Which Is Better, Reading a Lot of Books, or Reading a Smaller Amount With Depth?
Maybe it’s both
I’ve always loved to read. I fondly remember reading books at Winn-Dixie when I was a kid, this was before cell phones and internet drowned us all in a perpetual state of connected distraction. I’d pick up a book while Momma was shopping, and would walk around behind her reading and giving robotic answers as I needed to.
I mastered the art of the cell phone walk before cell phones had come around.
There were times, as I got older, I remember going to a store, picking up a book, flipping to where I left off and reading as much as I could before we left. Then, and this might be awful to admit, but it proves my love and passion, I’d jot down what page I was on so I could pick back up the next time.
Back in April a couple of things changed for me. I would love to tell you I knew what it was exactly that began the shift, but I can’t. It was just one of those moments of shifting in my life that left me changed, baptized in the fire of new possibility, and I’ve been chasing it all year long.
One of those things that changed was my reading habits. Up until that point in April I had read for one class or another, and largely out of necessity for my studies. But as those studies were wrapping up, I found myself wondering what would become of my reading habit. Now, full disclaimer, I’ve always loved to read and me not reading wasn’t entirely a concern (I knew I would read something), but, I knew my reading habit needed a bit of a boost to kick-start it to its full potential again and that’s what came along in April and May of 2019.
I read an article at the time that stated that Bill Gates read a book a week, and I thought, as I often do in times of change in my life, “Well hell, I can do that.”
And so the journey of reading one book a week began.
In the beginning
Here’s the whole truth though, I didn’t really read one book a week, not at first, but I did read four books in May and the habit stuck after that. It took me a little while to adjust, and learn my reading approach and needs, as well as some time to just figure things out.
And a further truth, I have mostly read one book a week since, but there were times when the weeks blended a bit and I finished one book as I began the next. These things only matter, however, if my reasons for reading are purely competitive, which is something this endeavor has opened my eyes to over these past several months.
When the reading took off
By June my reading had kicked into warp drive and I read over my base amount. But what was more important was how infectious the act of reading had become. I was hooked, I was loving it, and I was really learning different things for the different needs and different moments of my life.
There was definitely depth, but, what do I have to show for it all now besides a list of books to point to that I have read? Why am I choosing to do this? Why am I reading, and reading so much? The why is important.
And that’s the real lesson here, reading can reveal so much truth to you if you pay attention. And not just from what you’re reading, but also, why.
I’ve read a lot of books this past year, 32 so far.
Reading has and will continue to change my life in ways that even my greatest attempt at describing would fail to do justice. Every cliche about the companionship of a good book is definitely part of my truth.
But, and this is important, I couldn’t help but to begin to wonder why I was trying to read so much. Was I in some kind of existential funk, a race against time? Or in a wrestling match for my soul against the strength of ego? Probably a bit of both, as many of us often are.
The simple truth is this, I will want to continue to push myself to read as much and more in the coming year and decade. But I want to understand my motivation better, and I want to learn as much from my motivation as I do from the act of reading and the books themselves. If it’s all just ego, what need am I trying to satisfy through this that I can find a better home for, and if it’s not, then what exactly is this need?
Wrapping things up
I think the need to read more, more, more, is many things, to be up front with you. I’m just 35 years old, but I’ve experienced a lot of loss, and have had some health scares from loved ones near and far, and I have experienced some bumps in my own health. I know that time has teeth and is working to swallow up our fragile moments, and so, I in my own wrestling match with mortality want to read, to learn, and ultimately give these lessons and more back as quickly as I can.
But do I need to read more books to accomplish this, or could I adapt the approach in some ways and possibly gain more from the whole experience? That’s my question as I prepare for the conclusion of this year and decade. It’s my small offering to you as well.
Question your motives and be willing to listen closely to their responses.
Ultimately, the point I’m trying to make is this: Read to improve, not to beat someone at reading more books than them because it’s the nerdy-cool thing to do.
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