Some principles on reading

Every year I start with the ambition of reading 20 odd books and some time in the year, when Singapore turns painfully hot during the days and has a chill whiff in her breeze at night, I open my Goodreads target and find myself a little disappointed. I think thats a pity because we often think about reading in the construct of quantity instead of quality. Ideally we should try and do both, but ideally according to my mother I should continued to become a high-paying lawyer, gotten married much earlier and should have popped out a couple of kids by this age. So let’s leave idealism by the way side.

These are three principles around reading I’ve been slowly adopting:

  1. Quality > Quantity: This essentially means reading books that either further you or mean something to you and sometimes those reads take time to internalise. The point isn’t to breeze through these books quickly. Its either to relish and hang on to each word, because its genuinely so well written or because it requires a little more concentration from our minds to read it well. I’d argue that few books of quality are much more needle moving and maybe even fulfilling than reading a lot of mediocre books. For these reasons and more, quality > quantity.
  2. Drop the book: I think I’m the self proclaimed champion at reading cover to cover despite disliking a book. A part of my motivation to continue reading the book despite how long or abysmal it might be, is because I would have convinced myself that I paid for that book or title and so it deserves to be read (Asian frugality gone wrong). These days, regardless of the cost of the book, if it doesn’t do me any good, I’m happy to cast it aside and move on. Its because I think with age, I value time a lot more than money. There’s a true opportunity cost when you’re reading a book you don’t like. You could have been reading something else you like heaps more and there’s millions of those books out there. Why compromise?
  3. Stop reading linearly: This may not apply for fiction novels but especially for non-fiction titles, I’ve increasingly found myself reading them more like a cook book. When you pick up a cook book, rarely do you read it page by page, recipe by recipe. Our approach tends to be more deliberately random. We flip to recipes which resonate with us or those that suit the moment. I’m beginning to read non-fiction titles in a similar approach, flipping to chapters that I’m keen to learn about. Often times, I even put down the book when I stumble on a chapter I want to learn more about and find other books/articles to explain the subject in more detail. If learning isn’t linear, then why is reading?

I might write another blog post some day on how to find books and titles or do an expanded version of these principles but lets leave that for another blog post. Its Sunday night which means a Formula One race is about to start and even though I know Verstappen is going to win (again), I’ll still watch him prance around the track for 60 laps until I find myself another sport to get addicted to.

Love & luck as always,