Since I started reading one book per week, this has been an enlightening experience and I highly recommend it to everyone. I used to read three, maybe four, books a year. Slightly better than the three American out of ten who did not pick up a book at all during the past year but still less than the 12 books per year readers go through on average.
I used to think I did not have time to read. I just could not find anything interesting. But all that was just excuses my brain was thinking up.
Then, I forced myself to take the time. TV, internet, and other fast-paced stimuli made my brain lazy but it can be retrained.
Over the past few weeks, I have forced myself to go through a chapter or two a day and retrain my brain into this slow-paced, relaxing, educating, world of books.
Now, you must be wondering how I can afford all these books. One book purchase per week would add up to thousands of dollars per year! Well, today I will share with you my little secret and let you in on a way to get 85,249 books available to you for free.
In the 9,091 public libraries across the United States sits a total of 775 million books and serial volumes all available to you free of charge. (This is an average of 85,249 books per library but most small-town libraries hold about 10,000 books.) If you never explored yours yet, find your local library and enjoy everything they have to offer.
Most libraries now offer a large array of media such as eBooks, DVDs, music, and games. In our town, for example, we even have access to a media room with audio recording equipment, a 3D printer, video production equipment and other cool things.
According to the Pew research center’s internet and American life reading habits survey, 35% of Americans ages 16 and older used their library in the past year to do so. Slightly more than three out of ten American are taking advantage of these amazing, free, resources.
The most surprising thing to me is that, according to this survey, lower-income households are the ones which visit the least the public library system. This is free materials which everyone should benefit.
If you live too far from a library or your local library is too small, you can always search the OpenLibrary.org and access their 2.7 million eBooks or access the Smithsonian Libraries or Project Gutenberg for free.
Other options are local book swaps. You might find them on street corners or in coffee shops. You take one and leave one, and the sharing goes on. An even better idea is to start your own. Build a closed box, ideally with a windowed front door, and set it on your lawn with a few books and simple instructions for your fellow neighbors. The Little Free Library organization is a great place to start if you need a little inspiration.
Alternatively, you can also visit used bookstores or thrift stores to buy some book for only a few dollars or less, then return them and repeat. Books and novels at my local thrift store are only 25₵. At that price, it is impossible to say no.
Books are knowledge
Since books are permanent, we can learn from past generations. Absorbing their wisdom and increasing yours. Reading the 1861 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, for example, is just like time travel. These findings are still thought today and will continue to live on for the decades to come.
There’s a lot of very interesting things online and knowledge is more accessible than ever on sites like Wikipedia or Coursera. We can learn everything about any topic for free but books go through a certain editorial process. Publishers and editors checked the material for factual accuracy and literary suitability so that the end product can be considered as reliable and authoritative. Depending on the topic, some publications also go through a peer review process.
I am not discrediting online material but I think we cannot forget about print materials. In addition, there is still a vast amount of knowledge in print that has yet to be put into digital form. Some online resources are amazingly researched and can share depth, emotions, and insight but books go even deeper. Often, a blog post or Wiki page will cover a topic but a whole book on that topic can explore different directions and get you to think differently about it. Taking the time to read a book forces you to learn more about that topic and go deeper into fields you might not have thought of Googling in the first place.
Books are travels
Great fiction can transport you to different eras, different cultures, or different worlds. Autobiographies can make you feel like you are living someone else’s life. Travel journals or guidebooks can make you see the world from your living room and recipe books can make you salivate before even turning on the oven.
I read a lot of finance and investments but I also like spy, humor, and fantasy fiction novels. Even if they are not considered “knowledge” I still learn a lot from them. I have learned to explore different universes and expand my horizons beyond my personal experiences and views of the world. Movies try to show you fictional universes sometimes but they feed you the shape and looks of it. Novels actually get your brain to think and imagine those universes and fantasies.
5 tips to read more
Before starting my personal challenge of reading one book per month, I was barely reading paperbacks. I always followed many blogs and read the news but rarely picked up anything substantial. If you would ask me if I could read a whole book in a week, I would have replied a chapter might have been more in line with my level. However, here I am.
Here are a few tricks I use to read more,
1. Set time to read
This is the first, and easiest, step. If you just read whenever it happens, it won’t happen.
2. Keep a book here and there
I used to read one book at the time but eventually, I would get bored and stop. By keeping a few books around different areas of the house, you keep it fresh and always have something to read. I keep some books at work, besides my bed, in my office… Having a book around just pushes you to pick it up and having different books for different moods also helps.
3. Keep a list
Having a list of your current and past reads is a great motivator to read more. An added benefit to this is that you will always have great recommendations if anyone asks. You can keep it on paper or use services like Goodreads to track your list.
4. Share with others
Talk about what you are reading and share with others your discoveries, dislikes, and insights. Sharing will not only help you retain information but might also entice your friends to read your book once you are done with it.
5. Learn speed reading
Sometimes, I am reading and suddenly, my mind wonders off for 10 minutes and then I need to reread everything I just went over. An easy trick to avoid this is to read in 20-minute sprints. This keeps you focused and gets you ahead in your readings. Another tip I can give you to increase your reading speed is to stop reading word after word. Instead, view the lines of texts as lines and try to eliminate regression and back-skipping.
Avoid sounding out the words in your head and try to utilize your peripheral vision as you read faster. As long as you understand what you are reading and are still enjoying yourself, practice and practice even more. The more you read using these techniques, the faster you will read.
What are you reading this week? I am starting How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Mr. Xyz.