A trip to a beach

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When you decide to read a 100 books…

A lot of things change…

Just a quick background. I have been reading for about 10 years now. It’s been on and off for the first couple of years. But for the last couple of years I have tried to read consistently. My reading habit started with Harry Potter. And Harry Potter started because my brother couldn’t shut up about that book and kept throwing it on my face to read it.  In my mid-teens reading became a hobby. Then it transformed in to a habit. When it did, I wanted to consume more. So found out ways to consume more (read faster). I learnt about speed reading touched about 450wpm (after practising for a week then because of some circumstances, couldn’t read for about 3-4 months and lost my speed (hovering around 300wpm). Tried photo-reading, failed miserably.

And now..

I read a lot of books without knowing how to read. Of course, from time to time, I come across an article about how to read. But it never was “that” important to me. But, things changed this year.

A friend of mine took up this audacious challenge.

And he invited me.

Well, that’s it. I couldn’t say no.

I initially planned to read just 20. Having failed my previous year’s goal. But, I forced myself to accept it.

But 100 books is a lot. A lot.

What do I do with reading so many books. I know, books aren’t bad. But what do you get out of reading 100 books. Is 100 just a number? Or is it a journey? What is the purpose? What do I get from this? Definitely it is a great opportunity to learn about a lot of things including time management, planning, a topic, self-awareness etc.

But reading 100 books is not usual (to my standards at least) or easy and so it requires a different level of preparation and execution. For that, I needed to get to basics – about myself and about reading.

In order to plan the books, I needed to know more about myself – in terms of my goals, the topics I would like to master, my interests, my moods, etc. This will help me to choose book I need to read. But most importantly, it will save me a lot of time by making sure I don’t pick the wrong books.

I need to know more about reading it self. So, I spent a couple of hours browsing through thought leaders I follow and the kind of books they read and how they read. I found that reading essentially has two parts – reading and comprehending.

Reading

There are four types of reading.

  1. Elementary – The basic type. The way we have been taught to read in our school. Usually answers the question – What does this sentence say.
  2. Inspectional – Superficial or skimming. You consume a lot, but you retain very less. You can read about the two styles here. [This is my style till now].
  3. Analytical – Very similar to say your college texts. You have to read the book, understand the point it is trying to make. Outline the major topics, make notes, connect the chapters and identify the significance of the book. This takes a lot of time.
  4. Synoptical  – This the ultimate. Take a topic, read a lot of books under it, connect or contrast the ideas shared in the books and understand the unwritten.

Comprehending.

There is where your reading starts being useful. You start to assimilate information, ideas and principles. There is a famous pen and paper method  called Feynman Technique, named after the Physicst, Richard Feynman.

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Write it in such a way that you are teaching it to a 5 year old (use your own words, not the one in the book that you just read)
  3. If you get stuck, go back to the book
  4. Use a simple language.

The video explains this concept the best:

It’s also a good idea to have a commonplace note book to collect all the passages that you find relevant, make note of ideas and arguments that come up and get back to it after a week just to push the information to the permanent memory.

I just recently discovered another aspect of reading  which I feel is probably the most important aspect of reading. I call it creating.

Creating.

Many of us think that reading is not a creative process like drawing, painting or writing. But, I beg to disagree.  I am sure you will agree that, no two book readings are the same. Even though you read Harry Potter for the 10th time, it is not the same experience. We are constantly creating new neural connections every time we come across new information or old information in a different context. We create new connections and one day it solidifies in to a new idea. And David Quammen rightly puts in in his book about Darwin, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin,

One of Darwin’s great strengths as a scientist was also, in some ways, a disadvantage: his extraordinary breadth of curiosity. From his study at Down House he ranged widely and greedily, in his constant search for data, across distances (by letter) and scientific fields. He read eclectically and kept notes like a pack rat. Over the years he collected an enormous quantity of interconnected facts. He looked for patterns but was intrigued equally by exceptions to the patterns, and exceptions to the exceptions. He tested his ideas against complicated groups of organisms with complicated stories, such as the barnacles, the orchids, the social insects, the primroses, and the hominids.

Found sited in Farnam Street

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Artist: Daniel Lei (Source: All Things Paper)

I think, this will probably the ultimate goal to become an effective thinker, as Shane (Farnamstreet blog) puts it. Wouldn’t you agree?

Now that we have covered the foundation. Let us lay it up with books of course.

