To Reap the Rewards of Reading, Choose Books that Challenge You
If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. ~Haruki Murakami
I 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?
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