February continues to be a month of experimentation here at Grammar Is Sexy. I spent January doing fairly standard grammar articles on commonly confused words, throwing in my amateurish and hopefully entertaining illustrations. I plan to continue the cartoon fun in the weekly emails, but I thought I would try a different format this month for the blog posts, writing about more “serious” and abstract topics.
With that in mind, today’s post is a collection of some of my favorite advice about reading from various corners of the web.
From Farnam Street: Know Your Reason for Reading
Don’t just blindly read through a book – engage with it and know why you’re reading. As Shane puts it in How to Read A Book:
Are you reading for information or understanding?
While great for exercising your memory, the regurgitation of facts without understanding gains you nothing. A lot of people, however, confuse insightful understanding with the ability to regurgitate information. They think that knowledge of something means understanding.
A good heuristic: Anything easily digested is reading for information.
Consider the newspaper, are you truly learning anything new? Do you consider the writer your superior when it comes to knowledge in the subject? Odds are probably not. That means you’re reading for information.
There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s how most people read. But you’re not really learning anything new. It’s not going to give you an edge or make you better at your job.
Learning something insightful is harder, you have to read something clearly above your current level. You need to find writers who are more knowledgeable on a particular subject than yourself. It’s also how you get smarter.
Reading for understanding means narrowing the gap between reader and writer.
Are you narrowing the gap between you and the author? I know I have some work to do in this area. It starts with reading hard books…Which brings me to the next bit of advice…
From Cal Newport: Read Something Hard
Reading a hard book, we must remember, is an experience that returns many rewards not generated by a pithy blog post (ahem) or online magazine.
For this reason, Cal recommends the following resolution for 2015:
Commit to regularly spending a non-trivial amount of time reading a book that strains your comprehension.
What hard books will you read slowly this year? See Cal’s full post here.
As a counter this advice, I got this tip from Leo Babauta’s post…
From Zen Habits: Enjoy Reading and Read What You Enjoy
Don’t look at reading books like a chore that you have to rush through to get to more urgent things. If you do, you’ll stop reading. Instead, look at the reading sessions as a treat, a spa break in the rush of your day. Let yourself become immersed in the world of the book, and let the new experience transform you, give you new perspectives, see things from fresh eyes.
Important to hear is this bit of advice, especially for those of us who are obsessed with finishing and fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy :
If you’re bored with a book after a few days (give it a chance), drop it. There’s no virtue in plodding through a book you dislike. It’ll just turn you off from reading.
Life is too short to read things you don’t enjoy. Read Leo’s original article here.
From James Clear: Reading Books Is Better
James reads twenty pages of a book each morning, before the busyness of the day begins. Reading a book, he points out, is generally a better use of time than reading online articles:
Now, there are plenty of excellent articles on the web, but generally speaking, the quality of good books is better. Books typically have better writing (more tightly edited) and higher quality information (better fact-checking and more extensive research). From a learning perspective, it’s probably a better use of my time to read books than to read online content.
It’s so easy to get sucked in by the vast amounts of information on the internet, but again, Shane Parrish pointed out above, you should strive to read for more than just information. Read James’s original article here.
To sum things up: Read deliberately, make it a priority, and challenge yourself, but don’t forget to have fun.
I’m currently reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. What are you reading that’s challenging or exciting you? Share it in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe if you want more advice like this each week plus a fun grammar/writing cartoon.