All you need to know about reading books

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Disclaimer: From choosing your books to devices, everything about reading books can be found here. Feel free to skip sections you don’t need as reading everything might feel overwhelming. 


Due to the upsurge of passive entertainment, reading has taken a back seat. Nowadays, it’s often hard to sit with ourselves, let alone reading. However, you have self-help “gurus” and CEOs who claim to read 1 book a week. So what should you do? 

Why should you even read? Is it useful? Should you read as-if the world’s gonna end tomorrow? What sort of books should you read? How should you choose your books? Fiction or non-fiction? 

I’ll answer all these questions. First, let’s begin with…

The two types of readers

I categorize readers into two major categories

  1. Readers who read for entertainment/ knowledge
  2. Readers who read for social validation

The first kind isn’t precisely one-book-a-week-guys. Though these guys could do it, they simply don’t care. And they enjoy reading. But the second category read for social approval and is very noticeable in self-help culture. They skip hanging around their friends, never play, and all they do is- read self-help books. And the most saddening thing is, they’re disillusioning themselves that they’re productive. But why? Self-help is notorious for its empty motivation and…

Your ego-boost=The number of books you’ve read.

Seriously dude, numbers mean nothing. Just because you’ve read 100 books doesn’t make you any better than the rest. You’re the same pathetic piece of shit like we all are, trying to make sense of the world we live in. So be humble.

I found it crucial to address this because I accidentally got carried away by this. After reading a few books, I started to develop an inflated sense of self which eventually led to arrogance. DO NOT fall for this trap. Read books if you love reading, not because people celebrate readers. On to the good stuff…

Books make you attractive

Seriously, I ain’t kidding. When you read a new topic, you start walking on an unexplored part of you. You gain a better understanding of the world you live in. And you end up becoming a multifaceted person. And multifaceted people make well-informed decisions backed by reason.

Reading gives you ideas to talk about – from fiction to evolutionary biology or human psyche. You start thinking about things you’ve never thought about in your life. Your existence, politics, history, money, evolution and a lot more. 

Moreover, reading 3 good books on a single topic gives you a deeper understanding of what you’re dealing with. You see things inside-out rather than looking at the world with prejudice. None of this stuff is to make you bored. This should be fun. But what else does reading does to us?

You start viewing the world differently

Collateral benefits of reading

Reading helps you meet different people. From great rulers to atheists, you get to meet them from your cosy sofa-in person. You become a part of their journey, and their pain becomes your own.

Each book you read is like a gateway to the author’s brains. Just contemplating the fact that harry potter was born out of a 3-pound-meatloaf of a writer makes me go nuts. The level of imagination is beyond unfathomable. You can even meet people who lived hundreds and thousands of years ago- The Romans, Existentialists, Freedom fighters, Thinkers, Inventors. Reading books allows you to explore various cultures. Compare and contrast them with your own, analyze and most importantly understand. 

Reading gives instant access to a new group of friends. You exchange books, read together and share experiences. Moreover, reading is a trance-like state where the author guides you into the unknown. And reading is just an extended movie. You get to know the characters deeper their darkest secrets, fears, things that make them happy, their guilty pleasures, it’s just surreal.

You also get to talk with experts of the field. James Clear – Habits, Mark Manson – Embracing negativity and facing your demons, Yuval Noah Harrari – History of human evolution, Ryan holiday – Stoicism. In a nutshell, good books make you better.

Fiction vs non-fiction

This is an endless battle. Some think fiction is a waste of time, while others never cared about non-fiction. So what’s the solution? Read both, if possible at the same time. I always have two books in my currently-reading list – Fiction and non-fiction. This gives you enough variety, helping you to be entertained and educated at the same time.

Fiction: 

+Helps you explore characters and storylines that you could never find in real life

+More fun to read for long periods

+Increases social cognition and empathy

+You’ll develop a deeper vocabulary as compared to non-fiction or no reading.

-Reading too much fiction, fantasy for instance – can be entertaining but may fail to address real-life circumstances.

“Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone. It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we’ve never met, living lives we couldn’t possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character’s skin.”

– Ann Patchett

Non-fiction:

+Helps you to gain a deeper understanding of a specific topic

+Equal dose of entertainment and knowledge

-May be esoteric

-Prolonged non-fiction reads can get boring at times.

