Reading. In life.

Hello my friends, today is an advocation and tutorial for reading and how we ought to do more of it. While doing a bit of research for my own sake on reading I came across an interesting statistic: the average American reads a mere 1 book per year, and I’m sure it is not far off for Canadians. There are some curious factors in this statistic, for instance, there are many people who do not read at all, also some cannot read, these people most certainly drive down the average. While there are some who finish literally hundreds of books per year. Both Warren Buffet and Bill Gates say that the read on average 8 hours a day, whether it is for work or for pleasure they are in reading mode for a large chunk of their day. Another interesting fact is that both of these individuals have said that one of their favourite things to do is a book vacation. Basically, they take a stack of about 20 books or so and spend a few days bouncing between each book. 5 minutes in one book, 15 in another, 10 in another, and the ideas begin to mix and mingle to create new ones, a wonderful idea I think.

Wonderful is the insight we can gain from reading. This summer I was able to read around 50 books or so. Made possible by a few revelations about how I read and thanks to a few handy tutorials I’ve come across. I am happy to share my discoveries with you so that you may further tap into the potential of knowledge.

First, a few of myths about reading.

  1. You have to read 1 book at a time. Please, feel free to grab 6 or 7 books at a time, flip through each and let the ideas flow. This myth is mainly relevant to non-fiction reading. It is difficult to read multiple novels in the same setting, although I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to try it out.
  2. You have to read the whole book cover to cover. This was a particularly revolutionary thought. Once I realized that many books are merely filled up with words around the few ideas which they seek to convey you are free to go through books as a knowledge seeker. Most books have 2-3 good ideas in them, the rest is simply to help you further wrap your head around these ideas. If you can seek out these key ideas first and grasp them, there is no need to read further. If you do really love the book, put it aside to be read when you have more time.
  3. You must read one word at a time. This is a terrible habit which most people are stuck in, we are taught to sound out every word and read carefully one word at a time. This is how we learn, but most people stop progressing their reading skills here. Later I will explain how you can group words together in order to multiply your reading speed.
  4. You only should read a book once. This myth is particularly harmful when seeking out the key ideas of books. When I am reading a book I go through it at least 3 times. Once is a very quick skim, mainly looking through the table of contents, reading the inside flap and back. The next time through I will skim the main ideas and mark and pages which seem important. The third time I will read these marked pages and think through the ideas. I always get the best grasp of an idea when I explain it to my beautiful wife Cailen. This last stage is optional, discussing ideas is simply how I learn and develop concepts further.
  5. You have to read everything carefully. Education may have caused this, it is as if we are suspecting we are going to be tested on this knowledge one day. Reading slowly and carefully is a gear which is used for important and complex items such as philosophy and legal documents. You certainly do not have to make sure you have every detail memorized from the Anne of Green Gables. Consider watching a movie and you phase out during the dull parts and tune back in during the exciting climax, you are still able to follow the story and understand what is going on. I think you’ll find it surprising how much our brain can fill in the blanks in order to make sense of things.

Speed Reading.

Speed reading is another important tool which has allowed me to read more, and be less intimidated by larger books. Speed reading techniques are extremely useful for going through books at incredible speeds. Thanks to these techniques I have been able to keep up on my heavy educational reading while not having to sacrifice training and family time.

  1. Group together words. When you look at a sentence, train your eyes to take in groups of words instead of singular words. Languages are really made up of thousands of different phrases, and our brain actually takes in the information if it has more context to work with.
  2. Do not subvocalize. Subvocalizing is as if you are saying each word out loud in your mind. There is really no need to do this, your mind will comprehend the information without it being read out loud to it. I found stopping this especially helpful because I am a terrible listener, and I was basically listening to myself and losing a lot of information because of it.
  3. Soften your gaze. Softening your focus means to let go of the intense tunnel vision and let our attentional filter do its work. It will pick up on words and important info while you brush your gaze over the page. It is if you are driving and your attentional filter alerts you to the road which you need to turn on, or when your mind alerts you that a song you love is on the radio. It detects things which are important to you, or things that need to be explained. Your attentional filter is extremely good at developing ideas as you read and filling in the blanks to a seemingly incomplete story.
  4. Use a tracker. Use something pointy! A pen works great, use it to guide your eyes through the page. I particularly like to use an S like pattern to view the page. It will take time to get used to using it, but eventually with time you will barely notice it and your eyes will pick up everything it needs to.

My final tip. Choose your books wisely. There is a lot of junk out there, I suggest filling your mind with useful information that will help cultivate your character, increase your perception, emotional intelligence is becoming an increasingly useful skill. The more I read, the more I realize I need to read!


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