Reading More and Reading to Get Smarter
Updated: Dec 9, 2018
At the beginning of 2018 I set a goal to read 36 books. I thought I could chip away at 3 books a month and the only requirement would be for them not be “fluff”. Get behind me foul demon of the romance novel, chic-lit or banal thriller! I wanted to work in old books, thoughtful non-fiction and hardly anything new (I like some science, tech and business books that are new so these mostly make up that category). I wanted my brain to be challenged by archaic language, slow descriptions (what’s up with my shortened attention span!!!) and ideas that were new to me. I love seeing connections made between a scene in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, modern politics in the U.S. and a novel written in 1912 on the brink of World War 1. Good stuff. Stuff that feeds my mind as I go about my day.
Anyhoo, this week, the second full week of October, I finished my 103rd book. Yep. I blew my original goal out of the water like Rambo lit up Hope, Washington in First Blood. I’m proud of it. And surprised!
Here’s how I made it work for me:
1. HAVE A STACK… OR NOT.
Modern Mrs. Darcy talks about Supply-Side readers – borrowed from an economic term, these are people who read more and are happier when they have a pile of books to choose from. This is me. I LOVE having a stack. The more, the better. Just having one book is actually demotivating. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been this way in all things. I think the trick is knowing yourself and knowing what will you make you keep after it. (I like the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog – fun and smart. You might too.)
2. SET A SPOT.
When I got an armchair in my bedroom, my reading life got better. I have my stack of books, my quote book (or commonplace book where I write down unforgettable thoughts) and my coffee. It’s my favorite place in my home.
3. MAKE THE APPOINTMENT.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin in his book, “Thou Shall Prosper” (excellent), had a minor point about reading first thing in the morning. Apparently the most common time for a heart attack is 9 a.m. His theory is that people rush around and finally get to work where the exhaustion and hustle literally does them in. I don’t know if that’s true but I do know that when I started reading first thing after stepping out of bed (I mean, I don’t even kiss my husband before I dig in) it was like a magical gift filled with peace and happiness and chocolate molten lava cakes! I look forward to this so much and am really disappointed when I don’t get the chance…it takes a lot for me to miss this time. (Almost always involving a baby waking in the night. Ugh.)
4. CHALLENGE YOURSELF.
A huge motivator for me is to join in the “Great Conversation” which is shorthand for the giant meeting of minds from ancients like Seneca, St. Paul and St. Augustine all the way through to present day authors. I am just so amazed at how truly interesting ideas on time management, friendship, love, life and death, children, education, exercise, beauty and on and on are considered by the greatest minds of our world. I want to be smarter. I want to know what other people are talking about when they mention Agememnon and "wine dark seas". Even better, I want to be able to join in the conversation with confidence and have my own opinions or questions. Reading hard books is absolutely necessary if you want to join in both great (small g) conversations around you and the Great Conversation involving centuries and thousands and thousands of people, both living and present.
Start now – don’t even set a goal if you’re worried about it. Start right here in October and just get after building a higher IQ and EQ. You can do it!