“If I finish a book a week, I will read only a few thousand books in my lifetime, about a tenth of a percent of the contents of the greatest libraries of our time. The trick is to know which books to read.” — Carl Sagan, Cosmos

So how exactly do we step out from this conundrum of choosing a book, from these piles of books that you see in a bookshop? Well, it depends. One thing we all have to emphasize to ourselves is that reading is a voluntary task: you can forgo it for something more fun (depends on what you regard as “fun”) and/or adventurous. So we have to understand that it’s not something we have to do, but it’s something that we want to do. Thus, we have to summon all our inner values to choose a book, for what we read are what we are. You can, most of the time, infer a lot about a person from the books that he/she reads. I’ll write some tips and tricks on choosing a book, and you can construct your own what’s and why’s having these concepts as groundwork.

Understand that you cannot read them all.

Before anything else, we have to comprehend reality. As Sagan’s quote, it’s not possible for us to read every book. So we have to make our peace with that. There are certain phenomena we encounter in life which we long for them to last to eternity, but they simply don’t. So when you go to a bookshop or a library, before anything else, make a mental note that you will find what’s best for you, and do not get carried away. What most of us do is that we don’t have a clear-cut intention when we visit the bookstore, and we end up buying something that we don’t adore, not to mention the price that we pay for it. The bookshop I visit has five floors with so many magnificent books. In the beginning, I was bewildered by the vastness. However, with time, I learned the tricks to tame the wandering mind inside the bookstore. The first trick is coming to the realization that I’ll handle this one step at a time.

Find your “Why”.

There’s a popular book by Simon Sinek, called “Start with Why” which attracted a lot of attention when it was published (and it continues to do the same today). We’ve been living our busy lives for a long time, and we have attuned to a mundane, ordinary and unchanging lifestyle that we don’t care to ponder on little details happening inside it. Sinek emphasizes the importance of why we do what we do, which we pay a little attention, and he heightens the fact that it is the most important to a successful life.

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Source: https://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-strategy/online-value-proposition/start-with-why-creating-a-value-proposition-with-the-golden-circle-model/

Choose your Genre: but you don’t have to.

I know many avid readers. I know people who have completed the “50 books per a year” challenge. Every one of them has a preference of genre: some like non-fiction (like me) and biographies, and some are into novels. But their preferences don’t refrain them from reading other genres. Each genre has its own pros and cons: for example, a person who adores novels might not get to know about life-experiences of the great people who lived in days of yore. On the other hand, nerdy people like me might not get to feel the aesthetics of a classic or the thrill of fighting with a fiery chasm of a dragon.

Discern the time you have.

When it comes to time, there’s a line in Lord of the Rings, which for anyone us, is so familiar.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Tolkien could not have emphasized the importance of time any more than he did in his books. Every one of us endures a busy schedule, and it’s very hard to find a timeslot to carry out investments for the future. In my case, I get up at 5 AM, leave home at 6, and take a 1.5-hour bus ride to work. I leave work at 6–6:30 PM (for now), and the bus ride stretches up to a 2-hour one, and it’s a tiring ride, amidst the intense traffic. We all work hard, but we need to find time to work for ourselves.

All life is an experiment: the more you make, the better. — Ralph Emerson

Discern your spending limits.

We’re not born with a tree-of-money beside us: we all work hard to gain what we want. So it’s our responsibility to spend with limits. When it comes to buying books, there are some tricks you can follow so that you make the most out of what you spend. I’ll list them here, but these are my experiences: you might have your own. You can always add them to this list.

  • Find out where the Bargain Stores are. In bargain stores, they sell already-used books for a lower price. Again, it doesn’t suit you if you need fresh books with fresh images: but if you’re more involved with the content (which I recommend you to be), bargain bookstores are heaven for you.
  • Understand that when an author writes a book if the author is a recognized, and proficient one, it’s likely that a lot of research had gone in prior to writing a book. Therefore, the author deserves credit and a small price for his/her costs. Therefore, get rid of the mentality that the books cost too much. “Everything comes with a price. Everything. Some things just cost more than others.”

Reading requires both effort and will.

I know some people who are afraid of books: they regard books as if they’re capable of “great demotions”. And many others regard books as useless waste. Many of these thoughts arise because they don’t comprehend the fact that the human mind cannot grasp every little detail of a book. But that’s how books are intended to be! You have to make notes and re-read. It’s just how it works.

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I use these stickers to keep track of important points in the book.

Whatever you buy, do not come out emptyhanded.

It’s infinite times better to come out from the bookstore with a book in your hand rather than coming out without one. I have pointed out some tips and advice on picking up the right books and you may have other points to add to the list. But DO NOT come out emptyhanded. A book which is half-read is better than a book which is not read at all. But always try to attach a meaning to the books you buy. Buy books that you can heed from and put the heeded concepts to practice. It might not be possible in the short-term, but in the long-term, it can benefit you immensely.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
Mother Theresa

Software Engineer @ CodeGen International, CSE Graduate @ University of Moratuwa

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