I usually pick a couple of books at a time and keep switching between them unless they are of same topic (which usually, isn’t the case). Otherwise, I pick a book and finish in a couple of days. On an average I take about 5-7 days to finish a book.

But, this time, you know it’s quite different, I want to use my reading to

  1. Improve a skill (or knowledge)
  2. Make Idea babies
  3. Simply have fun

In order to achieve these goals, I have segregated books in to four categories.

  1. Fillers – Novels – specifically pulp fiction which I enjoy the most.
  2. Topic – To improve one skill related to my full time job
  3. People – I love reading biographies. They are my constant motivation and something I always get back to.
  4. Business – My love for business is the only reason the reading habit has sustained for so long. It will cover wide range of topics from behaviour to finance to habits
  5. Misc – My passion for science, running, philosophy and cycling explored.
  6. Do – Finally, those motivational books that get me going through not-so-good times.

So, What’s your reading goal this year?  What’s been your experience so far?

Featured Image Source: whytoread

Blank Space

—Added the following on Jan 5th,2016—

I couldn’t help but add the following piece to the post. It was too precious to stay in the comments section. Especially at a time like this when you realize kids are  indeed wiser than us – the “adults”. Here is what some of my cousins have written about Vishnu. Truly Amazing.

Badri Srinivasan, Youngest Cousin

When Darkness take-over and
There is only one little ray of hope
I want to cling on to this ray of hope
which are the sweetest memories I had with you

To my dear Vishnu
V – Vivid
I – Intelligent
S – Super Cutie
H – Hilarious
N – Nice
U – Ultimate

Ananth Srinivasan, his elder brother

As the clock ticks on, I realise
Every precious second I spent with you counts like a life-time,
While I breathe in that fragrance of the past,
It dawns on me that, though as humans we have accomplished a lot
and in many ways, we have done the extreme,
But one thing we haven’t conquered is ‘time’ and I sincerely wish we have done that too

When you were with us we were in cloud nine and
Now while the dark clouds are looming large
I am optimistic that a silver lining will emerge

It has not been that easy to move on by shedding tears
Or by crying my heart out because I know
It’s impossible to bring you back
But I know it’s possible to hope for a better future,
Filled with your joyous memories

They tell us to embrace the positive feelings,
But is it that easy to control your emotions when a Hulk is threatening to break out of its cage?
Unlike the fire that died out in my poem, hope and memories never die out,
I hate sad endings so all that I can say for now is:
Good luck on your new journey!

 

Raghav, Cousin brother

he will be born again
first as a butterfly then as a cow and as a baby…

Thank you guys! It’s been such an honor for me to have such amazing guys like you as brothers! No matter the age, you have shown true wisdom earned my respect!

——

Blank Space – Unedited version: Dedicated to my brother and the lives he touched.

As the sadness fills your heart

You look for that tiny ray of hope to hold on to

to cherish and to celebrate the life that was*

At first sight, all you see is darkness

You almost believe that it’s impossible to recover

You feel as if the whole world is on your head

And you cannot stand on your feet any more

The mind refuses to be tamed

The whole world seems to be one big joke

So lame and  so stupid

Like machines have suddenly invaded the planet

Lifeless and loveless

And it almost feels like the end

The end only because, the dear protagonist** is no more.

You don’t expect it, but then the story goes on

In the midst of the hopelessness, you find a tiny spark

At the first sight, it seems ridiculous

You question the whole existence

The Whys the hows and Why nots

A wave of silence gets past you

Feeling dumbfound, you search for answers within

The-what-could’ve-beens  and the-what-ifs transform

in to what-was

You take the first step  – accept

And you find a tiny bit of relief there

But you are still filled with the grief (mounting by the minute)

As if the Death Star*** just destroyed one whole planet

A huge emptiness to fill

Then you take the next step consciously

To celebrate the life that was

The moments that were priceless

The memories that were created

The unwritten songs sing in your head

The untold stories flash in front of you

As if it were real

And you suddenly feel the warmth binding you to the present

You feel whole, light and bright

The experience flips 180 degrees

You cannot but celebrate

You cannot but rejoice

You cannot but cherish

The moments

The love

The life

And you know and you feel

The story is now yours to write!

Where do you wanna start?

 

*of my brother

** From one of my brother’s quotes

Some of the best pieces of work is created when a writer chooses to kill of their dear protagonists.
Here’s to all the characters who v will never see and the writers who ve had the nerve to kill their creations!!

*** StarWars Reference – the last movie he saw on this planet.