reading different levels of books

2015-09-02

This year, I've been reading a lot more books, and I've noticed a huge benefit in many areas of my life. I have a lot more topics I can talk about with others, I'm learning a lot of interesting stuff, and I generally feel like I'm more productive with my free time. One choice I made that's helped me to read consistently is reading several books at once, of different genres and difficulties.

With multiple books to choose from, there's not usually a feeling of "Eh, I don't want to read that right now". Instead, there's a thrilling sensation that I can choose from multiple interesting stories I'm currently engrossed in; I can pick a book to suit my mood.

One strategy that's helped me to read more is to make it a habit. I've consciously made reading my unconscious default thing to. I take a book with me wherever I go so the cost is basically zero to flip it open and read for a couple minutes. Having a book to read has changed waiting in line from a chore to something enjoyable. Whether I'm waiting to order lunch or for an appointment or for the bus/train, I actually want it to take an extra 5 or 8 minutes so I can get a little more reading in.

It's really only possible to make reading a habit if you have something you want to read at all times. If you're only reading a single book, no matter how hooked you are on that book, you may not always want to be reading it. Philosophy and politics are both quite engaging, but if you've had a stressful day you may not want to dive into something so dense. That's why I've had a comic book ready along with my other normal reading to fill in low-energy reading time. I've also had success with Malcolm Gladwell type pop-whatever books that are more accessible to the general public. I don't feel like I'm wasting my time by not reading intense material at all times. Quite the contrary, reading the softer stuff keeps me focused on reading in general so I can tackle the hard stuff when I feel up to it.

Just like you wouldn't expect even the best athletes in the world to sprint for miles on end, you can't expect yourself to only want to read War and Peace or Infinite Jest at all times. Varying the difficultly of your reading is a effective strategy. It can help you read more consistently and make it a habit. So whatever interests you be it sci-fi, comics, quantum mechanics, organic chemistry, ancient history, or all of the above, try reading a couple different types of books at the same time.