Let’s face it, there are tonnes of ways to keep yourself busy in the world today.
Whether its the abundance of TV Shows, Movies or Video Games, there is always something to keep the average person occupied with consuming. All this choice has made us very picky with what we spend our time and attention on. If something doesn’t grab our attention right away or at least early upfront, its unlikely we will continue on or pay any attention to it.
Interestingly, I’ve seen a similar approach being taken with regards to reading books, if you dont like it early on, drop it.
I strongly disagree with this approach when it comes to books. Here’s 5 reasons why.
#1: Do Your Homework
Being able to connect to many tens of millions of people around the world instantly means it’s easier than ever to find people who share the same interests as you do, and reading is no exception. Whether you know an individual personally or not, if you share the same interests – here, reading – its not uncommon to be able to openly find out (or even ask) what books they may recommend on a particular topic.
Failing that, a simple search in your engine of choice will lead you to results from all over the web. On top of all that, you have sites dedicated to book reading such as GoodReads which allow you to research books extensively beforehand, see relevant alternatives and dive in to a plentiful amount of colourful User Reviews.
With all this information combined, it is almost impossible to make an uninformed decision when choosing a book. If a well read community collectively understands a book to be beneficial, its a safe bet to know that you can’t go wrong with it. The excuse of picking up an inherently ‘bad’ or otherwise unbeneficial book just doesnt apply when you can filter most of the low quality or irrelevant works before it even gets into your hands.
Do your homework!
#2: Train Your Mind
While giving up on a book that seems unbearable may feel liberating and even somewhat empowering, it may lead to feeling less tolerant of the inevitable banality that you will encounter quite commonly in books from time to time.
What’s to stop you from dropping books at a faster pace if your mind isn’t instantly engaged? Unless you have a hard and fast rule on how many pages (or percentage) to read before giving up, you could easily end up on a slippery slope where even a commonly known engaging book may seem boring at some parts. The dopamine rat race that entails so many other parts of our lives has a potential to rear its head here too.
In my opinion, better to cut off the problem at the root.
#3: Greatness (May) Lie Ahead
The tastiest meal is often the result of a much longer cooking process. Diamonds are compressed and have pressure applied for long amounts of time before revealing their dazzling final forms. The point is, the benefit you get from a thing isn’t always immediately apparent.
Even from an Author’s perspective, its usually only after building a case for their main point that the point itself is revealed, surely we owe it to the Author to give the book a chance? Remember, if we follow some of the previous steps such as ensuring to do our research beforehand, its likely that we have a great book in our hands, we just need to make sure we ourselves make it to the point where the Author provides the real benefit of the book.
Trust your research and dig for gold!
#4: A Single Idea
Quite often, we will find that a single piece of advice at the right time, said in the right way has the power to absolutely change our lives.
Even a book that seems 90% irrelevant (and that you think you may have made a mistake picking up!) can contain a single sentence of wisdom that can change your life. It could be that you end up reading a book that seems monotonous and dull, yet there is a lesson there waiting to change your life.
The intensity of the change that could be inspired by those words could far outweigh any of the seemingly irrelevant parts that precede it.
Stick it out!
#5: Everything is Beneficial in Some Way
Reading books and finishing them despite a lack of deep engagement builds your grit, patience and determination. Provided that you followed the rest of the steps (most importantly doing your research beforehand), its likely that you chose a book widely seen as beneficial in one sense or another. Finishing it means you will inevitably come across the benefit sooner or later
And let’s address the elephant in the room, it is entirely possible that you end up reading a book that has made its way through all the previous filters. You’ve seen it heavily recommended by others and its on a topic you are interested in. Sounds great, right? But it could still happen that you find yourself reading an unengaging, monotonous book that feels largely irrelevant. This is where the desire to drop the book entirely is at its strongest. In a worst case scenario you might dread reading it and end up not reading for a while at all.
But ploughing through with a steel like resolve says more about you than the book. Finishing such a book means you end up building aspects of your character which deal with managing and persevering through something you dislike. Especially in the age of constant dopamine chasing, is this not a trait worth its weight in gold?
Even if the book doesn’t end up redeeming itself at some point, you’ve only proved to yourself to see something through to the end, even if you didn’t really want to. In that case, you’ve managed to benefit from a book that empirically was of no benefit to you!
My Father used to tell me as a kid that it was always possible to learn good manners from ill mannered people, how? By learning what not do to. This same principle can be applied here. Even if a book provides no benefit, we can learn from the experience as a whole and increase our grit and determination.
There is always a benefit from every situation.
I personally ended up reading books that turned out to be completely different to what I expected. I found myself a third into a large book knowing that I most likely wouldn’t be enjoying the rest.
Despite this, I persevered and despite not finding redemption in the book and being generally right about the fact that the contents were not what I was looking for, I still managed to come away from the book with some ideas that I found valuable and expanded my thinking.
For example, I read a book on Biomimicry by Janine Benyus thinking it would be an amazing read in the sense that I would get an introduction to Biomimicry and be stunned at the examples in real life. While the introduction and initial chapter was exactly that, I found that much of the book was very technical and scientific, realising this early on, I faced clear option. Continue the book or drop it. At this point I resolved to continue no matter what.
While its true that when you aren’t 100% engaged in a book you tend to avoid reading with the same frequency as you normally do, I carried on and eventually finished the book. The sense of pride I felt was almost indescribable, it felt like I had climbed a mountain and made it back down safely.
I felt IMMENSELY proud of myself for my determination, but I had also expanded my mind against its will. I learnt more about nature that I ever thought I would and made the subject more accessible for my mind in the future!
To top it all off, I had introduced myself to some very different concepts and ways of looking at nature. Yes, the topic was way above my head in some places, but I felt open to a new level of thinking, even keeping 5% of that newly learnt information was enough to open new doors in terms of shaping my views on the world, and that alone was worth it.
Since I mostly read non-fiction, its possible that my opinion would be different if I were a majority Fiction reader. Perhaps I would have less tolerance for an unengaging story than a book that I could much more empirically benefit from, who knows?
For now though, I’m sticking to my guns and I’m happy with my principles thus far. If you can make it work for you in the same way by following these 5 principles, I have no doubt that you will experience an overall benefit.