there is no way I am going to give up on my favorite crime thrillers or Enid Blyton. Or re-reading Harry Potter for that matter. They help me deal with bad days.
So I will imitate the “Start Reading” Category. The book I have identified is “The Snowball” by Alice Schroeder. I will read a few pages ( but not more than a chapter at a time) every day.
I will also make notes to deliberate more on some thoughts shared in these books.
I have noticed that when I read thought provoking stuff, I get inspiration to write. So I will also keep a notepad in hand when I tackle these books.
I will post more here as I learn from this experience.
D. The “Marathon” category
There is a technique you teach yourself when you are preparing for exams with “reading comprehension”. The focus of these tests is to see how much you can assimilate via speed reading. I am very good at it and I hate it.
I have stopped reading and pondering over the sweet meanings of passages because of this habit.
Since one of my resolutions is to assimilate more when I read, I may not be the best person to advice on this category.
Instead I will leave you with two authors who read a LOT and still manage to retain what they read. Do check out their methods.
Reading is one of my greatest joys in life. I would love to hear any suggestion you may have to help any of the above category to read better.