They say a lot of your passions or things that you love to do end up defining your identity. Just recently I got a proof of that when a colleague told me that I must be the “most well-read” people in the team. In all my fake modesty, I told her, not the “most” well-read. Well-read, yes! Which is why I know the benefits of reading very well.
If anyone who knows me even a little well they would know that I am a voracious reader, often reading 2 or 3 books simultaneously. Having kept a Book Club category on this blog has meant that I now go hunting for books that can be reviewed apart from a regular supply of fiction books continuing simultaneously.
My foray into reading
When we (me and my sister) were kids, my father would drive us every fortnight to an amazing public children’s library. In India, they are not as common a sight as they are in the US, and neither are they free. However, this library was quite a find, even though a little far. We would borrow two books each, apart from what we could borrow from our school library too.
In my last five years of school, I used to travel in this minivan of sorts which carried about 20 people in a very small space. This included three teachers. While I along with four other girls mostly used to goof around on the trips to and from school, one of the teachers who my entire family admired could always be seen using that time to read a book. That is a habit I picked up and emulate to this day whereby I always carry a book with me and given enough light and space utilize my time diving into a book.
Today, I read in all forms – books, newspaper, magazines, blogs – you name it and I have benefitted from any kind of reading.
Benefits of Reading
The other day a colleague said how he prefers video to books, as books are too much effort. In our days today when we are pressed for time, it might be tempting to take the easier path or route of letting your mind become lazy. However, the mental stimulation provided by books is valuable. In fact, it is the best workout for your brain.
Flight of imagination
Reading requires a certain imagination. You might think that it’s only the writer who requires imagination to pen it all down. However, the written word actually ends up painting a somewhat different picture for everyone. In some ways, I believe that could be a reason why most book lovers dread movie adaptations as you can never be sure the movie will match your imagined world. You can see what I mean by bad movie adaptations here.
I still maintain that books are the best source of knowledge, what with the amazing variety of books that continue to be written today. Personally, I retain the facts from books better when I read it than when I see it in a video as it can often go in a blur. Apart from books, whatever you need to know, blogs are a wonderful way to learn it. Don’t know where to start? Check out this list of 30 blogs that give you blogs to expand your knowledge.
This one is a no-brainer. When I was growing up, with no internet, of course, every time I came across a word whose meaning I didn’t know I had to access a big Black Merriam Webstar dictionary and check it out. While I don’t come across too many words today that I don’t understand the meaning of, even reading out a book to my 6-year-old nephew shows me how it is improving his vocabulary as he interjects me often enough.
Exercising your memory
This I believe is truer for fiction, where there are characters with their traits and histories to be remembered over a course of a few hundred pages. If you are a determined reader and looking for a memory test, try your skills on the Game of Thrones series. While you will forever be flipping back to the character introduction list, if you are able to read it, you are bound to come out of it with a stronger improved memory.
Think about it – when you are watching a video and someone talks to you, it is very easy to go back. With a book, you often need to pedal back a bit to get back into the zone. That’s because reading needs all the resources of your brain. In some ways, it is the most nascent versions of Deep Work.
Better writing skills
When you read, you unconsciously absorb the words and the way the author puts out his or her words. The more you read, the more resources your brain has to use and put it out in your writing. As this article points out, Stephen King wrote in his memoir “On Writing” – If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
Entertainment or enrichment
You could be reading either of two categories – Fiction and Non-Fiction. For a long time, I was firmly entrenched in the Fiction space refusing to dip my toes into the world of Non-Fiction. I have also met people who swear by Non-Fiction believing Fiction to be a waste of their time. I, though believe, that the two spheres hold different places – fiction provides entertainment with all other benefits whereas non-fiction provides enriching content that you can learn from. When you search on Google, the battle rages on about whether you should read one or the other. I say, read both!
Discover new worlds
Ever read Harry Potter? Weren’t you glad you did? Reading can help you discover new worlds all seen from the authors’ view. And it’s not just fantasy or science fiction. I have loved reading books based in different countries just to discover that world too.
This is one of my favorite habits – reading before I sleep at night. For long I used to think it tells about my focus levels that I am not able to read for much longer than maybe 15 minutes. However, one of the best explanations is that it takes the mind away from other distractions and of course screens. In some ways, it is a trigger for my brain to wind down for the night. Word of advice: it might not help to read a book that you are desperate to finish or like me, you could end up staying awake till four in the morning to ensure you finish The Kite Runner. Check out 5 reasons why reading before bed can help you sleep at night.
Readers often operate as a clan. When you go to a party or a get-together if you get yes for an answer to the question – do you read books? you are mostly sorted. I have had numerous chats about books and authors and recommendations even with strangers. For me, books make a person better and more trustworthy.
Reading opens the horizons of your mind and also helps you build a better sense of critique. We often end up reading things that we may or may not agree to.
When you read a book, you can either read that or think about anything else. I am not a meditator. However, to me reading books or just diving into a whole new world feels much like meditation. When I read a book, I am there and nowhere else – physically and in the mind.
How to Start Reading as an Adult
While I have been blessed with a love for reading since forever, it’s never too late to inculcate that habit for yourself, even as an adult. Read on to know 5 steps how you can do just that:
Know your reading level
When I was a kid, library time was mandated and everybody had to issue books. A lot of my peer group used to read, thanks to that. However, when we grow up and get caught in the rush of adult life, it is often easy to sideline this habit. Know what your reading level is and proceed from there. Have you read Shakespeare? Have you read classics? Or can you read only the simplest books?
Start with popular fiction
Most popular fiction is popular because it can cater and appeal to a wide audience. Starting with a book from that genre is bound to get you more interested. My favorite recommendation to anyone would be the Harry Potter series, at least the first four. If that doesn’t get you into reading, I am not sure what will.
Start with reading one chapter each day
Like with any new habit, start small. Have a fixed time every day and finish off a chapter in that time. The start to a book is generally the slowest. Gradually, you are bound to get hooked.
Keep a log of the books read to give you confidence
With my bullet journal, I know the exact books and when I finished reading them. Not only does it make me happy to see how much more intense my reading habit has become, but I also love keeping tabs just to remember the types of books I have gone through.
Gradually increase the level of content that you are reading
I like challenging myself to different books, even if I might end up abandoning that book, like the Game of Thrones. Keep elevating your level and watch the magic of reading unfold.
I always feel fortunate about my love for reading and hope I am able to rub it off on others. This blog is an attempt in that direction. Do you read? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below.