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Even though reading is better than a lot of other activities, you can still do it poorly or for poor reasons.
To be a great reader, it is not enough that you read, it’s also how you read. The following strategies by no means are a complete list, but if you implement even a couple of them, I’m comfortable guaranteeing that you’ll not only be a better reader but a better person too.
Life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy reading. My rule is 100 pages minus your age — so if you’re 30 years old and a book hasn’t captivated you by page 70, stop reading it.
That way, as you age, you have to endure crappy books less and less.
Take the time to type out quotes and passages from great books to feel great writing come through you.
For example, craft a “commonplace book” — a collection of quotes, ideas, stories and facts that you want to keep for later.
It will make you a much better writer and a wiser person.
“We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application — not far far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech — and learn them so well that words become works.”
You were in high school when you read The Great Gatsby for the first time. You were just a kid when someone tell you the story of Odysseus.
The point is: You got it, right? You’ve already read them or learned about them, so you’re done, right?
We cannot be content to simply pick up a book once and judge it by that experience; it’s why we have to read and reread.
Because the world is constantly changing and we are constantly changing, therefore what we get out of books can also change.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s line was “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”
If a book changed someone’s life — whatever the topic or style — it’s probably worth the investment. If it changed them, then it will likely at least help you.
Humans have been fighting and dying and struggling and doing the same things for eons. To not avail yourself of their knowledge is arrogant and stupid.
Too much depends on you for you to learn solely by experience — you must also learn by the experiences of others. Drink deeply from history, from philosophy, and more. Study the cautionary tales and the screw-ups, the failures and successes.
If you don’t, it’s a dereliction of duty.
If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you’re functionally illiterate.
The path to wisdom is long and circuitous with twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows. Maybe you’re in the middle of a low right now, or you’re at the very bottom of the valley. This can be a scary place to be, because it can feel like you’ll be stuck there forever. It can be impossible for you to concentrate enough to read.
But it can help to get out of it by rereading something that has really spoken to you in the past.
Instead of expecting a random book to reach you, go back to something that’s already spoken volumes in the past and then you'll find out how much more it has to say.
Far too many good brains have been afflicted by the pointless enthusiasm for useless knowledge.
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