The Way I Read

Ordinarily, I don’t like writing sad stories because of the negative effects they usually have on my morale. This piece was written last night with the intention to publish it tonight (Sunday night).  Alas! I returned home from church this afternoon to hear the horrible news of DANA Air crash in Lagos. The news came as I was packing my bag in readiness for my flight out of Lagos tomorrow morning. So you can just put yourself in my position to understand how I felt at that very moment that the breaking news dropped on my BB. It’s all so pathetic and saddening! Another plane crash barely after 24 hours of a cargo plane from Lagos crash landing in Accra, killing 10 people! All one can say right now is to simply pray for the repose of the souls of those who died in those two air crashes. May the good Lord comfort their families.

Let’s call this article a sequel to the three-series I did earlier on Why and How I Write. And I think it’s quite logical for me to say something about how I read since I’ve written an epistle on why and how I write. You will observe from the title that I’ve been careful not to call this piece “How to Read.” I am not in a position to teach you how to read but I can let you into my style of reading. Who knows, it may also work for you.

I have since accepted the general belief that Nigerians don’t have good reading habits. It’s a fact. Only few Nigerians read; and read properly. I don’t even think it’s a difficult thing to confirm. If you are a Nigerian, let’s have a quick interview session before you proceed with this article. Which book are you reading at present? How many books have you read in the last one month? What do you read on a daily basis? I’m sure you’re already scoring yourself. Aren’t you? As religious as we claim to be as a people, I can bet that majority of us don’t read our Bible or Quran regularly. We are lazy readers!

Before examining my reading style, I think it’s quite nice for us to be on the same page on why it is good to read. People read for different reasons but I’m sure some, if not all, of the following will make the list:

  • We read to gain knowledge on certain topics;
  • Reading gives us confidence on certain subjects;
  • It makes us relax better;
  • It helps to fight boredom;
  • Reading improves our writing skills;
  • It makes us better discussants as we can easily talk about what we have read;
  • It improves our vocabulary;
  • We learn more about people and places through reading;
  • Reading tells us about other people’s experiences to enable us learn from them;
  • Books serve as great “mentors” to the readers;
  • Reading helps to improve our self discipline since it demands some form of commitment from us;
  • It contributes to our mental development, most especially our memory; and
  • Allows us to concentrate better.

Okay. Those are great things to achieve. But how come many people don’t read? No doubt, each person will have one excuse or the other to give. But the common one will be, “I don’t have enough time.” Nobody does. But some people sure have mastered the art of prioritizing. We all have 24 hours in a day but we each end the day with different results. It all depends on how you and I manage ourselves.

What I read 

I read so many things, yet I choose what I read. Haha! Sounds confusing? Let me explain myself. You see, modernization comes with a lot of harassment. We are bombarded with emails, online news, text messages etc on a daily basis. So we are never in short supply of things to read. If care is not taken, one may end up spending the whole day reading so many things – most of which could be junks.

Like many other people, I have to contend with a lot of job related emails that require my attention. These mails never stop coming on a daily basis. But I decide on those ones that must be read, and when to read them. It’s all a matter of prioritizing.

Newspapers and magazines are other issues. Some of us may read the online version of some newspapers and magazines, yet we feel incomplete until we grab the hard copies. This, I think, is where I have recorded some improvements. Though I still get my dailies regularly, I rarely waste too much time on them these days. What I do in most cases is to scan through to see if there is anything new that I’ve not read or heard elsewhere. Hardly do I find any. You can actually do a test. Decide not to open any newspaper for a week or two. I can bet that you will come back to observe that you’ve not missed any quality news.

How about TV? Count me out. It’s a time waster. I’m still trying to unravel how some people can manage to sit down in front of the tube for two to three hours non-stop; all in the name of enjoying their favourite programs! Guess I still have a lot to learn as far as TV is concerned.

So, if I can cut out the time-wasting newspapers, emails, online stories and what have you, it means I can create enough time to do some other things which, of course, include reading quality books. And that is what I do on a regular basis.

