Reading, like exercise, is something that many people do sporadically, a small population is obsessed with doing it, and almost everyone grudgingly admits to needing to do more often.
With search engines, online encyclopedias, and every kind of website imaginable, information is constantly at our fingertips. But with all of these tools, I still believe that books are one of the best forms for acquiring new knowledge.
But wait, you say, YouTube videos or internet articles can communicate the same knowledge in a more succinct fashion, right?
Well, yes and no.
You see, there is a cost-benefit ratio for using the internet, and one of the internet’s great benefits is also one of its great costs. The ease of accessibility enables us to gather information faster than ever before, but that same accessibility also allows us to shift to a new piece of information just as quick. The internet’s information can rapidly expand our knowledge, but it often does so to the detriment of our ability to focus.
And when it comes to concentration, the book has few rivals. It takes immense focus for a writer to coherently compose a comprehensible collection of words (you’re welcome for the alliteration, by the way). And likewise, it takes the reader a degree of focus to unravel the message that the author pieced together using words.
If you do not typically read books, you probably know the intimidation factor all too well, as even small books can sometimes feel like an impossible undertaking.
If you fall into this category, or perhaps you like reading books but want to read more, here are two quick thoughts to help you dive in.
1. TURN OFF THE TV
To be fair, television isn’t the only reading-killing culprit. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and other such websites and applications are now just as prevalent as TV.
Many Americans devote large amounts of their free time to these forms of entertainment, and while there is nothing innately wrong with them, they are far easier to consume than even the most simply written books. Like the internet, visual media requires less focus to comprehend than written media; therefore, our attention will almost always tend toward the former.
If you truly want to incorporate more books into your life, turn off the television first.
If you use the TV for white noise, play music instead or learn to embrace silence.
Video will almost always hold our attention more than written words, so when you pick a book up, make sure the screen is turned off.
And for the sake of brevity, I will refrain from discussing on social media… perhaps another post at another time.
2. START SMALL
Runners obviously do not start out with the ability to run marathons. When many begin their training, they can only run in short sprints before stopping to catch their breath. But over time, their bodies learn to adapt, and they are able to run distances that they once thought impossible.
For many of us, reading books proves to be as difficult as running a marathon. Fortunately, the brain, like any other muscle, can be trained to focus on long form reading with enough time and discipline.
Practically, this means if you can’t remember the last book you finished, Augustine’s City of God is probably not the best place to start. Begin with something in a more modern style and with fewer pages. Then work your way up to more complex works.
This also applies to the amount of time being given to reading.
At first, you may find reading for an entire hour to be boring and undoable.
Start by reading for fifteen minutes. Once you enjoy focusing on a book for that time, up it to thirty and keep going.
So there you have it.
If you want to read more books, cut the visual distractions and begin with doable goals.
Remember that you will almost never simply find the time to read; instead, you must make time to read.
But as with most difficult tasks, it is worth the effort.