Friday, May 6, 2016

My Rules for Reading: There are None!

Francis Bacon: One of the most creative readers ever.
I suppose I am about to give some bad advice.  So what. Who am I to argue with the internet?  You see, I sense a new breed of digital gurus, you know the Ted Talks/Google visionaries with seemingly benevolent agendas, at least on the surface. It's just that they have a passive aggressive/condescending way of hashing out advice with phrases like "10 things you don't know", "here's what you should do to be like me because I am suckcessful and you're not." You know what I mean.

Recently the Open Culture Website posted "7 Tips for Reading More in a Year" from creativity prophet Austin Kleon who, unbeknownst to me, unlocked the secrets of creativity artists have hidden from the empty headed masses for centuries.  He read 70 books a year.  That's awesome DUDE!   His advice is practical: less time on phone, budget your book buying, always carry a book, stop reading a book if you don't like, read hour of non-fiction (on the commute), read in bed, review the books and share them.  Very Nice.

Francis Bacon on reading: "Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly."

Yes! I would encourage such an anarchic approach to reading.  Reading books from cover to cover is for the birds. 

I once heard an anecdote about Stanley Kubrick.  His assistants said he would be in his office all day reading novels. He would typically read a pages and move on to the next one. Kubrick kept going going until something piqued his interest.  That's not a bad approach. To quote Will Hunting read "whatever blows your hair back."

As I get older, I have many books laying around. Maybe poetry, short fiction, novels, a biography, comic book, a monograph, reference books, anthologies - ephemera and classics stand side by side as equals.  

Do I read any of them cover to cover?  Sometimes. Skimming is underrated, a valuable skill. It's not about the quantity of books one reads, it's what you get out of them.  Like Indiana Jones said, "It's not the years, its the mileage."

Mash it all together!  Read Faulkner by day, Emily Bronte by evening, Stephen King by night - or do it backwards. Whatever works.  Sample a bit of everything and see what you like.  Don't go by the official canon, make up your own!

Be undisciplined.  

The internet's full of really cool people telling you what to do. Don't listen to them, just do what feels right. Read wherever or whenever you feel like it! You're in good company!