Why Reading Matters
Over the last couple of years I have adopted the habit to buy and read one book per week.
There are times when I only manage to read a single book within a month and times when I read two or three books back to back.
It really all depends on how much time I have and on the topics that currently interest me. But I do make sure to read everyday.
Everyone should read, this goes without saying. There is so much to be gained from reading books, including (but not limited to) learning new things, perspectives, ideas, information and plain simple entertainment.
Furthermore reading is a healthy alternative to watching television or staring at a computer screen.
People working in tech, including developers, consultants, product managers etc., spend most of their time sitting in front of a computer.
I even believe most of the above mentioned leave work only to come home and continue staring at their computer screen or interacting with their smart phone.
Traditionally knowledge workers invest a lot of time writing code, reading blogs and publishing tweets after an 8+ hour work day.
Reading has a lot of benefits and none of the following being new or revolutionary, rather the contrary.
They are obvious, but none the less powerful and worthy a reminder for oneself and every one reading this.
There are a many reasons why people don't start reading. Finding 15 or 20 minutes to read every day might seem feasible and still I’ve heard excuses and reasons why someone can't find the time to do so. Although the same people have enough time to check their emails, Facebook updates and tweets constantly.
This basically means we need to shift priorities. Creating the habit of reading everyday can be achieved by starting small. For example reading while waiting for the bus or on the way to or from work. We might find a slot in between the regular work day such as the lunch break, whilst sitting outside on a park bench.
Just start by replacing one regular daily activity with reading. Instead of checking Twitter updates during lunch break, grab a book and start reading.
It doesn't matter how much you read, just the act of it and creating the habit should be key. I know people who struggle with reading a single page and who quickly get turned off as they don't feel any progress is happening. When in fact reading that single page is progress and an achievement in itself. So don't focus on the number of pages you read, focus on creating a habit. The rest will follow.
Choosing the medium you prefer and feel most comfortable with will help you along the way. Some people like to read on their iPad or Kindle, others prefer books in printed form. No matter what medium you choose, be sure it supports the experience.
When I say developers should read, I’m not necessarily talking about technical books. To read technical books makes absolutely sense, especially
when dabbling into new technologies, languages, methodologies or frameworks. This goes without saying.
But keep in mind that also a non-technical topic or book can directly or indirectly open up new ideas and foster out-of-the-box thinking.
Believe it or not, reading can be relaxing as well as captivating. Even more so than a block buster movie or a video game. It requires you to actively
participate and engage while still entertaining like when watching a movie. Plus it takes your mind off that constant feeling that you’re missing something when not checking your Facebook stream or Twitter.
Your brain needs some time off from all the action taking place online.
Your market value is partly determined by your knowledge on in-demand technologies, frameworks and best practices.
Nobody cares about what the state of the art was 12 months ago, let alone 5 years.
But then any book will have an effect, maybe not as direct as with work related topics but nonetheless.
Reading And Writing
Obviously reading a lot will lead to improving your reading skills as your reading speed increases with time. Also you will found yourself being able to digest information in less time. It is just like reading code. The more experienced you are as a software engineer, the more code you will manage to read and the quicker you will be able to digest and understand what you are actually reading.
Another interesting aspect, and this is something I have often read and heard about, is that reading will improve your writing skills. This is beneficial when communicating with colleagues, writing documentation and even commit messages.
Start Reading Today
People go for different genres and tastes when it comes to choosing books. If you are interested in reading developer related books, start with this classic list of recommendations.
Start reading today. It will make you a better developer.