As I turned to the next page on Reed Hastings book, No Rules Rules, it occurred to me, how fortunate I was. Fortunate to be reading that book, to have the channel through which I can procure the book. To have the money to pay for the book. To have good eyes to be able to read the book. Then when I look at the world around me and the world as a whole, I feel sorry for the millions of other people, like me, who have all this and yet, don’t even know that a book like this exists.
Now what I have taken example is, of a fairly recent book. But even if I was to take example of a classic book, like “Gone With the Wind” or the Alchemist or Atlas Shrugged, or many other Fiction/Non Fiction books, which have sold tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of copies. And when we look at the recirculation of these books, then it might have been read, eventually, by maybe 400 to 500 million people. And this is still way small a no. when we consider the world population is 7.2bn plus.
Lets see that all the books I cited are debatable, whether they could be considered as ‘must read’ just because of its popularity. Then let me take the Bible or the Gita or the Koran. Purely driven by religious beliefs, if we were to look at the readership levels of these books, it would definitely not come close to 7bn. So Its clear that the most of the people, really, don’t believe in importance of reading (books).
Now you must be wondering, what the hell is this guy trying to prove here. Well, its about the joy of reading, the advantages of reading, the unparalleled beauty of reading experience that I have discovered and I am thoroughly amused as to how many people are amused when I tell them that I have been reading 100 books every year for the last 3 years and will try and do so for the rest of my life, as far as possible.
In childhood, we have no choice but to read. That’s how we gain primary knowledge. Whether at school or at home, we would be invariably engrossed in books. Sometimes we would be so engrossed, we would loose track of time and mother would come and say ‘Kitabi Kide (Bookworm), go out and play for some time.” Of course, we all had amongst us people who were the contrast to this, who had to be forced to study (read) all the time. But maybe it was this whole push towards ‘wholesome’ development or otherwise, as kids were not discouraged from reading all the time. Especially books not related to school. Had that not been so, we all had a chance to be voracious readers as grown ups. Of course, this is not a universal statement but based on what I have observed myself.
A lot of people have asked me a lot about my reading and how they can read more. Let me try and address some of the challenges. All of this is applicable to the ‘non fiction’ category. :
What to Read:
Thanks to the internet and apps like Goodreads and numerous websites, apps, FB pages, one can get umpteen book reviews of all genre. On record, there are upwards of 125mn titles in English alone. And it is said, that an average human, in his entire lifetime, is going to read some 2500 books. Yeah, its that much only.I have read some 500 books so far. And even if I read 100 books every year for the next 40 years, I would have only read 4500 books in MY lifetime. So you need to select 2500 books from total of 125mn today, which might easily be 150mn in another 20 years. Imagine the range you have to choose from !! So if you don’t like something, drop it right then and there. There is absolutely no sense in forcing yourself to read something you are not liking. The money you invested is NOT coming back to you, whether you red to the end or not. But you can salvage the time you will waste in reading further. You will not be made fun of, just because you decided to stop reading a classic or a bestseller. No one is bothered about that. Typically, try and focus on the book for at least 15-20% of its book length and see if you are getting a ‘hang’ of it. Many books really pick up pace around that mark, if not right in the beginning.
What format to Read:
I typically read 3-4 books at the same time. Yeah, I am one of those crazy types. One reason I read multiple books at the same time, has to do more with the format than different genre. I still love to read physical books but honestly, its not always convenient to have them with you. But our phones, yeah, they go with us everywhere, including the loo!. So the digital version/kindle is the next convenient format of reading. But what has worked the most for me in the last three years, is the audio book. With apps like Audible having a huge library of content in audio format, I find it convenient to have my bluetooth headset on me and listen to books while on the run, walking, driving, in train, flight, etc. The key point to remember with audiobooks: No flipping of text on the phone while listening and have your eyes on the traffic when listening while behind the wheel. Even 15 seconds of distraction while listening, can really make it difficult to keep track. And yeah, audio books is the worst format when you are used to taking notes and underlining.
When to Read:
Ideally the first thing in the morning is the best time of the day, if you would like to retain in memory, most of what you are reading. The fag end of the day, just before you sleep, is another popular time to read, however, it might not be the best time for heavy content and I would rather read something light or fiction at that time. Of course, digital content and audiobooks are totally cool to be used when on the move and u have time between meetings, when travelling, etc.
How much to Read:
While I will admit that 100 books a year is a lot, I know many people read lot more than that (yeah, Warren Buffet reads lot more than that), I think being able to read 52 books in a year, is optimum. One book a week, translates to some 50 pages per day of a 350 page book. That’s roughly 25-30 mins of daily reading, depending on your reading speed and the content you are reading. I am sure its possible for everyone to take out 30 mins from a 24 hour day, however busy the person is. Of course, for me, the day I am not able to read, its purely a mindset issue, that my mind was not up for it. That’s the reason the morning window is the best, as you are yet to get engrossed into your daily routine.
Reading is Bliss:
My mantra on reading, is that when it comes to a particular topic, a writer would have researched on the book for a long time before publishing the book. For example, I know for the book “Quiet” the author Susan Cane researched on the topic of introverts for 15 years. She conducted interviews, did surveys, read lots of books and magazines, journals and articles, travelled, gave talks and attended conferences, etc. She did all this before publishing a 300 page book. If you spend 6 hours reading that book, you have gained knowledge that took Susan 15 years to capture. Of course, there is no denying that Susan is lot more smarter on the topic than you, but hey, you got what she thought was important for you to know!!
They say when you read a book, its actually like you are having a conversation with the author; this is so so true in case of the audio book, when its read by the author. Like I read both Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Barrack Obama’s A Promised Land on audible and it was an amazing experience hearing them narrate their life story. In person, we may never get a chance to come even close to these luminaries. But through their books we very much know how well they lived their lives.
Reading is meditation at times, it takes u into a trance, where you get completely immersed in the topic. You look out for parts that you know, then you know some more about the same and then you feel that you have become lot more wiser and smarter. You come across scores of examples of real people and companies and what amazing stuff they did, how they did and you relate with your own experience and you get inspired to do something similar. Especially when one reads autobiographies of famous people, especially sportsmen and women, it gives us a true picture of what those women and men of steel are made of (its actually flesh and blood, very much like us!!!).
I see Books as human’s best friends. They are with us right from when we were toddlers, when our parents made us read baby books. And they remain with us way deep into old age. If our eyesight becomes extremely weak when we are old, we have the option of audiobooks or if we can afford one, we can have the luxury of someone reading out books to us. But unlike our parents, siblings, children, spouse, who all may or may not be around when we are old, for various reasons, there is absolute certainty that we will have books with us. But then you will say, why books, even trees, watch, Television, or many other inanimate objects might also be with us all through our lives. Yes, very true, but immense potential of learning and entertainment and that too loads of variety of each, that books can provide, its not possible with any other object. Books are your real BFF (Best Friend Forever).
Go Read a Good Read today !!