The way we read has changed over centuries!

A literal paradox of the ‘Modern Reader’

With modern press and internet comes more books and blogs, leaving readers spoilt for choice! In a quest for quantity over quality, the art of reading has moved from meticulous to speed.

X1: I’ve read 90 books in the past year!

X2: Really, that’s interesting! I’ve read a similar amount as well!

Me *scratching my head*: Do you’ll read-read or speed-read? Because considering how busy you two are, 3–4 days for a book is pretty fast!

X1 and X2: Speed-read, isn’t that the case with everyone these days?

These are excerpts from a conversation, a few days ago, on reading! What got me thinking is that reading is okay, but reading 90 books in a year is something, and they are avid readers!

It seemed they were reading for the heck of it. Got me thinking, was reading like this back when there were no books?

I remember when Leonardo Da Vinci, the symbolic painter, passed on, he left over 6,000 pages of observations on military inventions, anatomical studies, and notes from the books he read.

During his time, books were hard to find. They were around if only it were necessary for civilization. Thoughtful stories were spread by word-of-mouth, published works of literature were deep and profound, and scientific discoveries were published, only if better than previous discoveries.

These circumstances read to what is commonly called the ‘Renaissance reader’ — a reader who was engaged and appreciative — focused more on learning and takeaways! Leonardo read each book meticulously and captured notes exceptionally well!

With the advent of the modern press and the internet, books (digital and paperback) and blogs are widely and cheaply available to the mass — we’ve been spoilt for choice!

A friend of mine had over 2,500 books on various subjects in her library. In contrast, when Leonardo left Milan to return to Florence, he had 100.

Even on the internet, ebooks (PDF/ePub) can be easily found, 20 MM+ people have Amazon’s Kindle, and there are over 500 MM+ blogs to choose!

With millions of new titles in the form of content or new titles being published every year, the ‘noise’ is only increasing!

In a race to decide between classics or latest bestsellers, we lose ourselves in deciding what to read and what not to! Leonardo could read works of experts because mass-market was not available to him like it is for us!

Bill Gates has been a passionate reader all his life | Image:goodreads.com

I look up to Bill Gates! He is the closest amalgam to what a reader today should ideally be like: pick what you want to read, but read it meticulously! Speed-reading was never for me!

Similarly with writing, the author should focus more on creating depth and impact, than writing a 1,000-word piece that conveys nothing! You have to fall in love with what you write for it be impactful, if it’s not, don’t publish it!

The problem is, on the internet today, there is a lot of talk about how to read fast, not how to read thoroughly. Don’t understand a word, google it! Still can’t connect it to a sentence, try breaking it down. There are so many ways!

That’s where the fun in reading lies! When quantity (100+ books a year) is more important than quality, that essence is lost! Plus, it does not sound ‘cool’ when you say you read one book in the last year!

Plus, fear of missing out (FOMO!). People get worried if they don’t read all the books.

Bill Gates, in an interview with Time, mentioned that he never gives up reading a book he does not like.

The biggest problem I have is that I refuse to stop reading a book in the middle, even if I don’t like it. And the more I dislike a book, the more time I take to write margin notes. That means I sometimes spend more time reading a book that I can’t stand than a book that I love.

Gates follows the ideologies of his hero, Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci took notes of the books he reads; Gates scribbles the margins of his books to remember what he read — different styles, level of engagement is the same!

Maybe I am wrong with my observations, but Bill Gates inspires me to read better than read more!

What’s your reading style? Share below!

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