Kindle vs traditional books

Yet another common debate that leads you nowhere. I regularly use a kindle, and I love traditional books too. So I’ve made a comparison chart of the pros and cons of illustrating both of them.

Kindle

+Lightweight and can hold a minimum of 2000 books

+Has a built-in dictionary and can be read in the dark

+May be cheaper than print books

+Single charge lasts you at least a week 

+Is waterproof but that doesn’t mean you can lend your kindle to your fish for reading

Your initial investment is high (Minimum $100 or Rs.8000)

Won’t last forever and doesn’t provide the same book sharing experience as a paperback 

May feel tricky to move between pages quickly when compared to a paperback (Nitpicking)

Traditional books

+You could fish for a book from a water tank, dry it up and still read it.

+Needs minimal care and lasts for eternity until you don’t allow termites to get the best of them

+Book collections allow people instant access to your library without invading your private space, compared to e-readers.

+Signed copies feel authentic, and you get to enjoy bibliomania(the smell of books) if you’re into that kind of thing

Cannot be read in the dark

Require a dictionary while reading complicated books. And constant switching between both might overwhelm you.

Occupies more space and may feel uncomfortable to lift heavy books while reading

Could be costlier than ebooks

Choose what feels right for you or better use both. I prefer my kindle the most, but if a physical copy lies around the house, and if I think I would enjoy reading on a paperback, I would pick it up. You can also use audiobooks if you love listening. I’ve never used audiobooks. If you’re interested check out the pros and cons of audiobooks before getting a subscription. 

Whether it’s digitized or physical books, they’re simply a medium. What matters is the content you’re getting through them. Don’t start a debate on which is better. Seriously don’t.

Choosing your books

What to read? Fiction or non-fiction? If fiction- Comedy, romance, horror or mystery? If non-fiction- Business, Psychology or biographies? With a plethora of choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So what do you do?

Ask recommendations from people who already read books. If you don’t have one such friend check out my suggestions. If you’re a beginner in this whole reading thing, I suggest you start with fiction then plunge into non-fiction. Starting with non-fiction may feel intense, and you may get bored.

I usually choose books from recommendations lists mainly- Mark MansonJordan PetersonRyan Holiday and James Clear. I highly suggest you check them out. They have a vast array of books than my list. You can also check out this subreddit for books. And there’s one more thing when it comes to reading books- it’s okay not to finish a book. Seriously it’s okay. I’ve a question for you,

Do you watch all the youtube videos you start? Heck, it’s hard to remember when was the last time we sit through a 10-minute video without scrolling through the comments or looking for clickbaity thumbnails. Then why can’t we apply the same to books? This could be due to two reasons.

  1. People think it’s wrong/ unproductive to skip or stop reading a book in the middle. – Which is not.
  2. You’ve invested money in the book.

If you’re unsure about investing your money in a book- 1. check reviews on good reads 2. Read a sample of the book from kindle app or google Play-books. This solves the issue because samples usually contain 5-10% of the books you read which helps you decide whether or not to buy the book. And it’s totally OKAY to put down a book you don’t like – even if it’s widely popular.

How to read like a tornado?

If reading is for entertainment and education why read fast in the fast place? This applies mostly for non-fiction rather than fiction books, as reading faster allows you to get the information much faster. Here are a few suggestions

1. Use a pointer while reading

Every reader would’ve experienced this. You read the first line, the second, then for no reason you suddenly start debating whether or not to stalk your ex-girlfriend on Facebook. 5 minutes have gone by, and you realize you’ve been cramming the 3rd line for the 10th time in a row without knowing why.

Re-reading slows you down and can be avoided by using your finger or a pencil as a pointer, which prevents you from being distracted.

2. Use the 10% rule

The 10% rule which states- If you find a book uninteresting, but has been backed by thousands of good reviews, read-only 10% of it and decide. For a 200 page book, it’s 20. I used this technique and abandoned a few books like the most famous “Think and grow rich” for example. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience. I didn’t want to sit there like a constipated jackass with a book I don’t love. 

