Admittedly, I am not a voracious reader. Not by any stretch of imagination. In a good year, I have perhaps averaged a book / month, taking the yearly count to 12. In most years, the number goes down to single digits. Like 7-8. Could actually be lower than that. You get the point. 

Now, the benefits of reading are real and well documented. To the extent these benefits resonated with me, I did try to pick up more books and read over time. But the allures of the good weather outside, or meeting another friend, or watching something instead on YouTube were all too real. And then the structured routine of setting aside material time to read a book did not work for me. 

The act of becoming a failed voracious reader, instead, did give me a glimpse into some of the virtues of voracious reading. And got me thinking if there are ways beyond reading where we can still imbibe some of these virtues. 

To be sure, reading is a very efficient mechanism to expand one’s mind, make one more empathetic, enhance one’s observation skills and align one’s self. But if you, like me, cannot muster the habit of continuous reading, there’s hope. And perhaps, in a manner that’s a tad more fun, contingent on your personality type. So here goes – the points below list the virtues of reading, and offer alternatives to how one could still inject some of those virtues in one’s life.

  1. Reading expands the mind. Substitute reading with good content on your preferred streaming platform and my sense is that too could expand the mind. Emphasis here on good content. [Travelling also expands the mind like nothing else but that’s not always practical and it’s #2021].
  2. Reading makes you empathetic. Try to schedule at least 2 in-person lunch or coffee conversations with people in your immediate and extended network every week. Listen to them intently, for what they say and how they say it. 
  3. Reading improves your observation skills. Go to a coffee shop and mentally archive the entire experience in minute detail. Everything from what the barista is wearing to the PoS system to the color of pen you use to sign the receipt to, of course, the smell of coffee. Make it a habit to be obsessive about observing all details so that the act of getting coffee becomes a ritual. Substitute a coffee shop with any other regular endeavor that you undertake on a weekly basis if caffeine’s not your thing.
  4. Reading improves your concentration skills. Do deep work in short sprints at least once a day. During these sprints, nothing else matters besides you and the task at hand. The task at hand could be something mundane but whilst you are at it, it’s just you and the task. The rest of the world ceases to exist.
  5. Reading aligns you as an individual. Spend time by yourself. Not doing anything. Perhaps take out a journal and scribe something illegibly. Oh, and switch off that favorite smartphone. And then spend more time with yourself. While you are at it, also stare at the walls and smile.
  6. Reading makes you sound interesting when you go on a date. Well then, pick another date. Or even better, enjoy the bliss of singledom.

Reading’s amazing and being a voracious reader is cool. In balance, a society of voracious readers would be a more informed society, less prone to the cluttered noise of the world outside. If you can be a voracious reader, be one. It’s an excellent strategy.

But if you are like me and find yourself unable to become one, don’t count yourself out by any means. It’s not the be-all and end-all. If anything, all the virtues of reading are within reach through alternative means, in a manner that could sit better with you. It’s a question of intent. And of discovering your own Truth.


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