We don’t read enough. And I don’t mean reading articles on the web, newspaper, or magazines — I’m talking about reading real books. In the old days (pre-internet era), when there was only radio, people read more books. Now, reading has been lost on many people. We would rather browse the web, or watch TV, films, etc.

Bringing reading back as a daily practice will help us immensely. Reading is an essential practice that enriches our lives, and it shouldn’t lose out to glowing screens.

The person who doesn’t read is no better off than the person who can’t read.

There are many benefits of reading good books:

  • Reading is a way to grow intellectually.

  • There is so much to learn about this world. Books are a great avenue to let you do that.

  • Learn from others’ mistakes; for almost any question you can think of, someone before you has already had the same question (and answered it). Use their mistakes as a learning playground to avoid making your own.

  • Reading helps you solve problems from your own life subconsciously. Your subconscious mind tends to wander away and help you find a solution to a problem you’ve been thinking about, especially when you’re not thinking about it. This can only happen when you play.

  • Reading makes you a better writer. It gives you ideas to voice your own opinions about what you’ve read. This in turn makes your writing uniquely yours.

  • Reading great books makes you well-rounded in intellect and character. It makes you smarter, more informed, and keeps you grounded. It helps you have empathy for others, which in turn helps you understand others better.

  • Reading helps improve and increase your vocabulary. Remember that language controls discussion, discussion controls relationship, and relationship controls business and influences everything.

  • Reading a book is akin to picking someone’s brain. It’s like having coffee with them for an extended period of time at your own discretion.

  • Reading (physical) books is a great way to have (and keep) a personal library at home — not just for books you read, but also for the ones you haven’t. Having such a library keeps the information fresh in your mind. Besides, having a personal library in your home is a great conversation starter with guests. Above all, you keep a library because you like books.

  • Reading gives you pleasure and offers a way to truly relax and unwind that doesn’t involve a glowing screen.

Now that we know about the benefits of reading, how do we go about building a reading habit? When we ask ourselves or even others why we don’t read, too often we’ll say that we just don’t have the time to read. The thing is that it’s not really about having the time to read. It’s about making the time you read. That can only happen when it’s essential for you. If it is, you’ll make it a daily priority and find the time to do it.

Once you’ve decided you want to make reading a part of your daily life, set aside daily time for distraction-free reading. Start with 25 minutes of scheduled reading during each weekday. Block this time in your calendar, and try to make it the same time every day so that you don’t have to think about it. Then, evaluate once a week to see how it is working out for you, and then make changes if any are needed.

When you read for a few minutes every day, you can easily read two books a month, fiction and nonfiction each, without breaking a sweat. This is not to suggest that you need to finish your books quickly. That defeats the point of reading. The process of reading a book a week determines the outcome of your personal growth.

Mornings are great for doing some nonfiction reading, while reading fiction in the evenings helps you sleep better.

Here are some best practices when it comes to reading.

  • Read both fiction and nonfiction. With reading nonfiction, don’t just read it, but also apply what you’ve learned. That’s how you grow.

  • Have a list of books you want to read next in a queue so that you’re not thinking about what to read next when you’re done reading.

  • Maintain a Reading Log for books you’ve finished reading. Add a date stamp to it. You could even use categories to tag it for later reference, such as fiction/nonfiction, a rating, a simple like button for books you liked, etc. For example, Bill Gates keeps a public list of books he’s read.

  • You can even take an extended period of time away from work once or twice a year to think and read. Bill Gates is known for taking week-long breaks for reading and contemplation. He calls it his “Think Week”. Of course, you don’t need an entire week to read. You can simply take some time off every day to read.

  • When reading physical (nonfiction) books, use different colors of sticky notes to make different types of annotations (for future reference).

  • Use a personal wiki to create (and keep) an electronic commonplace book, which is a way of compiling knowledge that you might use for future reference.

  • If you don’t like reading, you can listen to audiobooks instead.

  • Keep a Read Later list for articles you come across on the web, then read them later when you have some discretionary time.

  • Never feel obligated to finish books you don’t like (or find boring).

I use a Kindle for reading fiction and hardcovers/paperbacks for reading nonfiction. I read fiction books only once, so it makes sense for me to use the Kindle for just that. I don’t have to go back to a page for reference like you would in a nonfiction book.

I may read nonfiction more than once (and I refer to it frequently), so it’s easy to view a random page quickly, which is not easy with the Kindle. Also, it’s easy to add and use sticky notes in the physical books. They aren’t digitally searchable, but that’s okay.

This is not to say that I don’t buy nonfiction books for my Kindle; I absolutely do that — especially when I’m about to travel — the portability factor helps.

Another advantage of using Kindle: it has a built-in dictionary and vocabulary tool that you can use to learn new words and improve your vocabulary.

Besides reading books, I also read articles on the web that I come across from time to time. I use Safari Reading List on my iPad to read these articles for reading later because I seldom have the time to read them when I come across them. I typically go through them on the weekends.

I also follow the writings of my favorite writers on the web using RSS. It’s a great way to keep up with the websites I want to read regularly without forgetting, while also removing the need to check it repeatedly (for updates).

Find the time to read. Make it part of your daily routine.

It helps you expand your vocabulary, and builds greater analytical, critical, and writing skills. Reading good books helps your writing in a big way.

You could never repay back the value of reading good books because the payoff is immense in terms of personal growth.

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