Throughout all of our lives, we hear people saying that reading books is essential to success. When we were at school, our parents used to tell us how we should read books in order to become smarter.
Well, books do grant us with a lot of knowledge. Surely, technology has provided us with other channels for gaining knowledge as well. Channels such as videos and online courses. But books still seem to be the main source for learning new things.
However, there seems to be some kind of obstacle, that prevents people from reading books, nowadays. It seems that young people prefer playing video games and watching movies instead. And I am telling this not from observation. I had always preferred to stay in front of my computer and play World of Warcraft all day. When I didn’t have a computer, I preferred staying in front of TV watching Cartoon Network.
Now, I don’t want to sound like those white-bearded old folks. The ones that tell you how you should stop playing on your PC all day and start studying if you want something to come out of you in life. No! Those were some of the best moments in my life. I have gained a lot from playing World of Warcraft (yes, you heard me right old folks) and watching Cartoon Network.
But I do believe that adopting the habit of reading books can grant us invaluable opportunities. And I don’t think that it has to be something we should force ourselves to do. In this article, I will present you a strategy for developing this habit.
Why do we hate reading books?
When I was little, I got bombarded from people telling me to read books. But I never seemed to listen. One of the reasons was I was just stubborn. The other reason was that reading books was extremely boring to me. One of the books that killed my enthusiasm was one that we had to read in school in fifth grade. It was from the most famous Bulgarian author and it was about the life in Bulgaria during the 19th century.
The moment I started reading the first chapter I felt like I was a brainless idiot. It contained all sorts of old Bulgarian words and it used a jargon from the 19th century. At first, I started writing the unknown words on paper but I got more that 20 on the first page and since I didn’t understand what I was reading, I didn’t really get the story. So eventually I finished that book. I even read it again after several years, because I had to. And if you ask me what is that book about, it will be really hard for me to get it right.
Those are the kinds of books we had to read in school. It was extremely painful to keep my focus while reading them, especially when I was 12. I hated it. Going back to this story now, I understand why I felt that way. There are two main issues with the books I had to read back then.
Interest and purpose
First, there is interest. You can’t expect a person to do something just because you told them it will be useful to them. It should be fun as well.
When I started out with programming, I didn’t start because someone told me how useful it would be. I did it because it was extremely interesting. This was my new favorite game. I believe that it should be the same way with reading books. Only then can we commit to doing it for a long period of time.
And then there is purpose. Whenever you start an endeavor, you should know how it would benefit you in the end. When I was studying math in school, my teacher used to tell me that it is a very important subject. But I wasn’t convinced. I couldn’t imagine how can sin and cos functions be useful to me in real life.
But later on in life, I set out to create a tower-defense game. I stumbled upon the issue of making the tower point to its target. Solving that issue took me one week. And only then did I realize that the two lines I added to the code involved calculations with sin and cos. That is when I finally realized how can math be useful to me. That was the reason I started studying it thoroughly.
So how can we solve these issues? Can books be interesting and can they be useful to us?
Books can be fun too!
The first time my interest awoke was when I read the book “Count Monte Cristo”. When I finished that book, I realized it was much more appealing to me then the books they used to make me read in school. I started searching for similar books as they were totally different from what I used to read before.
Eventually, I found some very good titles which kept me awake at night, while I was finishing yet another chapter. One of my favorite series is George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Now, I had discovered another channel for entertaining myself, other than video games. During those years, I used to read a book per two or three months. That is not a very impressive result, but it was a major step for me as I used to not read at all beforehand.
I suggest starting with fiction books as there are some great authors which are masters of storytelling. George Martin’s series is one of my favorites. Another great author is J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series is truly a masterpiece. If you have not read it, make yourself a favor. In fact, I hadn’t read it when I was little and that is why the fourth book of the series is currently standing open on my desk.
Oh, and even if you have watched the movies, reading the books is still worth it. Trust me.
An underestimated genre
Apart from fiction books, there is one fascinating and yet undervalued genre of books called Game books or “Create your own adventure” books. I first found such a book when I was 10 and I read it in less than a day. Sadly, I couldn’t find more books like that back then. But I have found that they have tremendous potential. Not every book can make a 10 year old read it in less than a day.
These books are fascinating and so different due to the fact that you create your own story. You don’t read the book from cover to cover, but rather jump between different parts of the books, because the story continues differently based on your decisions.
If you haven’t tried one of those books before, I suggest you give them a chance. They have the potential to keep you up reading all night.
But can books help us achieve our goals?
In a previous article, I mentioned how I once read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. That was when I first realized that books can actually directly aid you in achieving your goals. Before that, I just considered them as another method of having fun. But when I read that book, I urged to find more books like it. Then, I quickly came to a point where I was reading one book per month and that was a huge improvement for me. Now, I have a quota of reading 50 books a year.
So which are the books that can help you achieve your goals? Well, there are those ones which are specialized. Me, as a software engineer, read all sorts of books related to computer science.
But there are some books, which can be useful for a larger audience. Such are the self-help books. They can help you obtain a valuable mindset for reaching your goals. My favorite book from this genre is Steven Covey’s masterpiece, which I already mentioned.
There are also books, which grant you skills which are essential for any professional. Such are the soft skills books. One title, which has truly amazed me is How to Win Friends And Influence People. It is a brilliant book, which presents some very simple and yet powerful ideas about how to win peoples’ hearts.
Another valuable area, on which you can focus, is personal finance. Your main goal might be to become great in your field and that will surely bring you a lot of money. But if you do not know what to do with it, then you will never be able to gain financial independence. The most fundamental book in this area is Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
How to find great books
By now you might think that reading books is truly a worthwhile endeavor. However, reading the wrong books can make you hate reading. That is why we should be careful in choosing the right books for us.
A very successful, and yet simple, strategy for finding a good book is by simply checking out reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. If most of the people have liked the book, then it should be good. I actually found Steven Covey’s book by simply typing in “best personal development books” in Google. A stupid, but quite effective strategy.
Now, the next issue is to have a place from which to buy books. For America and the UK, the simplest solution is to just buy them from Amazon or the local book store. However, if you are from a small country, like me, then you probably don’t have that privilege. But there are good alternatives for us, as well. The best site for buying books I have found is Bookdepository. Not only can you find a huge collection of books on it, but it also provides free shipping in countries across the EU.
There is also one great source for books, I haven’t mentioned. It is for those of you who find reading tiresome or you think that noisy people around you disturb you. Audio books.
Instead of reading books while travelling in the metro, you can listen to them. It is a great hack for saving time and it allows you to “read” while doing another activity, such as workout. There is a great application for audio books. It is called Audible.
You cannot start reading books, just because people tell you that it is useful. There are two main drivers that you have to develop. One is interest and the other one is purpose. If you can find books that present an interesting story to you, then that is the first step. Once you achieve that, you will no longer feel forced to read. It will slowly become your passion.
After that, you can discover those books which help you achieve your goals. Once you do that, you will start treating reading not just as something that entertains you, but aids you in your endeavors.
So instead of scrolling Facebook for 30 minutes, you can start reading a book which will benefit you a lot more. If you feel that there is no book in the world that could be interesting to you, try reading a game book. That is something that helped me enjoy reading books when I was 10 years old.
I believe that when you develop this habit, you will gain access to a whole new world of opportunities. Once you enter a big library, you will now feel sad that you do not have enough time to read all of the books it contains.