ÁD Studio

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Reading is too easy

Contrary to what some people believe, the problem with reading is that it's not hard enough to be engaging.
(412 words)

It's not like we don't read; we do it all the time. Social networks, newspapers, flyers, billboards. Everything is either words, or people reading words to us. The scarcity of the old ages has simply been obliterated. It used to cost a small fortune to put a book out there- now we have KDP; it used to be prohibitely expensive to buy books everyday- now we have subscription platforms, free books online. Technological advancements have made reading beyond cheap to sell, and beyond cheap to buy.

The old constraints on the seller and the buyer of books were arguably what made the experience of reading meaningful, what sparked the curiosity of readers and made the candlelight readers stay awake. Books made a difference to them, whether or not they read it. The nuisance and the complexity of reading worthwile books is precisely what makes them so rewarding. Like a good hobby or a challenging workout, it's not in the mindless repetition bu in the engagement where we find the meaning and reap the rewards of the challenge.

Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.

George Halas

Maybe what we need now it's self imposing constraints, create artificial walls, build difficulties where there are none. But I have a better alternative. Look for hard books, and read them. Skip the best-sellers: most of them are junk food for the brain. Go for those that were printed decades ago, even centuries ago, and are still around. Treat them like a Middle Age monk treated the Bible: with care, respect, and patience. Try to memorise the key passages1. Summarise the main thrust of it, or to others. And then challenge and criticise it.

It will take a while, but what's the alternative? Reading a myriad of pointless books, one week at a time? That's not reading: it's virtue signalling. In the end, reading one New York Times bestseller after another is a recipe for existential dread, because most of what gets into that list are books that are simply a waste of your time2, a sophisticated magazine with the sole purpose of being sold, not being enjoyed.

Look for hard to find books, because good books need no marketing. Time is on their side.

  1. When was the last time that you memorise anything from a book you read?
  2. Have a look at The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Sellers of 2017 and be honest with yourself: how many of these books are still around?