“Sir, I want to read, but every time I pick up a book, I get bored. The last time I read a book was when I was in college – some years ago! What do I do to become a good reader?” I often get asked this question, which, incidentally, is one of my favourites!
It touches the heart of a huge problem that many of us face; we can pick up a book whenever we like, but the moment we start flipping through the pages, we feel this strange internal resistance building up against reading. We also feel sleepy; after all, reading is a time tested way to induce sleep!
It is a dilemma I fully understand and appreciate. I have been there.
My tryst with books has been slightly strenuous. Except for some comics, growing up, I didn’t read extensively. But as a 19-year-old college student, I suddenly fell in love with reading! One night I was preparing for an extremely boring examination, and my mind needed a break. I chanced upon Mario Puzo’s The Godfather on my nightstand. I had seen the movie and thought would give the book a shot too. I was hooked and finished the book in a night!
That was my a-ha moment, and my journey towards reading began. I realised if I liked a book and its subject matter enough, I could read through it effortlessly.
So what changed? How did I go from being a below average reader to a voracious one so quickly? Why do some of us find it difficult to read a book, and how can we improve our reading skills?
Don’t choose books based on their popularity
The answer is straightforward. Many of us pick books that are probably not worth reading but are extremely popular. We want to join the conversation everyone is having and don’t want to feel left out. We want to show we are readers too and want to be accepted into the cool club of readers. Copying others will only hamper your love for reading.
I will give you an example. Some of my college mates were big fans of P.G.Wodehouse. Now, it is a known fact that he is an extraordinary writer! But when I read his book in college, a much-loved one titled Carry On, Jeeves, I couldn’t understand a word and thought it to be boring.
But years later, at 35, when I picked a P.G.Wodehouse, I loved it! Now, I am a big Wodehouse fan.
Certain books take time to be admired and loved. A popular book might catch your fancy but may not sustain your interest. The same book, years later, might become a beloved read.
So how do we ensure we pick books that will sustain our interest?
Do your research
Step one is to do your research. Before investing in a book, I would read the story’s summary printed on its back. If the blurb catches my attention and excites me, I would pick it up.
I would also ask my friends what books they are reading, make a list and Google them. Much material about the book is available on the Internet. Going through them will help you decide whether a book is worth your time. Or head over to YouTube and try to find interviews or TED talks by the book’s author. Understand their motivation and inspiration behind the book and what the story entails.
If the author’s talk or interview doesn’t excite me, then I don’t buy that particular book.
Step two is to listen to podcasts related to the book. I have a few apps on my mobile, and Google Podcasts is one of them. I put the book’s name on the search bar and invariably find some episode. If I like what the podcast offers, I will be more interested in buying the book.
Thirdly, read reviews about the book. This is crucial as it will help you make an informed decision regarding the purchasing of the book.
Reading is not a competition
Another trick that helps sustain my reading in indulging in two or three books simultaneously. My reading list at any given time comprises a light comic book, a graphic book like Calvin And Hobbes or Tintin, and a cerebral business book. Nowadays, I also find myself gravitating towards History. I love the storytelling aspect of these books, and they keep me hooked.
Sometimes you may find the entire audiobook for free. As an author myself, I don’t appreciate that, as it robs the author their royalties.
If you are still hesitant, try borrowing the book from a friend who has it and read it.
Remember to savour the book slowly. You don’t need to read the entire book in one night! I have friends who proudly say they managed to complete a book in two days. I can’t do that, and I am not ashamed to say that I sometimes take two months to finish a book.
Read at your own pace. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Read because you are curious and you want to enjoy the beautiful process of reading. Pick up books that make you smile and think.
There’s a famous dialogue; you don’t choose books, they choose you. Let your interest dictate your choice. When you go to a book store – a rare entity, nowadays – or shop online, choose a book based on your gut feel, not on popularity.
I never pick big books, but look at smaller ones as I feel they will maintain my interest better. I also prefer books that have pictures in them; a hark back to the times I would pore over Amar Chitra Kathas.
To summarise, don’t buy books because they are famous, do your research by reading additional materials about the book, watch the author’s interviews, listen to podcasts related to the book, and read reviews.
Book are nourishment for the brain, making it healthy and productive. It is a good idea to invest in them and reading.
If my tips help you pick up reading, please write to me on social media and tell me your experience. Hope my techniques make you fall in love with reading.
– Rakesh Godhwani, SoME Founder
Watch Rakesh’s video on reading here.