I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July. I was originally going to write a post on why I am so grateful to be an American. And while I am, I wouldn't be able to churn out a post long enough with either some personal insight or helpful advice. I was going to start off with the notion that I'm constantly amazed at how lucky I feel about being born in America. I could have very well been born in Africa in the sweltering heat and constantly starving instead of a 4th generation Asian American. Life can seem so beautiful and unfair all at the same time...
I started reading a new book today and I wanted to explain why I read. I read for entertainment, solace, knowledge, and advice, but at the heart of it, I read because I'm moved. The best books have inspired me to act and have caused me to think, reflect, and question. At the very least it distracts my mind and new ideas or thoughts come to me that are sometimes totally unrelated to the subject at hand. Studies have shown that your brain needs that quiet time, that other focus, so that it can work out problems and come up with solutions. I've experienced it often.
I think this is why everyone should read. Books are better reading material because of the long, in-depth subject. Regardless of what it is, it will keep your mind engaged on the same topic for a longer period of time. And I'm grateful to be in America where information is free for anyone to access. Censorship is not an issue and people can write their own opinions freely as well. To not read in this country is to not take advantage of the freedom so many other countries are denied.
As I've gotten older, my reading habits have changed. These are tips on how and why I read.
1) I read every single day without fail for at least 30 minutes.
Any habits you practice daily are markers of what you find important. My habits range from reading at lunch for 30 min or at night before I go to bed. Sometimes I read articles on LinkedIn about my industry or other trending topics. I subscribe to a couple of magazines that relate to technology, business, and personal growth which I also count as reading. I follow daily and weekly blogs. Every day I allow myself to seek out new information, a different perspective, or relaxation through reading. And what I gain can be anything from how to network better or bringing up an interesting topic of conversation the next time I am out. Even reading about what new restaurant opened up in town helps me with all my event planning duties.
2) I mark up my books and take notes.
When I read books, I've gotten into the habit of highlighting passages I find important, want to delve into further, or look up the definitions to words. I also find myself putting my book down every couple of minutes to write down ideas that pop into my head. Anytime I read, it reminds me to do something at work or to try a new method or share a tidbit of information with someone who would enjoy it. Reading is the catalyst that gets the wheels turning in my brain in the most unexpected and profound ways. At the very least, highlighting passages keeps me focused on reading and comprehending instead of letting my mind wander too far. If anything, as I read, I am more or less studying as if I were taking a class. I'm not reading to pass the time and forget the information. I'm reading to apply and incorporate that knowledge into my life in any way shape or form applicable.
3) I read several books at once.
I have a really long list of books that I plan to buy and I am always reading at least 2-3 books at once. Not to mention, I have about 30-50 books I've purchased but have not gotten around to starting. I will sometimes start books and get 1/3 of the way through and lose interest so I allow myself to pick up another book that speaks to me. And yet, when I return to the first book, I find it so intriguing I can't believe I put it down for a couple of months. For whatever reason, certain books mean different things to me depending on when I'm reading them. Either I'm not ready to read about a certain subject, I'm distracted in my life, or the book isn't pulling me in at the moment. The books that interest me the most, I will finish within three days. That is a mark of superb book.
4) After 50-100 pages, if I hate a book I will stop reading it. If I try reading a book twice and still hate it, I give up.
I can only think of one book that I honestly tried to read and never could get into it. I read to about page 50 and tried to revisit it. I ended up giving the book away. I let a couple of years go by and I bought the book again! I tried reading it and could not understand it at all or the worldwide craze it became. It was a personal growth book endorsed by some heavy hitters. The only thing I may try now is to buy a different book from same author if I were to try again. Perhaps that book just wasn't the right message for me.
5) Reading as a gift.
When I was young my father always explained to me that he would buy me any and as many books as I wanted. I was a late bloomer when it came to becoming a bookworm. I was a good reader at a young age, but was never interested in sitting still until about 5th grade. My father would take me to the book store frequently, just the two of us, so he instilled my habit of reading very early.
Now as an adult, I lend out my books freely. I offer them saying if I never got it back or if it took them a year to read it, it would be fine. I do ask for the book back once or twice so others can borrow it. And if no luck, I let it go. Hopefully they can read the book and pass it on to someone else as well. This is a practice I engage often that I have a circle of friends where I am there de facto local library. I ask them what sort of book they want, if they need me to bring them new books when we meet up, and we talk about what they borrowed from me.
And nine times out of ten, when someone has a baby or there is a gift-giving occasion, I will give a book.
Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness can all be found in a book! Go get some! :)