How do you decide what to read? A recommendation from a friend? Whatever happens to be in the dentist’s waiting room?
Or anything that pops up on Yahoo News? “Look! Here’s a fascinating article about the Ten Best Cruise Ship Waterslides!”
Do you read just what happens to come along or do you make a purposeful effort to find what is meaningful for you? Or somewhere in between?
If you feel a little lost about what to read then check out this book first. It’s called, “The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life,” by Steve Leveen. He’s a founder of Levenger, a company whose mission is, according to their website:
To outfit our customers with high-quality products designed for reading, thinking, and creative expression.
He recommends we first make a list of what subjects we want to explore. This process isn’t as easy as it sounds and will likely change over time.
What do want to have more of in your life? Want to be smarter, healthier, happier? Want to know more about music? History? Biographies? Comic books? Fitness? Finance?
Then sit down and consciously research those topics and find the books to educate yourself.
Here’s the major points he makes about reading that may be different from what you’re used to hearing. Of course if you’re reading eBooks, blogs, or listening to audio books, you’ll have to change the recommendations to fit the circumstances. But the concepts are the same.
1) Don’t just read the book and put it back on the shelf. Instead use the book to study what you want to learn. It’s okay if we breeze through entertaining fiction just for the fun of it. But if you’re focused on learning more about jazz or SEO or Shakespeare then make a study of it.
2) Don’t be afraid to mark up the book and make it your own. Underline, highlight, write in the margins, or make your own index in the back of the book listing the important pages and passages. If you don’t like to write in the books then keep notes of what you’ve read.
3) Review the books and your notes periodically so you’ll retain the important points. One method, Leveen recommends is to have a schedule for reviewing your books.
First, read the book through and make notes of important points you want to understand and remember. Then review the book within a few days and review it again a week after that. Finally review it once more after six months.
If you add this systematic review, you’ll be surprised at how well you understand and recall the book’s material instead of only having a vague recollection of what the book’s about.
4) It’s better to read fewer books and understand and implement those ideas than to read many books and not remember or apply anything of what you’ve read.
5) Read some books again because they may have more meaning at different points in your life or as the author says, “The text stays the same; the reader changes.”
For example, several times Leeven has read Victor Frankl’s, “Man Search For Meaning,” about Frankl’s life in WW II German concentration camps. After each reading Leeven comes away with new understandings of the book’s lessons.
6) Stop reading a book if it has no value for you. Sometimes we feel obligated to keep reading because the book is a classic and you somehow feel you’re supposed to read it. But after 50 pages or so if you aren’t finding any meaning then put the book aside and go on to something else.
Why even bother to read?
Reading books that excite and teach you can lead to experiences you would not have had. These experiences, in turn, lead to more books you would not have uncovered. Which can lead to more experiences.
How we spend our time is our choice. If you choose to spend time reading then why not pick the books that will take you where you want to go in life?
photo credit: sonoma.edu