Be Smarter: Read More

I like reading. More than reading, I like absorbing information. It’s a great feeling to finish a book and realize that all that information is rattling around your head somewhere; even if you can’t call it all to the forefront of your mind in one great torrent of information, it’s still in there somewhere. I have liked reading for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always read pretty well. The only problem is finding time to read. It seems that I always have work to do, or procrastination to do, or things to build, and I never used to get around to reading. That’s changed over the past semester, and in case anyone else is in the same position, I’ll share my observations.

There are two main factors that I believe have enabled me to read more. First, reading has become more convenient for me. At the beginning of this semester, shortly after the novelty of people watching as I rode the bus to school each morning wore off, I decided that the bus was an ideal place to read. Say what you want about people who read on the bus being disconnected from the world or not paying attention or whatever: the bus is a fantastic place to read. I don’t read on the bus every day, but when I do, the 20 minute bus rid feels like it takes five minutes.

The other thing that made reading more convenient for me was a change in my reading medium. In case you haven’t noticed, I have an affinity for technology. And art. The Kindle combines these two, in my eyes, and since I couldn’t find a manufacturer that could sell me just the display at wholesale price so I could build my own, the Kindle seemed like a good compromise. At first I used it to read the newspaper, which was really cool because I’d get the Montreal Gazette every morning at 5am (well before I was even thinking about waking up,) and I could read it in the morning as I was trying to force myself to get out of bed. But the idea of reading books on a piece of technology like the Kindle just seemed soulless compared to the tactile experience of reading a real “dead tree book” as I’ve heard them called. That is, until I tried it. I don’t remember which book I first started to read read on the Kindle, but I don’t think I finished it. In fact, the first book I finished on my Kindle was Treasure Island and I read it mostly on the bus. The beautiful thing about the way Kindle works is that it syncs to your computer (useless to a *nix person like me,) and to any other devices like an iPhone or Android phone with the Kindle software (which is free, by the way.) Even when I don’t have my Kindle with me (in fact, I rarely take it with me because I don’t want it to get broken, lost, or stolen,) I usually have my phone, and I can read whatever book I’m currently reading whenever I want. Yes: that means on the bus. And e-readers aren’t nearly as expensive as they used to be; the current Kindle version costs about 20 paperback books (less if you’re in Canada, because Canadian booksellers are cheating, lying, thieving bastards who refuse to lower the price of books even though the US dollar is almost at par with the Canadian dollar.)

The second thing that caused me to read more was getting reading into my mind as a “thing.” When you have nothing to do, and you think of all the things you could do, chances are there are some things you’ve been meaning to do more often that won’t pop into your head. Reading was this way for me. So I found a few books that were easy to get hooked on. John Green and Maureen Johnson are two of my favorite contemporary authors (both write young adult fiction, which means only that the characters in their stories are young adults, not that non-young-adults can’t get anything from them,) and I usually read any book that they publish in under 4 days. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than 2 days reading a book written by John Green; I read them in a blaze of text and plot that occasionally leaves the lines between reality and fiction slightly blurred for the next day or two, and it’s a glorious feeling. These are really easy books to sink your teeth into, and because John Green and Maureen Johnson are amazing authors and very wise people, it’s a worthwhile experience.

People don’t read enough today. They read the paper, or they read Facebook, or even worse: Twitter, but not too many people take time to actually read all the way through things. That being said, if you’ve made it this far in this blog post, you’re probably not one of the people I’m talking to. I’ve heard people say of my generation that we skim texts rather than reading them, and I didn’t really believe it until I realized how much I simply skim information because reading the entire thing seems so long and daunting. It took a while before I realized that while skimming has value when you need to find information quickly, often the information you skim over could be more valuable that the information you’re searching for, even if it’s not what you need at the moment.

If you skim text, I offer you the following challenge. Navigate to Wikipedia and search for something in which you are interested. Read the entire article. Don’t flip through the sections looking at a few interesting facts here and there: read the whole thing thoroughly. It’s hard, but I hope you’ll feel better for it. If you enjoyed it, maybe you should click on some related links and see what’s there.

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