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To Reap the Rewards of Reading, Choose Books that Challenge You

2012 December 21

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. ~Haruki Murakami

reading booksI recently read the results of a survey that stated 1 in 4 adults read no books last year, and that the average adult read only four or less books.

As an avid reader myself, I can’t even imagine what life would be like without books! In fact, watch out, I’m about to reveal a personal tidbit, I actually turned off my cable last summer after realizing that it had been nearly a month since I’d last turned on my TV. I can hear the collective gasp now, but don’t worry; I’m not going to attempt to eulogize the virtues of a TV-less life. (Hint – don’t miss it!)

The fact is, I choose to believe the people who are willing to take the time to read such things as personal growth blogs are already aware of the value of reading in general. However, just in case you happen to fall into the 4 book-a-year category, let me take a moment to share just a few of the benefits of reading (more) books … then we’ll explore ways to get more out of your book reading, and how to fit a little more reading into your busy day-to-day life.

Reading books broaden your perspective of life and …

  • Improves concentration, vocabulary and memory.
  • Builds discipline and focus.
  • Gives you a glimpse into other cultures and places.
  • Builds confidence and self-esteem.
  • Inspires and improves creativity.
  • Gives you something (interesting) to talk about.
  • Are inexpensive entertainment.
  • Gives you the opportunity to learn at your own pace.
  • Improves your reasoning skills and expertise.
  • Can help break a motivational slump.
  • Reduces stress.
  • Gets you away from mindless digital distractions.
  • Can change your life!

If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions. ~Author Unknown

Of course, there are books, and then there are books. Some contain information but little else. Others lift us into a higher level of self-awareness, bringing us back to key ideas for days, sometimes weeks, and in small cases even years.

Books are great ways to escape the daily pressures, and most of us have our favorite genres – I’m an ardent mystery/thriller fan – and Amazon has made it easier than ever to grab a free book for a quick read.

But to fully benefit from the growth potential of reading books, we need to occasionally shake up our reading habits by exploring outside our reading comfort zone – try a new author, or a different genre, read about a controversial topic, or why not (re)read a classic?!

When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than there was before. ~Clifton Fadiman

The classics require us to think and make us struggle, search, ponder, seek, analyze, discover, decide, and reconsider. . .

Many of us suffered the painful experience of having to read “classics” as assignments in high school, and for the most part, happily put them behind us as we enthusiastically moved on to life in the “real” world. I’d like to dare you now to revisit some of those classics, because there’s a very good chance you’re going to feel very differently about them after your second read.

You see, you’ve changed. You’ve grown and lived, expanded your vocabulary and read countless other books, seen films, listened to music, and have new thoughts. You’ve experienced life’s inevitable challenges and detours; you’ve loved, and probably suffered a heart break or two along the way. Truth is, we just needed to do a little living before we could truly appreciate the inspiring life lessons contained in those classic stories.

Here are just a few to consider (re)reading: Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, 1984, and Lord of the Flies.

Discover Project Gutenberg

If you REALLY want to stretch your mind, and explore new frontiers in reading, check out Project Gutenberg. The Gutenberg website contains over 40,000 eBooks that can be downloaded for FREE to read on your PC, iPad, Kindle, Sony Reader, iPhone, Android or other portable device. (While the bulk of their collection is books, there are other cultural works like movies and music.)

You won’t find the latest bestsellers or modern computer books here. What you will find are classic books from the start of this century and previous centuries, from authors like Shakespeare, Poe, Dante, as well as well-loved favorites like the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, and Dracula by Bram Stoker, along with a host of intriguing subjects such as the history of witches, ghost stories from the 18th century, and personal narratives by American frontier characters such as Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane.

Glimpse into the Real World

While fiction is well represented on this site, there are also many non-fiction titles, including a few brutally honest accounts of less-than-stellar periods in American history. Keep in mind, there was no such concept as “politically correct” at the time most of these books and stories were written. For example, your sensibilities are sure to be challenged when you come across stories idealizing slavery and plantation life.

A particular favorite collection of mine are the travel journals written by a handful of exceptional women who had the courage to explore the world at a time when women had not yet “won” the right to vote.

How to make more time for reading books.

While few of us have the luxury of setting aside enough time to finish a 500-page book in one sitting, there are hidden pockets of time in most everyone’s day.

Here are just a few ways to pinch moments, here and there, from your schedule so you can finally read that book you keep promising yourself you’ll get around to.

  • Get up half an hour earlier.
  • Read a chapter before turning out the lights.
  • Turn off the TV!
  • Keep a book in your bag for times you find yourself waiting.
  • Switch off the computer.
  • Read books with your spouse/partner.
  • Making reading one of your priorities.

