I’m a voracious reader. I try to finish at least one book a week. People often ask me how I fit it in my schedule. My answer is always, because I love to read. It’s not that I’m not busy. I just discovered that you would always find time doing the things you love in spite of a full calendar.
My secret is that I read five books all at the same time. What? You may think that reading five books induces infoglut (information gluttony). It does, if you don’t practice gathering just enough of what your mind can absorb. Knowledge is treasure but practice is the key, so practicing it until it becomes a habit is essential. Practice also makes it permanent. The more you do it, the more you can increase the material you can take in. Then you will become a wide reader.
Wide readers are people who read an assortment of books that may or may not be in their area of familiarity. It exposes them to different ideas, genres, and various types of material. It also increases their vocabulary, word recognition, and knowledge base. Reading from multiple subjects gives an air of variety that can break our old pattern of thinking. It opens us up to new ideas, even those that are contrary to what we believe to be true.
Being a wide reader is a discipline I recommend. I acquired this habit by accident though. Once, we went to a book fair sale that sold some book titles at P800 to P1,000 for only P150. There was even a store selling all their books at P100. We ended up buying a ton of books and we justified our purchase because of the cheap prices. I needed a pushcart to bring everything we bought to our car. When we got home, I was convicted of over-spending. I realized that the books I bought were good enough for a lifetime of reading, if I will read them from cover to cover.
Again, to justify my actions, I made a commitment to read as many books as I can within that month. That’s when I started flipping through a chapter or two from the books we purchased. I read five different books and it just so happens that the books I chose were from different subjects. I had fun doing it so I continued reading in this manner the next day, and the day after that. I ended up finishing ten books that month to console my conscience for over-spending. I became a wide reader ever since.
Whenever I prepare a reading set, my categories most likely include books about marketing, theology, a famous person’s biography, a hot interest topic, business, relationships, leadership, and the Bible. It may look confusing to read five different books, but it’s actually easier to process it because the ideas you pick up are different from each other. To use a metaphor, it’s like having five boxes in your head. You place one book in each box, therefore separating the ideas you get from each other. Every book becomes a standalone that is compartmentalized in your brain. Even if you have five topics and ideas, processing it is much easier because it’s isolated.
This method of reading also increases your retention. It’s easier to remember and digest a book when you read it chapter by chapter everyday rather than in one sitting. You can also get bored reading one book for a long period of time.
Here’s another tip for greater retention, “teach what you learn!” As the old saying goes, “The mother of all learning is repetition.” Teaching or sharing what you read makes you repeat the material to yourself.
Get a queue from listening to hit-songs. You accidentally memorize a song that is often played on your favorite radio station. You don’t realize, but you’ve already memorized it until you sang the chorus. You can sing along because it has been repeated over and over again. Then you can’t get it out of your head as you suffer from a “last song syndrome.”
Even ancient cultures used this method for retention. Did you know that songs or oral traditions were used in ancient times to pass on the culture, beliefs, precepts, and traditions of a people to the next generation? Even Old Testament authors used this method to record the Bible. The words were never forgotten because the songs were repeated over and over again. We learn by repeating something for a period of time. This applies from menial tasks to significant career advancement.
Finally, wide readers create an impression of being an intellectual giant during a discourse. Your peers won’t know that you are just sharing from the assortment of books you are currently reading.
There you have it. Be a wide reader through practice and then make it a habit. You should also teach what you learn to others for maximum retention. So for everyone who wonders how I can finish reading a book so fast, my secret is now out in the open. And it’s not speed-reading.