As at July 2017, I have 300+ books read, 30% of a 1,000-book reading challenge I started in April 2013 (though I didn't quite know it at the time).
I expected to learn a great deal from the books I expected to read but what I didn't expect were the lessons I would learn from the act of reading itself. I guess you could call these additional lessons a great add-on bonus throughout this process.
After reading the first 100 books, I offered ten lessons the experience had provided.
Then, after the next hundred, I thought I'd provide the next tranche of lessons. There happened to be five more.
This time? Another five.
Five More Lessons from Reading Another Hundred Books:
- The time spent not reading is just as important as the time we do spend reading.
- Every book deserves a chance.
- What we do with what we read is a function of reading the right material at the right time.
- We can never read the same book twice.
- Insights come from unexpected places.
1. Soak Time - Why It's Important to Not Read
Have you ever really enjoyed an experience that felt rushed or that just felt like an obligation? Reading a book just to check it off some list is a futile activity. It turns into a race as opposed to an opportunity to immerse one’s self in an experience.
That’s why I’ve learned to take breaks from reading, sometimes days, weeks or months at a time. I read when the spirit moves me to do so and I find that I get far more from books and from learning in general when I’m open and relaxed enough to consider the ideas the author is sharing. That means reading when and what I want in order to get the most out of the time I choose to put toward the experience and that makes it highly rewarding.
And, by taking this approach, I also find I give myself the chance to think about what it is that I'm reading or that I've recently read. This rumination gives me a far greater return on the time I choose to invest in reading as an activity. The deeper I dive into thought, the more satisfying the experience.
2. Anything Goes - Every Book Deserves a Chance
Just about anything deserves a shot. I’ve literally learned not to judge a book by its cover, its length or its style. I've both disliked books I thought I'd like and have loved books I thought might be cringe worthy.
That’s why I believe it’s so important to be OK with not feeling the need to finish everything I start reading, which was something I shared after reading my first 100 books over the last 4+ years. If we feel committed to finish any book we start, how likely are we to take the risks that might have us discover absolute gems that help us tease out thoughts and ideas we’d never otherwise have exposed ourselves to?
Every time this happens, it feels as though I’ve won some sort of lottery and I’m always deeply grateful for the experience.
3. Reading the Right Book at the Right Time
Books can have a significant impact on us. Or they can fall flat. The same book can result in inaction or complete apathy for the subject matter for one individual and in a life-altering experience for another. Sometimes it can be attributable to the book, sometimes to the individual, but more often, it’s both.
Life-enhancing lightbulb moments happen when a book and its reader meet at the right time in the reader’s life. That’s why we’ll always have different opinions on the usefulness and impact of a given book. A book is quite literally a different experience for each and every one of us because it’s what we bring to it—our level of interest, our experience, our day-to-day reality that make it resonate. Or not.
The only trouble is, we may not know what the right book for us might be, and/or we may not read it at the right time.
4. We Can Never Read the Same Book Twice
When we reread a book, it can’t be the same experience. It's virtually impossible. Why?
We’re different people by the time we decide to give a favourite (or not so favourite) book another read. That’s what I (re)discovered by rereading Stephen R. Covey’s "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." I’d read it in 1999, some time in the mid-2000s, in 2013 and again in 2016. What a difference the years make!
The book went from what I thought was typical leadership mumbo jumbo to a work of genius. That's because I could finally understand the power within the lessons it contained. They finally resonated with me in a way they couldn’t have before.
Had the book changed? No, in fact I reread the exact same copy every time. What did change is me and I’m pleased to have given it another chance because it’s now unlikely to ever leave my book shelf!
5. Lessons Come from Unexpected Places
One of my more recent reads surprised me. The book? “Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto” by Jesse Crispin.
I picked it up at my local library because it had been highly recommended as “new and noteworthy.” I thought to myself “Why not?” It offered insights I never expected to stumble across, given its title. To me, it turned out to be a book on how to be a better human being, a road to magnanimity, if you will. Go figure!
I’ve now cracked the spine on the first of the next hundred books. Time will tell what, if any, additional insights might come in this next wave of reading.
If history is any indication, I doubt I’ll be disappointed.
What about you, dear reader? What unexpected lessons has reading taught you?