I’m always on the lookout for great books, and my definition of a great book is any one that meets one or more of the benefits/reasons listed above. For instance, I am, at present, reading a book by Jamie Oliver and Tony Goodwin titled “How They Blew It: The CEOs an Entrepreneurs behind Some of the World’s Most Catastrophic Business Failures.”  Without saying too much about this book, one could easily imagine what the contents would be from the title. Let me give you a sampler from its Introduction:

  • “Three of the people in this book are dead. Ken Lay had a heart attack and died facing charges surrounding his criminal role in the bankruptcy of once-mighty Enron Corporation. Adolf Merckle, the German industrialist and multi-billionaire, lost a fortune and stepped in front of a train aged 74. British businessman Christopher Foster killed his dogs, horses, daughter and wife, before setting his house on fire dying of smoke inhalation. These were tragic ends to incredibly successful careers.”

Many people can easily remember those stories but do we actually know what really happened (the intrigues and behind-the-scenes) and what we can learn from them? That’s where this book becomes so valuable.

How I read

Unlike some other people, I don’t have any rigid schedule of reading. But I have a non-negotiable commitment of reading at least a chapter of a book a day. With this style, it is quite easy for me to finish any book within two weeks since most books don’t have more than 10 to 15 chapters.

I won’t lie to you, the commitment is quite easy to break but I’ve been able to stick to it. The style has now become a part of me. As I’ve always said, it only takes 21 days of continuous repetition for us to form a new habit.

My ears straighten whenever I read about some other people’s commendable achievements of reading four to six books within a month. That’s a record for me to break! So far, I have been quite consistent with my minimum of two books – fully read – within a month. It’s like a ritual for me, and this translates to a minimum of 24 books a year. Not too bad, is it? Don’t forget that I have to do a lot of writing/typing too!

My reading method may sound peculiar but I will still go ahead to tell you that I read anywhere. I read in the car, at the airport, in the plane, in the bathroom, and, of course, on the bed. My woman has already gotten used to picking books up from under my pillow or the bedside all the time. That’s what most men do to their wives. But at least mine are books – good books; not sports newspapers.

Head summary 

It’s of no use reading a book without getting its substance. My trick for remembering the main points is to do what I call “Head Summary.” On completion of my daily (minimum of) one-chapter reading, I close the book and try to recollect what I’ve just read. The idea is to make the points stick in my brain properly; for me to question the author in my mind; and for me to choose those ideas I want to accept or reject from the book.

So…

That’s my simple style. It doesn’t have to be the best but it works for me. As a continuous learner, I will be pleased to know your own trick. Who knows, it may work for me too.   That’s if you do read regularly!

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5 thoughts on “The Way I Read”

  1. an educative post,i like that sir,many people posses bad reading habit thinking it was a good way of reading,thanks for the enlightment.but yours is simple and define,mine is slightly difference from yours,i use SQ3R method which means Survey,create Question on what you want to read,now Read,Recite the important point or ideas you get from it then Review.that the way i normally read,books i read are religious books,proffessional books of my course and journal with my current school note with browsing on

  2. Great post and a wake-up call to continuous reading. I very much agree that all that is required is to build a reading habit and the rest would be a reading ‘ritual’ as the case maybe. Sincerely, sometimes I do selective reading, meaning once I get the main purpose of reading a book, I’m off from the book. I know that could not be the best but going by Pareto 80/20 rule, I may get a perfect ‘excuse’ for my selective reading 😉 Also, I love reading book summaries online as it sometimes make me get the ‘matter’ in a book before I get the hard-copy, this proves useful for me to keep reading amidst my work-schedule. Thanks for sharing.

  3. i do enjoy reading, it is an habit from young age. i read anything in print.But i have cultivated of read 2 to 3 books at the same time, but on difference topics, which does not give me a time frame that a finish a book, but i may sure i start a new one within a month.

  4. I remembered part of English Language that was difficult for me in those days. It was summary and honestly, it took me time to understand the principles of summary and those principles have helped me over the years on how to read and understand. One of the principles is that the first two lines of a paragraph comprises of the entire summary of it. So, i could read the first two lines with deep interest and scan through other lines with the understand of the first two lines.
    It has helped me over the years to read , enjoy reading and be analytical in my reasoning regardless of the areas of interest.

    1. That’s actually a great reading style, most especially for news items. I think journalists use what they call “Inverse Pyramid” in writing their stories. With this, you get the big picture between the first one or two paragraphs and every other thing that follows just builds on the main gists that you already have up there. Thanks for your comments.

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