“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
– Marcus Tullius Cicero
Well, it is that time where I suggest to you one of the habits that have changed my life, in blog 1 and 2 I told you about the habit of writing and the habit of reminding yourself of the mortal nature of our life. In this week’s blog, I’m writing about reading books, why to, what to and how to read books. Also, I wanted to share one of my reflections on this topic defending for reading books.
Ok, let’s start with Why. Why read books? It may seem obvious to some. To increase your intellect. But that’s just the surface. Reading books will give you a lot more than you can imagine. First of all, it makes great personalities accessible to you. Reading books is literally like having a conversation with the author of the book. The author’s perspective on life, his reflections, his wisdom nuggets are given to you.
Books build your database. Reading books increase your vocabulary, your knowledge on various topics, imagination gets skyrocketed. And books are filled with great quotes, so instead of searching google for best quotes to put on to your story, read books! And like these aren’t enough, you get one more boon. The habit of reading books acts as a keystone habit to build other good habits in your lifestyle. It might be either a habit picked up from the book itself or it might be merely small changes in your subconscious mind that will build more resilience/grit and build the habit to stick around longer in any of the life pursuits.
Eventually, various dimensions of your life are expanded as a result of the habit of reading books. It will bring enough competence in you to write a book of your own. Your personality, intellect, creativity will become like that which suits a leader. Harry S. Truman says — ‘Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.’
WHAT TO READ?
Start with anything that interests you. And if you don’t know what you’re interested in, start by reading the popular fictions or non-fictions. After reading a couple of books you’ll get to know what interests you. Even I’m a beginner in terms of books read, but after reading around 55 books, now I’m a voracious reader, I know I love brain science, psychology, philosophy, spirituality, marketing, business, the list goes on. At first, you may feel that only a particular topic is in your interest, but then over time, you’ll become a voracious reader of a large variety of books and highly vivid topics.
My approach to reading books was this, I thought to myself, I’ll first finish what the rest have read, the popular ones, then I’ll move on to the books which aren’t read by many. Because in the early days of reading I got to know that reading what’s unpopular is very important. But I didn’t want to miss out on what’s popular either. Because even my ego wants to show off a little bit by showcasing all the popular books on my bookshelves. Now slowly I’m moving into deep books.
HOW TO READ?
I suggest you not just read like a newspaper but digest the book completely. Do whatever it takes to ensure that. It might be writing in the margins of the books, highlighting, or taking notes, etc, whatever. I don’t like to dirty my books, so I use post-it flags or light pencil to mark the important lines and later I’ll make notes digitally.
Spiritual leaders often suggest you burn books and that reading is of no use in terms of spiritual growth. True, reading books can only increase your intelligence but not your level in terms of spiritual growth. It is believed that reading books can form layers around you and your process to find your inner self will be a struggle, as you have to now penetrate these sheaths around you by reading books and accumulating various beliefs in them.
This bewildered me, it shook me. So on the one side, book reading has changed my life by this time. On the other, great spiritual leaders like Swami Vivekananda suggests throwing away books. But in fact, he was also a reader. Then I thought and thought. The difference between these paths is, one is trackable and the other is not. You can measure how many books you’ve read, how much you’ve learnt through books but you can’t track how much spiritual growth you’ve had without reading them. The spiritual path is that of a blind man’s. You don’t know where you are going, nor do you know whether you’re heading in the right direction. Especially until you get your GURU.
So I decided, I may not realize god in this life, it is surely unknown, but I know for sure that I can always seek awareness through books and make my choices based on the wisdom I receive from the wisest of the centuries through their books.
A non-reader is no better than the illiterate, right? At the end of the day, it’s all about balance!
If there’s one thing you took from this blog, let it be this, read books, many of them, variety of them. Start building your libraries!