Scott’s Thoughts: A Richer Reading Life

“I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.”

Montesquieu, French judge, man of letters, and political philosopher.

Man reading by a lake.Did you resolve to become an all-star reader in 2019? I don’t think I need to stress the benefits of reading. Sure, it heightens brain connectivity, develops empathy, rewires connections while creating new white matter, increases the capacity of your working memory, and expands your attention span. But it also makes you a better leader. The world’s most effective, compassionate, and admired leaders are readers. Pick a field and without fail the most respected will be quick to answer the question, “What are you reading right now?”

For me, one of the most compelling arguments for a reading life is the way it lowers stress. There is something magical at work when we give ourselves permission to linger in a book for an hour. We emerge from the experience with an almost inexplicable sense of well-being and perspective. It turns down the volume on our inner monologue and soothes many a fear.

If you find yourself averse to a regular reading habit, here are six tips towards a richer reading life:

1. You don’t have to finish every book you start. There are infinite books in the world. You can’t read them all. Allow your level of interest to guide your eyes. Tell yourself you’ll give a book 30 or 50 pages. If it doesn’t have you by then, feel free to let it go and find another.

2. You don’t have to buy every book you want to read. You will be astounded at how much you love the library when you realize how much it can save your bottom line when you become a regular reader. Don’t feel like you have to cultivate a personal collection at home just because you want to read a book. Read and return!

3. Never be without a book. Books can be bulky, so embrace the e-reader lifestyle. The Kindle app for your smartphone will sync your library across all devices. Stuck in line? Don’t flip through your feeds. Read (or re-read) a paragraph or two from your current book.

4. Keep your reading queue full. Keep a list of books you want to read on your phone. This can be a simple text file you sync with Google Drive or Dropbox, always at hand to add a title. Part of the joy of a reading life is momentum. Don’t waste valuable reading hours puzzling over the next book. Have it ready to go!

5. Follow your true tastes. Reading isn’t supposed to be a kale salad. Don’t read what you think will impress others or what you believe you “should” be reading. Binge on what you enjoy, what gives you pleasure, and topics which genuinely feed your interests. (Another benefit to the Kindle: No one can see the cover of your book!)

6. Read aloud with a loved one. Rather than binge-watching reality TV, share a reading experience with a loved one. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a good bedtime story. Pick a book you and your partner both want to read and trade turns reading aloud.

The reading life can be as rich as you want it to be. Keep a reading journal. Make extensive notes. Join a group. Or simply read for yourself, by yourself, whenever you please.

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