There are far more books out there that are worth your time. And don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t make it a bad book, it’s just not meant for you. Imagine a 5-year-old kid pushing himself to understand a book on particle physics. Drop books you don’t like and drop them without guilt.

3. Try to avoid inner monologue.

Kids learn a new language by reading aloud. As we age, this voice becomes the inner voice that you can hear(while reading) inside your brain called the – inner monologue. Try to shut that off. But how exactly do you do that?

Try reading with only your eyes and tune to ambient music. This eliminates the inner monologue. Or read with chewing gum in your mouth. The process of chewing eliminates inner monologue. I know it’s easier said than done, but you’ll get better with time. And DO NOT obsess over eliminating the inner voice, which more likely would take away your concentration on what you’re reading. 

4. Reading certain parts of the book

If only certain parts of the book interest you, read-only those. Don’t slog through the pages.

5. On reading faster

Push yourself to read as fast as you can, without missing information. Don’t try to read twice as fast as you can even when you believe you can. There’s no point in reading books if you can’t understand what they’re about. Isn’t it? If you find the author to be long-winded, skim sections until you get to a part where you’re interested.

You aren’t missing out on anything and it’s totally cool to throw books that you don’t like. Reading should be fun, don’t make it your boring 6th-grade homework.

How to recall what you’ve read 

1. Make a summary of what you read

Write up a 200-word summary (Don’t obsess over the word count and just make sure it’s short) what you read. I have a copy of this in my G Drive where I can access it in case I’ve forgotten what I’ve read. And you always forget what you read. Make summaries for books that you wish to remember, not for all the books you read. And don’t obsess over little details unless they’re important to you. The fact is that you cannot remember all you read. Things and ideas just pop out when you need them. So don’t freak out if you forget what you’ve read. Nobody’s gonna keep a surprise test on what you’ve read

2. Associate while reading

Associating real-life incidents makes it easier to remember than recalling. For instance, I associate the benefits of sleep with my real-life experience of over-worked sleepless nights. I try to associate the stoic belief that anger is not manly when I see angry people around me. This makes it even powerful and easier to remember.

3. Compare and contrast

Compare ideas you know with what you’ve read. According to the law of attraction, people believe positive thinking and avoiding negative thoughts would help them become better. But authors like Mark Manson tells you to avoid fake positivity and to embrace the negative side of you. Jordan Peterson in a lecture tells “Unless we recognize that we’re sick monsters inside, we cannot live happy lives”. This exercise forces you to collect information from the past, analyze and to choose what’s right. It’s like looking at both sides of the same coin before choosing one.

4. Teach people what you’ve read

As Einstein puts it – If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Teach to people who love hearing about it. If you find nobody interested write a detailed review on good-reads about the pros, cons and a short summary of the book. This forces you to remember what you’ve learnt.

5. Rereading

The last recommended option and only if necessary

How to form a reading habit?

Reading is fun, but sitting alone with yourself or allocating a certain portion of your busy day is unfathomable. You may find it difficult to create a reading habit. So what can you do?

  1. Set a page/ time count
  2. Make it a point to read at least 1page a day or to read 10 minutes every day. This particularly helps when you’re starting out. And steer clear of distractions.
  3. Read first thing in the morning.
  4. Why waste your mornings on social media when you could do something that benefits you? Set a goal something like “I will read 3 pages every day at 7 am“. Feel free to change the underlined parts, but set a specific goal. This makes reading even easier.
  5. Read before bed.
  6. This is what I do. I place my kindle near the pillow every night. And when I back for bed I am automatically reminded to read a few pages before I pass out in between the lines. Reading at night helps you sleep. So it’s a win-win situation

You’ve learnt all you need to know about reading. So, stop procrastinating. Go grab a book and get lost in the miracle.

Footnotes

  1. Everything about reading faster was originally written by Mark Manson in Model’s Attract Women through honesty.
  2. Read how to read more by James clear to learn about building a reading habit.

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1 thought on “All you need to know about reading books”

  1. Great article man. I really enjoyed a lot. I feel that books are a compass to our lives. It can direct you in a safe direction most of the time. And for those who wonder how people read book a week, it’s really simple. Just read 30 min a day. Doing this might amaze you. But be focused while reading and avoid distractions.

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