Do you read? Why or why not? I love reading as no matter what book you read there is always something new to learn. Whether it’s true crime, giving you an insight into other people, or self-development, giving you an insight into yourself. It doesn’t have to be non-fiction, as even when reading fiction you learn about other times and places, which, at least for me, leads you to find out more.
Currently, I have around five books on the go, which sounds a little crazy but they are all read in different situations so I can easily get back into the mindset depending on which I pick up. I have one on the bedside table, one on my desk, one on my Kindle, one on my phone, and a final one on Audible.
Whatever I’m reading, I like to really get into a book, making notes and adding sticky tabs wherever I see something that I want to go back to. I like to stop and contemplate what I’m reading so it takes me a while to get through a book. I want to really focus on what is being said to me. I want to learn more about a topic, or my own reactions to the subject.
I don’t, however, have a goal to read a certain number of books. I do have a list of books I would like to read, but that’s it.
I wonder, sometimes, why people have a goal to read a certain number of books in a year. Are they in competition with others or themselves? What are they reading? What benefit does hitting a reading milestone bring them? Do they get to discuss these books with others and does that expand their understanding?
Perhaps the only time I’ve been in a competition for reading was at primary school, when I wanted to get through all of the books that were key reading for each level. That wasn’t really competition against anyone else though, more myself as I had limited access to these books and I didn’t want to miss out. I remember being particularly keen to read a book on myths and legends that was only available to pupils who reached the highest reading level so I made it a mission to get there.
Of course the whole point of those was learning, expanding vocabulary and the like, so whilst I will remember very few of those books, they formed the building blocks of my future reading, and in turn writing.
As an adult though, this quote by Mortimer J. Adler, sums up my feeling on reading as a goal:
“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” – Mortimer J. Adler
Each to their own, I suppose. There is always something to be gained by reading and so I would always encourage it. However, here is my personal perspective on why we should all take time to read.
What Reading Means to Me
This has been my favourite reason to read over the last few years. If ever you have a moment that you look back on and think, “why did I do that?”, then this is a good reason to find out more about yourself. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t good enough as you are now, it means that there is always a new angle to look at, a new understanding to be found.
Now, the self-help genre sometimes gets a bit of stick but even if you don’t follow the “rules” that are laid out, there can be much to learn from any self-help book. For a good while, I was listening to the “By the Book” podcast. They live the rules of a self-help book for two weeks and then feedback on what they thought of the book and whether it worked for them. In each case, they learnt something about themselves.
By reading opposing viewpoints, you get to understand what works for you and why. Personal development is understanding you, and not becoming someone else.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey urges the reader to read as a teacher and not a learner. I love this method. It means that when you are reading, the aim is to be able to relay what you know to other people. Only then you can understand what you have learnt. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.
Expanding your skills and knowledge beyond your school days and day-to-day experience is a great way to turn reading to your advantage. Not just study texts and required reading lists. Mastery can be gained from the biographies of the people who have succeeded in your line of work or business. They can give you knowledge on how to approach problems, get over hurdles or even just tips on leading a happier life.
Of course, non-fiction has the very point of expanding knowledge, ye even in the realm of fiction books, knowledge can be expanded through reading. New words, new places, a new awareness of alternative experiences can be gained from reading. However, learning in itself is not always about finding out something new, but also about having a different viewpoint on something you already had either knowledge of or an opinion on. Both the non-fiction and fiction writer draws simultaneously on their own and researched experience to provide a basis for their plot.
Of course, escapism has to be a good reason to read. Whilst I have less time for this aspect these days, I remember fondly my younger days when I would read until late at night and quickly turn the light out or hid the torch away when I heard my parents approaching my bedroom door. Later on, many times have I used reading as a way to relax on a lunchbreak and, of course, it’s obligatory to have a good book to read by the pool on holiday or whilst travelling. These days, I don’t travel anywhere without my Kindle but at home, I like to have a book on the bedside table.
Taking notes, highlighting, turning down the corner, or however you find a way to get back to the bits that mean something to you then do it. Books are full of brilliant things. Get into your books, don’t just use them as a goal. Don’t feel that you have to reach a certain number in a year or that you have to read certain books. I haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird or A Tale of Two Cities, but so what? Maybe one day, maybe not.
Why do you read? What benefit do you receive from your reading? Or maybe you don’t read and if so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share in the comments below.
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Until next time, remember, if the excess baggage is weighing you down, you can always leave it in lost luggage.