In the last few months I have willed myself to read more. The idea came to me as I was sitting on my couch and watching a series of rather uninspiring tv shows. Every day I would spend hours trying to keep myself entertained, while suffering with the
these shows are so boring bug. During this time, I'd also been listening to a number of self-development books, mainly the ones written by Brian Tracy and John C. Maxwell. The one thing that really stood out about these individuals was their assertion that they read voraciously. In my mind, I would see them devour books within days. Thus, following in these author's footsteps I'd decided to read more.
Since my early childhood I was an avid reader of historical novels and history books. It was and still is my passion. With the advent of the internet and more specifically with the proliferation of TV entertainment, this hobby of mine fell by the wayside. Like many others, I'd spend hours watching movies and TV shows and completely neglect the pleasure that reading books can provide. What I am most ashamed off is that I would make excuses for not reading. I would say that I didn't have time to read, or books were to boring or too long. Or that after four years in university, spent reading all sorts of material, I deserved a break. These were and always will be simply terrible excuses.
Of course, I read a few books here and there. The fantasy genre was probably the one that kept me still interested in reading. After I've purchased my iPhone, my deeply ingrained love of books saw a way to quench it's thirst for the written word by substituting it with a spoken one. Audio books were the answer. Instead of reading, I would spend hours listening to all sorts of audio books. Driving home or riding my bike would be prime times for listening. Sometimes, I would listen to a book while playing a game on a PS3. Yet something was still missing in my heart. Something was tugging at my soul.
I realize now that reading a book is much more engaging then just listening to it. When you listen, there's no easy way to slow down, and imagine the scene, characters or the plot. The audio is forcing you to move on. This relentless march leaves you much less involved in the story. Listening to a book is like passing through the country side on a train, you can see the buildings and the fields, but you can't experience them. Reading, on the hand, is much more like riding a bicycle through a forest or a meadow and periodically stopping to appreciate the beauty of the nature around you. Reading a book lets you get immersed in book's world.
There are many books that are just fine in their audio form. For me, they are mainly non-fiction books that relate information or are educational in nature. I would actually go as far as to say that some books can only be completely digested and understood when someone reads it out to you, like an instructor or a teacher. Fiction books, however, are better left to be enjoyed on paper.
So I decided to read more. My particular resolution was to read an hour every day, regardless of what was happening during the day or what I was reading.
It was easy to get into the habit. I spent the first day reading a Jack Reacher novel, and boy was I fully engrossed in it. My first reading session lasted about an hour and half. My most current reading session was four hours. I haven't read for such a long period of time in one sitting since I was about eleven or twelve.
On that occasion I stayed home after on operation on my foot. I had an infection near my big toe on my left foot and after I couldn't walk for two days. So I stayed in bed and read. As far as I can remember, my sessions lasted between one or two hours during the first day. But on the second day, when I was feeling much better and the pain was bothering me less, I read for the whole day, even reading while I ate lunch. I remember it vividly. I was a third of the way into Alexander Dumas' Twenty Years After novel. It is a big book and for a kid my age to read a third of it in one day was a big deal. I finished the book on that second day. All 600 plus pages of it.
Boy, was it a great feeling to finish the book. But even more addictive was being engaged in that world of 17th century France. Riding with D'Artagnan and his three companions, Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Fighting the evil musketeers of Mazarin. My imagination was unrestrained. I found myself getting back into that state recently with some of the books I was reading.
Having picked up the first Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child, I was drawn into Reacher's world and enthralled by the action and the plot Lee Child has created. I am on the fourth book now and I can't get enough.
Presently, the will to read for an hour each day has turned into a yearning, an addiction I would say. The last book I read was The Associate by John Grisham. And what a compelling and unpredictable story it was. Like all Grisham's stories, the twists and turns, the trials and triumphs of the hero were and are hereto unimagined, at least by me. Grisham as well as Child are master storytellers and know how to pull you into their book's world and more importantly how to keep you there.
I didn't have plans to read John Grisham at all when I resolved to read an hour every day. Jack Reacher was my trial foray into the world of mysteries and thrillers. Unlike my previous preference for fantasy and science fiction novels, this new type of fiction was very different. Easy to read, quick-paced and entertaining. It was almost the opposite of what I was used to reading.
Fantasy books sometimes take a long time to get started. There are just too many new things going on. New cities, new countries, new people, new religions, new traditions, and much more. As a result, if the author tends to dwell to much on world building, the story itself doesn't get to move along as a quickly as it should, so it tends to become a bit boring.
Not all fantasy books are like that, however. One of my favourite writers, Brandon Sanderson, knows how to move a story along almost at a mystery or thriller pace. He expertly weaves in the required world building, always preferring to move the story forward instead of spending time explaining why a society elevates those with light eyes rather then those with dark ones. Sanderson is a master of fantasy. I would highly recommend his works to anyone interested in fantasy or anyone wanting to try out a fantasy book.
Thrillers and mysteries get you into the story almost right away. It is easy to see why. The world they are usually set in is our own, with cars, buildings, clothes, politics and people being similar if not the same to the ones we encounter everyday. Prior to Reacher novels, I was never really into mysteries or thrillers, mainly because I never read any books of this genre. Now that I have tried, they are very entertaining.
Reading Grisham's book, for example, was a consequence of watching Lee Child's interview on National Writers Series. There, Lee suggested to his audience to read Runaway Jury, labelling it a very provocative and status quo challenging book. I was enthralled and went out that evening to try and buy the book. Unfortunately, my local bookstore didn't have a copy and I wasn't going to buy an e-reader version, so I settled on The Associate.
It took me four days to finish the book only because I had prior commitments that limited my reading time. I probably would have finished it in two. That's how good the book is.
Today I am very interested in thrillers and mysteries. They are very entertaining books, especially if they are written by authors who understand the entertainment value that each reader wants to receive in return for their money.
Reading books is a pleasure. It is entertaining and, as I have come to realize, in these past few days, it is a great substitute for multitude of repetitive and boring tv shows available today.
I am by no means bashing the TV shows, movies or other entertainment programs. There are plenty of interesting, engaging and entertaining series out there. Many times, I find myself enjoying a good laugh while watching The Big Bang Theory, or intrigued by the machinations of Kevin Spacey's character in The House of Cards. My point is that books, as a form of entertainment and education, bring just as much if not more value to your life.
So pick up a book, read and imagine.