Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How to Lifeschool? - Books

“When you find a writer who really is saying something to you, read everything that writer has written and you will get more education and depth of understanding out of that than reading a scrap here and a scrap there and elsewhere. Then go to people who influenced that writer, or those who were related to him, and your world builds together in an organic way that is really marvelous.”
Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life & Work

Noam Chomsky described his childhood in a documentary about his work titled, ‘Manufacturing Consent’. He said that he remembered a normal day, growing up, curled in a sofa, with twelve borrowed books from the library.

Growing up the only books, I read were comics and picture books. I never saw the need to read novels as the education system, I was in never gave too much importance to it.

Why I love Books?

My sister and some family friends were voracious readers. I was lucky to have them around me. They often told me to read Shakespeare, Hemmingway and the great poets of our times. But I did not know how to read well and starting off with something so complex, would have developed a life-long distaste for reading in me.

So I thought about a field I was interested in. I loved playing cricket. So I got a book about the autobiography of a cricketer. It was Sunil Gavaskar’s ‘Sunny Days’.  I read the book, and because I liked cricket I finished reading the book in no time.

I soon borrowed other books on cricket and started reading them as well. Soon I developed an interest in  reading books about cricket. I enjoyed traveling as well. So I then borrowed books on different countries and books written by world famous travel writers like Bill Bryson. I read Bill Bryson’s and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then picked up other travel books and fell in love with them as well

I then started reading books about chefs and people writing about world cuisine. I fell in love with them as well.

Falling in love with the habit of reading.

Over time I followed the same approach with all the books I read. I started reading other non-fiction fields that interested me. I then started reading teenage fiction like Famous Five, Harry Potter Series and the Percy Jackson series. I then went to fiction by authors that wrote their books in themes that interested me. I soon started reading poetry online and fell in love with them. Reading had now become an integral part of my life. I really enjoyed the habit now and started reading two to three books every week.

This is when I started reading more complex fiction like Hemmingway, Harper Lee and some of the other renowned authors. I started my journey in the world of fiction by reading the short stories of Jhumpha Lahiri who wrote about lives of Indians living abroad. I was born and brought up in Bahrain and could connect with many of things she mentioned in the book.

I also became a fan of books by professional communicators. I was really passionate about public speaking and would read the work of authors like Robin Sharma, Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy. Books on productivity and lifestyle design were the next genre I was interested in.

How had developing the reading habit changed my life?

Reading has transformed my life in ways I cannot describe. Growing up I was always dependent on my immediate external environment and the people around me for information. Most of these sources would give me a very limited view of the world based on their individual understanding of the world and not a universal understanding of it. For a long time, I was convinced that I could learn all the things I needed to learn at school. I was a little boy with so much trust on the system. Unfortunately I was let down. But the world of books helped me get back up on my feet.

Because when I started reading, a whole new world opened up for me. The scriptures, the classics, books of philosophy and mythology, books by the great thinkers of the world shaped my thinking and understanding of the world around me.

I would read authors from Brazil, China, Argentina, U.S, Australia and more. This helped give me a truly global perspective on life.

This change from a local narrow thinking of what is only important to me and my family to a more expansive global thinking of how I can use my skills to impact people and change the world around me I what reading has given me. I will be forever indebted to this skill for bringing about that transformation in my life.

Memories with Books

Then I started attending seminars, conferences and literature festivals around India. I realized that the more subjects I introduced myself too, the more I would understand how the world worked and how I could create and work on projects with regard to that understanding.

During the weekends and extended holidays in College at Mumbai, I would plan my day and spend at least eight to nine hours at bookstores and libraries. I learned Speed Reading by taking a course online by one of the world’s fastest speed reader, Howard Berg. During the gap year I had taken, I spent most of my afternoons at bookshops and libraries reading and understanding the working of the world. In this one year I read more books (500), than all the books I ever read in school combined.

I would read books on marketing, philosophy, science, economics, psychology and the classics during these all day reading sessions. Speed Reading cannot be applied to fiction and books that require a deeper understanding and reflection of the text being read. But it is a very useful skill to get to the crust of several business and psychology books.

By the end of my first year in college I had read books in Philosophy, Mythology, Sociology, Business, Psychology, Science, Technology, Autobiographies, History, Geography and more. I was so fortunate I developed this habit. Reading books thought me how to fall in love with the process of learning.

How do you keep track of the books you read?

Every time I read a book, I make an entry into a note-taking program on my phone. Then when I type down all the notes I have taken into a word document that I store on my computer at home and in some of my other storage devices.

I call this the ‘Reading Challenge List’. At the start of every year, I set myself a challenge to read a certain number of books in these many months. Then  I break down this large goal into smaller week long challenge. This involves the number of books I will read every week.

I then added the Reading Challenge List of the particular year to a larger document with a list of all the books I have read in my life. Keeping this record helped me track the kind of books I was reading and ensured that I explored new genres and also improved my reading ability everyday.

Let us Learn Together
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