The benefit of reading is many, but the best benefit of reading, at least to me, is that by reading you master the best of what others have already figured out. That is, you can remember and apply lessons and insights from what you have read. What do I mean? Let me explain.
Books that read themselves.
An excellent book gives you that certain feeling when you first pick it up. They are well-written, well-organized, and jam-packed with ideas and insights. You pick it up and immediately want to turn to the next page. And the next. And the next, so on and so forth. Good books also read themselves in that you will not want to put them down.
Then there is this innate knowledge that when it comes to reading, you do not need to finish what you start. Because reading bad books is a chore. You try your best to finish it but it is like wading through a mud flat in low tide.
When that happens, put away that bad book. Putting it away creates the opportunity for you to read a great book.
So do not be afraid to skim over lots of books. Read a few. Then re-read the good books twice, or more, like I did this with Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture.
From the Last Lecture (Hyperion)
Reading because we read.
I once read that reading words is the easy part of reading (no puns intended). By that I mean, putting the alphabets together to form words that gives meaning. We learned how to do that in primary school.
This is where the issue arises. We learned to read by reading. Yet many of us are to master the art of matching our reading to the content within a book. This is because not everything requires the same level of attention.
Mastering reading means skimming through some books like how I would do with Ellen DeGeneres’ Seriously… I’m Kidding, or giving my full attention to some others such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.
From Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Mastering reading goes to show the effort you put in reading, relates to what you are reading and why you are reading it. You can read more about the distinct levels of reading and mastering it here.
Choose to read good books.
To get the most out of what you read, you need to be selective in what you read. Just like how you must make the choice between having iced lemon tea (because it is refreshing) or teh ais kaw (because its yummy), we need to be choosy in our choice of books because the wrong book will make us struggle with getting the insights from the book.
Also, most of us are naturally drawn to new books. Their pages are crisp, the glossy cover smells of newly minted ink, and they are filled with sex appeal, marketing, or even empty promises. Trying to find the ones that gives us values is one in a million and many of these books are forgotten in time.
The only thing to do is to let time do the selection. We cannot tell which new books will turn out great, and which will not. So many of us let time do the filtering. These time-filtered books are the likes of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Robert T. Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad and even Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.
“Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths.”
From Yuval Harari’s Sapiens (Dvir Publishing House Ltd.)
The avid reader would know too that reading time is limited. Reading should be the acquisition of knowledge. Do not waste time on books that do not last. The best thing you can do is to re-read the best book you have ever read.
Read old books. Read the best ones twice.
Read. Then read some more.
Be it physically or mentally, you will never get to where you want to go, if you are not learning all the time. The best way to move forward is to read, one of which is what Warren Buffet dubbed The Buffet Formula.
Making reading a habit need not be complicated nor should it be a chore (because if it is a chore, then it is not a good book). Perhaps start by reading a few pages a day; it is a small number but it does add up quickly with an enjoyable book. Once you are done with that great book, then perhaps it is time to choose your next book.
Books getting to be too expensive? Here are some places you can read free books online (in no order of preferences): Google Books, Open Library, 24Symbols (requires some subscription), and BookBub.com (for newer books).
This piece is written in conjunction with World Book and Copyright Day (WBCD) 2022 on 23 April, and is in no way an endorsement of the authors nor the publishers. Swinburne Sarawak however endorses our Library’s ‘Let’s Read Together for 10 Minutes’, an event held simultaneously throughout Malaysia and to encourage everyone to enjoy books through reading.