From being a voracious reader to a reading enthusiast — that’s how my reading habit got changed when I started working and entered into other phases of personal life. For last two years, despite all my sincere intent to read more, at best I could manage to read only 12–14 books an year. This was lot less than what I used to read earlier. So, when I ended up reading 19 books in last one month, I was quite pleasantly surprised with myself. At least there is something good out of this hospitalization and being-on-bed phase of life, I am getting time to read and paint more. See, I am trying to look at the positive side of any situation :). No, I mean it in all seriousness; first month on bed was too painful with surgery, stitches, fractures and what-nots. To add to that, weird thoughts kept on floating in my mind throughout. So, after few weeks when my hands got freed from stitches, the first thing I did was, picked up a book. One book after another and soon enough I was engrossed in reading like earlier. It only added to the reading charm that not only I was getting to read the books that I wanted to read but I also got some amazing books as gifts from friends.
But I am all free these days, so what’s the big deal about reading 19 or any number of books? Well, it’s not the number or the titles of the books but the way I am reading that makes me think more on my current reading habits. You know the kind of reading that we used to do earlier, engrossed in words, lost amidst the pages, the kind of reading that brings you calm and cognitive stimulation, the kind of reading that you do mindfully. My recent readings have been all of that.
So, what did change this time?
- If I have to say it in one word, it’s the internet — I had very limited access to internet most of these days. When I was reading I was ONLY reading.
Few other things that worked for me in bringing back the good old habit of mindful reading were:
- Reading books only, no other format of reading at all — no ipad, no mobile and no laptop, only physical books and kindle. This works like anything, with no on-screen distractions or notifications that you get on other devices, not only you get to read substantially, your retention power also improves a lot. I am not against ebooks or audio books and I myself listen to audio books at times especially while commuting but you know reading a physical book has many virtues of its own — the most important one being attentiveness — a skill that’s a rarity in today’s age of non-stop distractions.
- Reading more than one book at a time. I am generally one of those who finish whatever I pick up, even if I hate it and I am also one of those who like to be lost in the world of only one story, one plot at a time. But then in today’s world where you have many digital impulses available on your fingertip to distract you the moment you get bored of any book, it makes sense to keep another book handy. I was switching between one fiction and one non-fiction at a time and it worked. I also left 2 books mid way as I thought it was not worth spending time on something that I was not enjoying at all. Also, stacking up some good books to be read next acts as lucrative incentive to finish your current read and I for sure had a good stack lined up, thanks to the friends who sent me books to keep me occupied in this bed ridden phase.
- Cutting down on junk reads: So, whenever people speak of diminishing reading habits, I actually wonder if we are really reading less these days. On the contrary, with 24x7 connectivity, I think most of us are reading a lot more now, consuming anything and everything that flashes on our screen — from tweets to blogs to news in shorts, there is just excess of content available to us all the time. You open Facebook and you realize your 20 mins are gone watching those DIY videos or reading others’ posts. With time, I have become cognitive of my online reading behavior and it has helped me quite a lot in cutting down junk content consumption.
- Dedicated reading time. What I have lot more right now is time but what I mean here is “dedicated reading time” — the time that I use for reading only. This I used to practice earlier too, in between work and child I used to find it very difficult to find uninterrupted reading time in my day to day life. As a habit I used to get up half an hour earlier than my family and spend that time reading in total peace. Currently I have many more such dedicated 30-minute slots with me that I am using for books only. I am aware that I will not have this much time after few months, but even if I can increase my dedicated slot to twice a day instead of once a day, or maybe for 60 mins instead of 30 mins on weekends, I will be happy that I got to form a habit that will be bringing me closer to books. Do think about your dedicated reading slot — the time that you choose to give priority to books over that office email or that whatsapp notification, both in most of the cases can actually wait for 30 minutes.
- And last one, reading all the time — on bed, in hospital, while waiting for doctors, I carried books everywhere. But I used to carry books earlier too? Well, then I used to carry mobile too :). Currently with my mouth all wired up due to maxillofacial fractures, I could hardly talk and my mobile phone was mostly not with me. So even when there is 10 minutes of waiting time, the default behavior is to browse the book and not the mobile :). Will it work during my regular life too? No idea, but I am surely going to give it a try — to swap the impulse of hitting the home screen with flipping a book page as and when possible.
Books and mindful reading have many benefits and I am sure I don’t need to tell you any of that. It’s definitely worth a try to bring back the old ways of reading in our lives as it’s just good for our overall wellbeing — emotional as well as intellectual.
In case you would like to watch some interesting talks on reading, do check out this TED talk by Lisa Bu.
Wondering what to read next? Well, there are many recommendations and curated lists available online. Pick one as per your taste and preferences. Currently I am eyeing this 2017 Summer Reading list from GatesNotes. I read 3 from his last year list and loved them.
What did I read in last 1 month? Fiction, Non-Fiction, Biographies and if I have to name 2 of my favorites out of the recent 19 reads, it will be these two -
- Non-Fiction: Hooked by Nir Eyal
- Fiction: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
What are the things that help you to read more? Would love to hear it from you. And in case you have a must read recommendation for me, do drop it in the comment section below.