Read Better, Read More – Seven things I learnt from my three month reading sabbatical

2014’s Ice bucket challenge led to many more ‘forward-it-ahead’ challenges. The black and white pictures being posted on social networking sites, books one has read, favourite movies, Swacch Bharat (Clean India) campaigns. One challenge that caught my attention was the books one has read. Next I saw throwing myself into a back-to-back readathon of sorts. Plenty has been spoken about the joys of reading. Reading is like having a conversation with a stranger and getting to know him better, travelling to a new place, it is solitude without feeling alone, meditation with eyes open.

60 books and three months later of reading in my living room, bed, floor, chairs, coffee shops, restaurants, treadmill, parks, while commuting and in my balcony these are a few things I learnt.

  1. Read a variety – to read only limited genres of books narrows our world view. Reading a variety of topics enhances jargon specific vocabulary and gives an in-depth understanding of how the world works around us. List down at least ten genres that might interest you. Make sure that you read at least a book in each. I read fiction by multiple authors, non-fiction in topics ranging from, travel, music, food, motorcycles, physics, philosophy, war, personal memoirs, Zen and meditation, workouts, business, history and cooking. I fell in love with all.
  2. Keep a digital dictionary handy – Firstly, as a rule, look for every word you don’t understand. There is no looking for it later. Just do it then. Gradually it becomes a habit and feels less like disrupting the rhythm of reading. Secondly, access an e-dictionary. With the advent of mobile applications, forward leap in internet and technology, an e-dictionary is so much more. Mine not just tells me the meaning of the word, but also has sections on example sentences, synonyms, antonyms, phrases, idioms, origin of the word plus a rhyming words and a slang. This makes me exponentially better-informed than if I were looking at a regular dictionary, which also happens to be a time consuming affair.
  3. Read multiple books at a time – I have always read one book at a time. But just for experiment’s sake, I picked up reading four, switching between them depending on my mood. The result was enriching. I read faster. It was like savoring four different flavors at once. It made reading more delicious.
  4. Dirty the book – we refrain from doing this. Probably because we want to keep the book clean for later reading or for someone else to read it. However, I was better focused ‘in the reading’ when I underlined, made notes, little signs to identify when I want to come back to reread a passage or look it up on the web. It made me an involved, active reader.
  5. Nothing as a bad read, it all adds up – many times mid-way a book, it feels like it could be a waste of time. Maybe the writing doesn’t appeal to you, the topic doesn’t interest you, it is too eclectic or too dumbed-down. However, try not to leave a book half read. Finish the book, anyway. Otherwise, it creates a mental block against that topic, author or style of writing. Now, at least you are wiser knowing what you don’t like. To make myself finish a book that is dragging, I rewarded myself with something, a pastry, a movie, a phone call or as simple as buying a book that I really wanted to read.
  6. Exercise – reading is sedentary. If very engrossing, one tends to not move for substantial periods of time. I had started feeling lethargic and ‘fat’. It felt very liberating to be able to stretch my muscles and go for a jog. Interestingly, I read better when I ran. There is something very poetic in combining the two arts, reading and running, one nourishing the soul, other body.
  7. Lastly, ask, shamelessly – one cannot buy all the books in the world. It also feels like a bad investment if the book turns out to be not a keeper. So if someone mentions of a book that interests you, ask if you could borrow it. If the book is worth its while, you can always acquire it later. If it isn’t, no harm done. Remember to be very particular of taking care of the book and returning it once you are through. It is like an unsaid rule in the book lending-borrowing world. You could also, always repay the gesture by lending one of your books.

Happy reading!

[This article was also published on The Times of India. To see it on The Times of India | Blogs, click here]

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