I have been fond of reading for as long as I can remember. I can read almost whatever I can get my hands on and am a pretty fast reader. I finished “Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince” cover to cover in just about fourteen hours. Of course, I pretty much didn’t do anything that day, didn’t shower, barely ate, but yes, I did finish the book. My elder son too is a fast reader and has been known to finish a Wimpy Kid book in four hours. But I think we are exceptions rather than the norm. Most people these days are not really interested in reading and if they are, then they usually aren’t fast readers.A few days ago I received a video from a friend made by Jay Shetty on how to read a book a day. Jay Shetty as we all know is the internet’s darling, a former monk who has successfully reinvented himself as a motivational speaker, his Youtube videos hit thousands of views and go viral in a blink of an eye. When I first saw the video, I was horrified. What Mr.Shetty seemed to be saying was sacrilege to a traditionalist like me. I saw the video a few more times and thought it was not as bad as it seemed at first. The video also seemed to have reached me at the correct time since I was waiting for an inspiration for a new blog post and a critique of the video seemed to be the perfect fit.
Mr.Shetty starts off the video with pictures and quotes of famous personalities like Warren Buffet, Oprah, etc and their passion for reading. There is an emphasis on the advantages of reading. He asks the reader to first focus on the reason as to why the reader wants to read. This he says will bring clarity and purpose to reading, helping the reader to pick and chose books. He moves on to the two big mistakes which the people make while reading and drops a bomb by saying that you do not(!!) need to read a book cover to cover to cover. He gives a bizarre analogy between going to a grocery store and reading a book to drive home this point. The second mistake, according to him, is sticking to a book even if you don’t like it or are finding it so boring that reading it starts feeling like a chore.
The video then moves on to his tips as to how to read fast and smarter. He says before reading a book you should check out TED talks/Youtube video about the book/author. This he says will let you know the big idea of the author and the gist of the book. This tip seemed a little counterproductive to me, if you have seen the TED talk then you already know the key points of the book, so why would you actually pick up the book to read??especially those readers who are not interested in reading anyway?. I can understand if you come across a link and then get interested enough to pick up the book to read but to actively see the video before reading the book seems to be a little odd. Remember a lazy reader will always pick the video/movie rather than reading the book.
Mr.Shetty uses the book the “The Organized Mind” as his example, he says to go through the table of contents first and highlight the sections/chapters which catch interest and read those. At this point, he compares reading the table of content to a restaurant menu(!!) and to pick what you want to. He also recommends always reading chapter one as (he says) the author has put in a lot of effort in writing chapter one. But then hasn’t the author put in equal amount of effort in the whole book??
The next tip is about putting a finger under the words you are reading, the concept being that the faster you move the finger, the faster you will read. I smiled when I saw this part as this was the way I was taught reading by my grandfather and it is the same way I taught the boys, so a big thumbs up from me on this tip.
His next tips involve hop, skip and jump. He says in a chapter skip to the sub-headings which you find more interesting, in a paragraph read the first and the last three lines. In a sentence try and read the stronger words. So all in all pick and choose what you want to read and go through the whole book in this way. After you are done with “reading” the book this way, if you find the book still interesting you can read it cover to cover. This part of the video really made me cringe, this seemed more like skimming the book rather than “reading”. “Reading” the book this way might save you time but past experience has shown me each and every book, even the ones I haven’t finished, have taught all me something, you just have to read.
Mr.Shetty then gives a fantastic tip of writing notes at the end of each chapter with his three S’s. It might feel a bit cumbersome or might mean a break in reading, but for non-fiction books specifically, I think it is a great idea. It encapsulates what each chapter is about and helps you get more out of the book.
The final tip is what I follow myself, if a book is not holding your interest then you should drop it. There is no rule that says you should finish a book which is boring for you, in fact, continuing with such a book might be detrimental to your reading health and may even turn you away from reading!!
There is one major blunder which Mr.Shetty does in the video, which a book lover like me, will find it very difficult to forgive. While showing the index of his sample book he folds the cover of the book all the way back! Now I know people might call me pernickety for picking on this minor wrong, but you ask any book lover, respect of books ranks pretty high on their list. Folding the cover back damages the spine and in case of paperbacks, your pages might also start coming out if the binding is poor.
Most of the tips will definitely not work for fiction as they are written sequentially and you cannot randomly pick and chose the sections you want to read. For non-fiction books, for which this video is geared to, I do not think it will work for the books relating to history and biographies. With biographies, even though certain aspects of a person’s life might be most interesting, it is their journey which has made them the person they are, thus I do not see how the hop, skip, jump approach will work.
Today’s world is very visual, even the children are shown videos and animations before they are taught concepts. A video like this is very attractive to people, especially those who struggle to read. Jay Shetty is a renowned personality and whatever he says carries weight. Another reason for this video’s popularity might be the reading goals people set for themselves. At the beginning of every year as part of their new year resolutions people keep their Goodreads/personal reading goals; the number of books they will read in a particular year. I fail to understand the pressure people put on themselves by limiting the number of books to be read. Reading is a journey you take with the book, the journey can take you three hours to a month or even more. It is a source of immense personal pleasure/satisfaction. By keeping a goal as to the number of books you will read in a year, you might think you are motivating yourself to reach that target. However, the way I look at it is that quite a few people lose the pleasure of reading as opposed to finishing the book and moving closer to the goal. It gives them bragging rights as to the number of books they have read.Reading books should not be a race, there is nothing to gain if you do manage to read 24 books in a year but the goal was more important than reading the book.
Some people on reading this blog might say, you have critiqued Jay Shetty but then how do we read a book in a day. I do not have the answer to that. It depends on your own reading speed and the genre of the book picked, a thriller will take much less time than a biography. I do not have a hop, skip and jump approach to reading. I believe good reading habits are formed over a lifetime. If you want to read you have to devote time to it, you need to read every day even if it is for five minutes and all you are reading is the newspaper. One of the major distractions these days are our smartphones and Television. Try and turn off both for half an hour, sit comfortably and read. You will be amazed at how many pages you were able to read without any distractions.
It is easier to write a disclaimer beforehand than be lampooned later for your views. So let me say the views expressed in this blog are my own and I have nothing against Jay Shetty. I am sure he is a wonderful human being and some of his Youtube videos are really good.
P.S. If you did manage to read this full blog then congratulations, you read more than fifteen hundred words!!!