How To Read More

Yesterday, I bought Rs. 1000 worth of books, and also spent Rs. 1000 on a family movie night. Somehow, my psychology is weird enough that the money spent on books seemed like an extravagance to me, whereas the dinner was no big deal – something I do regularly. But, when I think about it, I’ll spend weeks reading the books, then my wife will read them, and later I’ll lend those books to other people. In terms of value/entertainment-per-person-per-hour, books are easily 10 to 100x cheaper than any other thing I spend money on.

In other words, I should be spending much more on books.

Buying, Borrowing, and Lending Books

  • Maybe buying: So, I’ve started buying books. And, I often buy even those books where there is only a small chance of me reading it. Because if I buy 10 books, and end up reading only 1 of them, that’s still a good investment. My mother comes from the generation where buying a book is a big decision – she reads reviews in newspapers, asks her friends if any of them have read the book, goes to the store and spends 10 minutes browsing the book, and only then considers buying it. I am slowly converting her to the philosophy that if she even thought “maybe I should check out this book” I will go ahead and buy it on Flipkart/Amazon.
  • Indiscriminate Lending: One of the biggest problems with lending books, is the fear that they’ll not get returned. Trying to keep track of who borrowed which book, and asking for it back is too much work. I stopped worrying about this long ago. I lend books indiscriminately, and don’t worry about whether it will come back. There have been 2 or 3 cases where I ended up buying a second copy of a book because I needed the book, and couldn’t figure out whom I’d lent it to. This is a small price to pay for being able to spread good books.
    • The one thing I do to increase chances of getting books back, is that on the book, I write “KABRA” in really large block letters using a thick marker pen. This ensures that the borrower never forgets whom they borrowed a book from, and eventually they return it.
  • Buying Second Hand Books: There’s a raddi-paper shop on Baner Road that keeps a stack of second hand books, and sells them at really low prices – Rs. 10 or 20 or 30 depending on the size of the book. I go there once every few months, and end up buying 5 to 10 books on each visit. Being able to buy books so cheaply really helps with making it easier to do the maybe buying and the indiscriminate lending described above.

How my reading increased in the last few years

I used to read a lot in my childhood. And this significantly reduced after I started working. Only in the last few years, I’ve managed to again pick up a habit of reading regularly. I think this is because of 3 major things I did: setting up the Kindle app on my smartphone, subscribing to an online library which delivers physical books to my door with just a click of the mouse, and setting up reading queues as described below.

  • Reading Queues: One of the problems I used to have earlier is that when I heard about a book, I was usually too busy to even think about reading, and later when I was less busy, I wouldn’t have appropriate books handy. This might be a problem specific to my and how I function, but I’ve managed to get around it by having reading queues.
    • Reading Queue #1: The online library that I use, BigBooks, allows me to create a queue of books that I want to someday borrow from the library. Whenever I hear about some book that I want to read (usually through social media, or my friends), I check if BigBooks has a copy of that book, and add it to my queue. So, when I am done with the current book, I simply go to the BigBooks website, and ask them to deliver the next book. They randomly pick one book from my queue and send it across.
      Note the important thing here: A book get added to the queue when I hear about it; and I get it in my hand when I have time to read it. This separation has significantly increased my reading.
    • Reading Queue #2: For books that are not available with the library, I usually buy a kindle version and have it delivered to my phone. This book now sits on my phone, ready for me whenever I have some free time – this can be while commuting, while waiting for a meeting to start, while standing in some line somewhere. I read in small chunks of time. It’s amazing how much reading you can get done this way. I finished all of Crime and Punishment by just reading it during the interstitial gaps in my days.
    • Reading Queue #3: Whenever I find an article online that seems interesting, but is too long for me to read right away, I use Amazon’s “Send to Kindle” feature to send that article to my Kindle App on my smartphone. This article now sits on my Kindle app until I read it – either in the next few days, or even weeks later, depending upon how busy I am. In this age of 140-character updates, being able to read long, well thought out articles is a superpower.

Books and Children

  • Reading is one of the most important habits you can inculcate in a child.
  • Many parents have strong feelings that children should read good books, or useful books, for some definition of good/useful. I don’t agree with this thinking. It doesn’t matter what the child reads. Anything is fine. Even if the parents think it is trash. Juvenile stuff like Captain Underpants, shallow romances like Twilight Series or Mills and Boon, is all fine. Any kind of reading helps the child in the long run.
  • It’s not easy to get a child to take up reading. With TV and computer games competing for their attention, books suffer, and parents exhortations don’t really work. In the last few years, I’ve seen that the more I and meetu read in their presence, the more the kids have started reading. And of course, limiting the amount of “screen” based activities they’re allowed in a day.
  • Buy and keep appropriate books around the house. You never know when a child will get interested in which book. I’ve had cases of my kids suddenly pick up and read a book years after I bought it and asked them to read it.