Many kids these days don’t like to read. I don’t blame them. Besides the distraction of enormous forms of entertainments, education system itself is dysfunctional. Kids are not taught what are relevant in their lives, and textbook is still the medium that being used in teaching. Information are stuffed down kid’s throats and they are not taught to digest them properly, and don’t even get me start on examinations. So, kids are made to dislike books and reading altogether. I find it sad that they have never been given the chance to enjoy reading. For me, there are basically two reasons why we read: to learn (be informed) and/or to be entertained. Regardless, the process is basically the same, we get ideas through interpreting the words (either on paper or on screen), idea is being digested, linked and organized in our mind to become ‘something’. For the purpose of learning, that ‘something’ will become knowledge that we can use. For entertainment wise, that ‘something’ will become images in our mind that like a movie being played inside our head. I don’t’ know about others, I enjoy reading for either purpose. I think reading can improve our IQ, particular our ability of organization and analysis. Taking reading novel as an example, I remember that I read ‘The Lost World’ before the movie came out back then. I did enjoy how the movie made dinosaurs came to live with the CG, sound, and all that. But the excitement was nothing compared to reading the novel itself for the first time. The idea was original and the pace was crisp. When I saw the movie, it was more for the purpose to see how film-maker realizes the materials in the book to put them on the silver screen. In most cases, readers have been disappointed as they still find that books are better than movies. For the case of learning, I won’t discount the value of videos and graphics. In many situations, a picture can replace thousands of words. However, due to resources or technical issue, words are still the most common and effective way to pass on knowledge.
I don’t consider myself an avid reader, but reading is certainly one of my favorite hobbies. At my current age, I don’t think I would encounter a problem on finding what to read. There are just so many places that I can find interesting books that worth checking out, like here and here. You may wonder why I recommend starting with best sellers. Yes, best-sellers are not necessary equal to good books, I’m sure there are many hidden gems everywhere as long as we have time to look. That’s exactly the problem for people like us who are living in our busy urban lives. In fact, with the assistance and convenience of internet, just few clicks away, we will move from bestsellers to other related books that we may be interested. I think they are good starting points for exploration. For my other recommended link (or similar others on the web), many people have people that they admire, it would be nice to check out what books they ‘claim’ they read. Especially those who are more on the intellectual side like Bill Clinton, rather than someone like Lindsay Lohan. Cuz, I always believe in continuous education. For successful intellectuals, they improve themselves usually by getting new ideas from others. One way to do that is through reading books, I’m sure Bill Clinton would have chance to talk to many people and they will in turn enthusiastically tell him what they think. However, I would imagine that many successful people would have bigger ego that they would rather tell people some more ‘original’ ideas they come up with than being told this and that. Those ‘original’ ideas may be a mixture of thoughts from the materials that they read on the bed every night. Well, that’s just what I think, please tell me if I’m wrong. That’s why I find that celebrity reading list is interesting.
For me, though I can get idea what to read online, I still like to take a walk in bookstore whenever I’ve the chance. Cuz, bookstores are expected to go the way record stores and video shops go – dwindle down to become a niche in not too far future when going to bookstores (if you can still find them) will become a nostalgia idea.
These days, with a busy life I’m living in, reading as a hobby become a rarity that I cherish very much. As I mentioned before about the purpose of reading, I did majority of my reading online. As I have not yet owned an iPad, so I don’t read any ebooks in my collection yet. So, my readings are mostly articles, like blogs, news, news analysis, opinions, etc.. Cuz, they are crisp and easy to digest, also, they don’t take long to finish, these characteristics of supply really nicely match my demand.
Books are pieces of both art and commercial product. As such, there are not only awards for books and their authors. They are advertised in many media. Even though book is more a ‘down tempo’ entertainment itself, but they are still being promoted in talk shows, which invite authors to discuss about their works, like Oprah’s monthly book club or Charlie Rose, etc. So, there has never been lack of focus on recommendation of what to read. In contrast, it is rare to hear anyone in the media to talk about ‘how’ to read. I.e. the method.
I remember reading an interesting interview of a very famous local author who is in his seventies. He has been reading all his life, such practice made him a very fast reader. He said that his goal is read as many good books as he can before he dies. Since the opportunity cost of reading a bad book is simply too high at his age, he has adopted certain approaches in reading. I will talk about that a bit below.
Just take a minute and think about it, books regardless in paper or digital form, contents are laid out in an author determined sequence. It is assumed that books are logically to be read from first page to last page. But, is that really how we should read? Is there other way to read? That old author has said that he would read the first chapter of the book to see if the book can ‘get’ him. If so, he moves on to the last chapter. If it can still ‘get’ him, then he will read the rest. Surprisingly, he applies that to both fiction as well as non-fiction. I think that it would make some senses for non-fictions. Cuz, the relationship between chapters are not too tight to require reading in presented sequence. Surely, I would like to read from beginning to end, so as to try to understand and appreciate how the author’s chain of thoughts. However, reading a novel like the old author does would be difficult for me. I think that is actually making a tough trade-off of foregoing being entertained for avoiding wasting time. I’m not as old as that author, but my time is also valuable. Spending hours or even days to read a book and end up finding out that the book is bad is both frustrating and wasteful. So, I see his point of reading the beginning and the end first, especially if the book is thick. However, reading like him would take away the surprise of endings. It would be hurtful for some particular genres, like detective, crime story, or adventures. Cuz, why bother? I don’t think I would do it that way. Perhaps, that is another reason why I haven’t read any fiction for a while.
Another thing about how to read a book that I learn in recent years is that I begin to enjoy reading slowly, especially books with interesting concepts or thoughts. I guess reading slow is somewhat like having slow meals. Foods taste better and it improves our digestion. That is also a specialty about reading that is different from other entertainments. We can but we don’t slow down a song or a movie for our enjoyment. Cuz, a two hours long movie is supposed to be seen in two hours. On the contrary, I’ve never heard of a book or any book that come with a standard or recommended reading duration. In fact, some people may spend a life time to read and understand a book, like Holy Bible or Koran. So, rather than rushing to finish a book, I began to take time to really read it. I find that I can gain more by doing that. I’m not in a race to compete with anyone on reading the largest number of books within a set time. So, why bother rushing it.
Anyway, that’s just my recent thoughts about reading. I’m sure I will have more to share when I get an iPad down the road. That’s it for now.