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How to read more books

Kickstarting the reading habit (Strategy #1)

When I read over sixty novels last year, published it as a list, and shared my learnings from this experience as a blog post, I was bombarded with questions about how did I managed to read over sixty books in spite of the fact that I was busy in my professional and personal just like everyone else. How to read more books is something most of us are trying to figure out.

I remember one of the moments when an ex-classmate pinged me and said, “You know what, you should write about how it all happened. What strategy you followed. How you managed to do that.” Even though I had replied him that it just happened I remember thinking about his comment for a long time after that.

Reading novels was something that didn’t interest me from a young age.

Even though I knew the benefits of reading, I never got attracted to a prospect of sitting in one place and staring at endless strings of letters without a single picture to keep me interested for over five hundred pages. It never made sense to me.

But then something happened, well after my teenage years, and I got into reading. Slowly at first, but then passionately after that. Reading fiction and non-fiction alike. With a fervor akin to a man who’d been lost in a desert for a long time, and who has now found an oasis to satiate his parched throat and not letting it go.

I never started with a strategy. Things happened in a way that helped me, but I never started those with an intent. They just happened, to my very good luck.

But now looking back over the last five years, now I can pinpoint certain key events that happened in a way that drew me into this habit of reading. Helped me sustain this habit and made me fall in love with books so much that now I can’t stop finish a novel without starting a new one.

So now getting to the Point — the first thing you should do to start reading — To read more books is

Don’t Read Classics.

Yes, you read it right. Don’t type in Google “hundred best books of all time”, and choose a couple that looks appealing. Rush to the nearest bookstore and buy a couple of them that are there in the classics and bestseller section.

You can do that, of course, but you’ll only end up losing interest in the books which are layered with multiple story arcs, underlying philosophies. And are written in a manner that will make your textbooks seem simpler. Soon you’ll throw the book away and let it gather dust in some corner. Maybe in future, you’ll be again struck by inspiration and again pick up that only ending up repeating the same process again.

So the second rule of the Strategy to read more books is to Read Crappy Books.

Crappy not in terms of story, but only in terms of writing style. You’re beginning here. So style doesn’t matter to you, nor the quality. You only need a book with a story — a story that is interesting to you — and every person has a different taste in the story. Story good enough to get a hang of reading. This is your starting lesson, a lesson at scales, Composing Symphony is far away.

Your only target is to finish a book. So the rule is to buy anything that can hold your interest.

Love stories are good for that. Add to it some thrill, sex, comedy. You are up for adding one book to your “Read” list. This is for masses. Other can choose any topic of their liking. But remember to keep it light. You are not aiming for the home run yet.

So, you can read Sidney Sheldon if you like rags-to-riches stories. Crazy sex making and characters that come alive. Read Dan Brown if you like stories woven into places, architecture and fact weaved into myth and conspiracy theories that takes your breath away. Read Jeffery Archer if you like timeless stories of epic proportions, stories that transcends years. Read John Grisham if you are into legal stories. Lawyers against lawyers, right against wrong. Read JK Rowling if you like magic, an escape from the reality. Or you can simply read authors like Chetan Bhagat if you are into light stories about college, and friendship and love and a little bit of in-the-car-make-outs.

But don’t pick up Kafka or Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. In fact, Run away from them. As far as possible. They are master conductors who have created symphonies for the trained eyes, adept minds. You are not there yet. It will take time. Be patient. The goal is to read them, of course, or else what is there in the pulp fiction out there. But you have to steer your way there,slowly take the first step, and the first step starts, for most of us, from the “Shitty Books.”

One Anecdote I want to share that will tell how I started reading and that helped me to read more books.

I was seventeen and had never read a novel. But my father is an avid reader and has a small library that houses all his readings till date. One of my friends mentioned that he liked Sidney Sheldon and wanted to read one of his books. I had seen the exact same title in the library, So I offered to bring it for him.

During lunch the next day, as I gave him the book, a friend took the book and flipped it open and started reading from a randomly selected page. Imagine what was it about?

It was a scene of a boy making out with a girl. And we all got interested. And we all start reading it. And I returned home, pulled out an another Sidney Sheldon’s book and started reading it, just to read scanning the book for similar passages as the one we stumbled upon in the morning. In the process, I ended up reading the whole book.

And I loved the book. It had a story, characters that you love, twist and turn that keeps you on the edge. And soon I was reading more such books, and soon I was into reading, just the way I was sure I would never end up.

So to kick start reading habit, pick up a light book. Most of us can easily digest light stories with romance and sex. So take books by Sidney Sheldon, Jeffery Archer or Chetan Bhagat. Iterate a couple of times to find whom you resonate more with. And then read. That’s how to start reading.

The next strategy is about how to sustain reading which I’ll be stating in the next post.