If you are reading this post on this particular website, then I assume that you love to read. In fact, if you demur and say, “Oh no, no, no, reading is for people with expensive library card holsters and gigantic, butt-cuddling armchairs, not for regular ol’ people like me,” I will throw down a gauntlet and challenge you to a duel. Or perhaps I’ll eat a slice of humble pie, but that is unlikely since my favorite flavor is strawberry rhubarb.
If you are in school, either as an educator or as a student, or if you have any of a number of reading-intensive jobs, the constant push and pull of, “Have you read this,” and, “Oh you must really read that,” and, “Well, I suggest going back and combing through the literature,” can drive you far, far, far away from any and all reading for pleasure. And who can blame you? When you’re reading dense, jargon-heavy, tiny-fonted, heavily-figured text hour-after-hour without so much as a salty joke or 1980s B movie reference, the whole experience can leave you too bleary-eyed to take in another word.
So with that said, I am advocating for a change we can all be-read in (har har, like I could get through a post without a terrible pun). Last week I mentioned how important it is to take some time to delve into literature outside of your field because it revitalizes the brain, puts a new spin on old problems, and allows for some truly out-of-this-world synthesis (especially if you’re synthesizing with an astronomer). Reading for fun, whether it is fiction or non-fiction or poetry (which is a bizarre blend of both fiction and non-fiction) or what have you, does the same basic thing.
Reading exercises the brain while at the same time tricking it into thinking it is having fun. Reading fosters new connections, creates new insights, and unveils some fascinating truths. Curling up with a good book is active relaxation — a useful distraction and a productive one. I spent entirely too much time thinking that I was too busy to read, but that was just bad judgment on my part. Those bookless days are dark and while they might have been filled with productive data analysis or productive presentations or productive meetings, they were not as productive or as rich as they could have been. Since I have started making more time for reading, my ideas have felt stronger and more exciting. I am not claiming that all of my ideas are good, but there are certainly a lot more of them and a larger percentage of them are sticking with me. Reading for fun is an investment in all parts of life, personal and professional.
I have long advocated for daily writing, even if you only have 5 minutes between meetings or 15 minutes after lunch. The amount that can get written across many short time intervals and the quality of that writing is surprising. It adds up. Similarly, a book or an essay can be read in short bursts, snuck in while waiting for the bus or in between classes. And now that I’ve got the habit going again, I can’t seem to stop. My reading list is growing at a dramatic pace, but at least I am slowly chipping away at it.
Words of advice? Book suggestions? What do you think, chums?