You should read books, you know you should

Before 2018, I was never a book reader. Reading a book seems like a chore to me. I can barely finish a chapter. I always had that internal conflict (possibly based from childhood experience) that only “the smart people” can read books. Another factor is, I’ve always associated books to “school” or “academia” that felt like an enclosed culture that didn’t really synced in to me. Also, I’d rather watch a film or TV series than read a 300 to 500 pager book - because of cinematics. It’s a much more immersive experience than doing the effort of “reading intentionally.” Also, growing up maybe I just didn’t find “reading book” as something cool amongst teenagers and the society I used to live.

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I’ve read some more technical books (AKA glanced to relevant resources) but not really absorbing most of it - just like the textbooks I had in school. Around 2017, I’m noticing that there has been a big decline of quality movies and TV shows, or maybe I just got burned out from it. It’s hard for me to find unique (or interesting) movie plots or immersion beyond CGIs and occasional laughs.

It was 2018 when I decided to really read. I started from the familiar grounds of Software Engineering and Startups. I’ve read most of the “Top 10 must read books for Software Engineers”, “Top 10 books for Startup Founders”, and those cliche lists. It was “The Phoenix Project” by Gene Kim that really made it a fun experience for me. It’s a fiction novel that romanticise the horrors of IT operations and how they could thrive from it. I also enjoyed “The Martian” by Andy Weir and “Read Player One” by Ernest Cline. Since then, I’ve probably read close to 100 books. The books I’ve read in two years are actually more than the books I’ve read in my first two decades since I learned to read.

I would like to highlight that for others we take book reading for granted, but in fact it’s actually a privilege. I’m fortunate enough at this point that I can simply buy a book either online or at a bookstore without really “saving” for it. The price of a Kindle device or buying spree $100 book bundles wouldn’t hurt. Also, some books, I can expense in my business. My thinking is that, if it helps me one way or the other in the future, then I should buy it as an “investment” rather than an “expense.” If you’re privileged to buy a book or reading devices, do it.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Kindle (the device) or actually any reading apps for a while now. Sometimes reading on Kindle doesn’t work for me, and sometimes it does. I’ll explain what works for me soon. I’ve had 3 Kindle devices and probably attempted to install it to all my phones and tablets. I think in any form of habit that you’re trying to cultivate, there is a certain level of learning curve and product-fitting on what works for you best.

How I read books

  • As part of my journey to Digital Intentionality, I don’t use my mobile phone anymore to read a book. Two major reasons are: Too much distractions; and I enjoy reading before I sleep - so bringing the phone in bed is a call for disaster.
  • I read a physical book when I can and when I want to read that book in that form. For some reasons, there are books that are superb to read physically because it immersed you with “exclusivity”. An example is reading the bible, I’d rather open an actual bible than to read it from an app.
  • I read on my Kindle with a low-light setting before I sleep. Sometimes I fell asleep while reading, and would read again first thing in the morning.
  • I read on my Kindle if I know I have to wait for something. For example, while in a car or waiting for an appointment.
  • I use my MacBook Air when I have to actively take notes (I type faster than writing) while reading a technical book.
  • I occasionally read on my iPad if the book is filled with immersive graphics.
  • I listen to audiobooks when I am doing tasks that don’t require me to think a lot. Examples are: running & cycling, chores, walking in commutes.

How I know what to read:

  • If a person I know recommends a non-fiction book to me, I’ll buy it straight to Kindle. It takes a certain effort to finish a non-fiction book, and one way or the other, it affects that person, hence she/he would like to recommend it.
  • I used to base it from “a list” or “best sellers” or the really popular ones. I think that’s fine, especially when you’re just starting out the habit. These days, I’m more intentional about what books to read depending on what Stoicism, so I already have a specific set of expectations on what to get in reading a book - rather than the “surprise me” or “feel high”.
  • There are books that are “light-reading”, most of the words are not technical and you can read it even if your toddler is jumping around the bed. I just simply read them for the sake of reading it. I enjoy some trash novels from time to time. 🙂
  • I also use the 10% principle. If you’re at the 10% mark and really struggling, try skipping a chapter or revisit the table of contents. If it’s really such a job for you to read it, abandon it. Revisit it later if it becomes relevant to you at that specific point in time.
  • There are times I actually Google or watch a video on YouTube about the book or the author before reading. This just paints a better picture of the author, her/his thoughts, and intentions. Also, the easiest way to detect b***t.
  • Lately, I’m now avoiding the “glorified blog posts” books. You know, there’s a blog about it. Then the author just double-downed on that topic, find repetitive examples, put more narratives into it, but the value and quality density is just the same as that blog post.

There are a lot more reasons on why read books. I’m just adding a bit to that force by this post. There are many researches that support it, there are a lot of “successful people” who recommend reading, you know you should do it. Do it “just because.” If you struggle, let me know. Maybe I can help.

So in conclusion

  • Get out from the inner conflict of reading a book. Whatever past bias that you have, fight it and get rid of it.
  • Read books you enjoy or you know that can affect you. Don’t think of it like the way it is in schools. A teacher won’t give you a failed mark if you don’t finish it.
  • It takes time to find the right book reading method that suites you. Also, maybe it keeps changing. What’s important is you keep trying.

What are the books that you would like to recommend? Let me know.