Why not take a little time and create your list of “must read” books for next year? You don’t have to have a long list, but do challenge yourself to choose books of substance. To give you a few ideas to get started, I’ve populated my Amazon slide show (right hand sidebar) with the books on my list to read for the first quarter of 2013.

Your turn … what’s the next book you plan to read?

booksIf you enjoyed this article I hope you’ll consider contributing to the conversation by leaving a comment and sharing this post with your friends! In fact I’d love to connect with YOU! To follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc., just click here.

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Mahalo!

12 Responses
  1. January 29, 2013

    I love reading classic books as it allows me to analyze and ponder on things. One of my favorite author is Jane Austen. Though some people find her writings dull and boring, I find her novels very compelling and timeless.
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  2. January 3, 2013

    I have just found my love for reading that was lost for over 15 years. Now I must keep this flame going and build it up.
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  3. December 30, 2012

    Hey Marquita,
    For me books are everything. If I am sad, I read some stuff. If I am happy, I read some stuff. I don’t know, but I find solace in books. They are my friends in the true sense. They teach you, a plethora of significant lessons which can’t be taught at any level of education. I always try to inculcate various genres into my reading list, so as to know the themes as well as content of different streams of books. Thanks, for the share.
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  4. December 29, 2012

    Great reading tips! I have kept away from books that seemed challenging but now I think I should give that a try and experience it. Thanks for the share.

  5. December 23, 2012

    Hi Marquita,

    I love books, however I have found that audio has worked for me. I know it isn’t the same as real “reading” but there was a time when I got so busy, I wasn’t getting any reading in for a short period of time. My solution is audio. I read many self-development books, marketing, success, motivational, and inspirational book. Very rarely do I read fiction.

    I received a wonderful “Pre-Christmas” book I am looking forward to reading. You have inspired me to read it…no excuses. The benefits of “Reading books broaden your perspective of life and…has inspired me. Thanks Marquita!

    Raena Lynn
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  6. December 23, 2012

    I made a commitment to reading more this year, but I think my next step should absolutely to be to take on more challenging reading material. I hadn’t really thought of this until now, but I should focus on quality just as much as quantity.

  7. Steve Borgman
    Twitter:
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    December 23, 2012

    Marty, thanks for such an inspirational article! After reading the list of benefits that comes from disciplined reading, I’m hooked! One of my favorite books on the topic of reading is “How to Read a Book,” by Mortimer Adler. It gives guidance to anyone who wants to embark on reading truly challenging books.

  8. December 23, 2012

    Guilty as charged. I’ve read one book this year, and that was on influence in Social Media. I know. So many benefits to reading, and my kids love to read so that’s good news. All my reading is blogs and articles on the net, and that’s a ton.

    I love your tips for finding time Marquita. I think reading a chapter before lights out is the best way to go…
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  9. December 22, 2012

    I used to be a bookworm. I don’t remember when I discovered books for the sheer pleasure of them, but as far back as 4th grade, I won the class contest for the greatest number of pages read during the school year.

    In the past 15 years or so, something has changed. It more or less coincides with the change in my eyesight when I was in my early 40s. I can’t sit down with a book now, without falling asleep within minutes. I am determined to work at it, though.

    I read aloud to my youngest every night at bedtime, and he thoroughly enjoys the funny words I insert when I am drifting off to sleep! Still, I read two or three chapters of a good children’s book every night. I love reliving my old favourites from my childhood as I read to him… especially my favourite Enid Blyton series!

    I am currently reading Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. I LOVE what she does with words and mental images! I’ve read the book before, but it’s been a while, and this time I am determined to finish the whole series.

    Willena
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  10. December 22, 2012

    Marquita, Great ideas for why we should read more challenging books and ways to fit them into our busy schedule. I like your suggestion about reading old classics. I am certain I have forgotten how many of those stories play out and being much older, I am sure I will see them in a new light. I just may put a classic on my list. I love reading self improvement books that stimulate me to be a better person. And what woman doesn’t love a good romance. Gotta have one of those occasionally! lol Each day I begin with a devotional to put my heart and mind in the right place.
    Loved your post and all the great points you brought out.
    Happy reading,
    Lynn
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  11. December 21, 2012

    I am addicted to reading books on online marketing, social media, and ways to better my business. Not to mention I do read a ton of blogs and actively participate on countless blogs. Does that count as a book…lol. For some reason I can’t read like a story or anything; I don’t know why I might just have a low attention span.

    I am kind of surprised that Animal Farm isn’t on your list of ones to reread.
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    • December 22, 2012

      Hey Garen, thanks for stopping by. Don’t think we can actually count blogs as books, otherwise I’d be right there with you as far as volume. Nothing wrong with business related books – just good to try something different once in awhile to stretch your mind. Re Animal Farm – little too much symoblism for my taste. I don’t care for “chick lit” either … otherwise I’m pretty open to exploring genres. Hope you have a happy holiday week Garen :-)

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