Learning to read a book

As a child and a teen, I was a voracious reader. My mom was super strict and I wasn’t really allowed to go out, so all I did was read. When I got to university, however, the amount of coursework I had didn’t leave any time for me to do much else. By the time I graduated, I lost interest in reading for pleasure, and I didn’t read any books at all for a couple of years.

One day I was having brunch with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and she revealed to me that she had read about 50 books in the span of a year while she was unemployed. Not only was I was super impressed, but she had a bunch of recommendations for me, and I was inspired to start reading again.

… However, when I tried to read, I just could not pay attention for more than a few minutes before my mind started wandering and I was getting the urge to go on my phone. You know that urge.

At that point, I realized that I had lost the ability to sit down and read a book. The only things I was used to reading were emails, text messages, Tweets, Instagram captions, and short articles on the Internet. That it was all I had the attention span for.

There is actually a Microsoft research study that corroborates this:

… since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.

I signed up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, determined to learn how to read a damn book again. (By the way, this is not an ad for Goodreads, nor am I affiliated with them in any way).

I’m on my second year of the Goodreads challenge and I’m happy to say I’ve fallen in love with reading again.

Why read? Well, if I had to sell the idea of reading to you, I’d tell you that non-fiction books are super valuable as a way to get information from people who have years of experience in something and condensed their knowledge into a format that you can consume in just a few hours.

If you are struggling to get back into reading, here are some tips:

  1. Read stuff that you actually like. Don’t force yourself to read a particular book just because other people are reading it or it’s supposed to be really good. Accept that the book is just not for you and move on.
  2. Use external motivators, like the Goodreads challenge. You could also join a book club (where hopefully everyone has to finish reading the book before you meet, and you’re not just using the book club as a guise to sit around and drink wine).
  3. Bring your book around everywhere and read it when you can’t do anything else. I started off reading in situations where I was idle for a long time and there was absolutely nothing else to do, like waiting in line or travelling on the subway.

By doing all of these things, you’ll hopefully find a book you like, gain the momentum you need to finish it, increase your attention span over time, and gain all the knowledge.

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