The Enjoyment of Reading


A handy set of principles from Austin Kleon (see also here).

I read quite a lot, both fiction and non-fiction. Some of the fiction comes through book club suggestions and this sometimes violates the reading recommendation 4 above. There have been a number of such books that I wouldn’t have finished unless there was a deadline and a physical meeting.

Interestingly some books I wouldn’t say I enjoyed exactly but nevertheless found demanding and were ultimately quite worthwhile. It’s also fascinating to hear others’ viewpoints and to challenge and discuss them. I guess this is social reading.

Regarding personal reading, I’ve left many books after the first chapter or that point where they seem to be fizzling out. Oddly I tend to feel a bit guilty or dissatisfied about this and recently came across this:

“I believe that the phrase ‘obligatory reading’ is a contradiction in terms; reading should not be obligatory… If a book bores you, leave it; don’t read it because it is famous, don’t read it because it is modern, don’t read a book because it is old…. If a book is tedious to you, don’t read it; that book was not written for you.

Reading should be a form of happiness, so I would advise all possible readers of my last will and testament—which I do not plan to write—I would advise them to read a lot, and not to get intimidated by writer’s reputations, to continue to look for personal happiness, personal enjoyment. It is the only way to read.” – Jorge Luis Borges

I think there’s another mode, that of intelligently skimming books, especially non-fiction. In particular many business related books often have little truly original content and what there is tends to be splattered around, often subsumed in the obligatory sample or illustrative stories. You can read this as a common complaint in Amazon reviews.

Paradoxically of course if someone wrote a really concise book and cut out all the superfluous filler, they’d then get lambasted as being too expensive for so little content!

So I think it might be a useful skill to eke out the gems as quickly as possible and then just move on. I presume this is what professional reviewers attempt to do all the time, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

Regarding keeping stacks of books (that you may never read), I’ve written about this before (see here and image below)…



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