Devouring Written Words: Healthy Reading Habitsby Helmy Sa'at
Reading is fundamental when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge. Fortunately, we will never run out of options when it comes to books. The global book market is estimated to grow from US$87.92 billion in 2020 to a staggering US$92.68 billion in 2021. This figure is expected to hit US$124.2 billion by 2025. Even more impressive is that there are already approximately 1.5 million new titles published worldwide, this year alone.
From visiting the local library to browsing the wide selection at the bookstore of our choice for a thoughtful purchase, downloading a title on the internet with a single click, or even paying it forward by gifting or lending our favourite books to a dear friend or colleague; there are a multitude of ways and motivations to get our hands on a book of interest.
One of the core considerations to keep in mind, as a global Muslim in today’s ever evolving world, is intention. When we delve deep into expanding our religious knowledge, in particular tawheed i.e. the Oneness of God, in addition to secular learning, we do not just assume faith but actively seek learning to truly comprehend and buttress our spiritual piety while expanding our minds. As exemplified through the following verse:
شَهِدَ ٱللَّهُ أَنَّهُۥ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ وَٱلْمَلَـٰٓئِكَةُ وَأُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْعِلْمِ قَآئِمًۢا بِٱلْقِسْطِ ۚ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ
God bears witness that there is no god but Him, as do the angels and those who have knowledge. He upholds justice. There is no god but Him, the Almighty, the All Wise.
[Surah Ali ‘Imran 3:18]
With such a clarity in thought as our foundation, let’s explore some healthy reading habits which we could easily implement daily within and outside the religious sphere of knowledge.
A Book Beyond its Cover
First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room, many would grumble about two main things. First, the disinterest in reading any book. Second, the lack of time. Do not be intimidated by a wordy (or lack of) title or book cover. The idiom ‘do not judge a book by its cover’ applies here, literally. Give the book a chance. And, more importantly, give yourself a chance. A nondescript book with an uninteresting title might surprise you. You might learn a thing or two.
Next, start small. You do not have to finish reading a chapter or the entire book in 24 hours. While it is good to discipline ourselves and set a goal, we need to avoid setting ourselves up for failure from the start. Instead, start with a page or two each day. You are not obliged to finish reading it if it really does not suit your taste. At least you tried. Give yourself a pat, recommend the book to someone else then pick another book for yourself.
It is just a matter of time before you stumble upon a book that would change your life.
Macro to Micro Fashion
Next, make a list of books to help you narrow down the search. This would help from feeling overwhelmed by the seemingly endless choice of titles to choose from at any given time. Start by focusing on an interest. Work your way based on this principle: macro to micro. For instance, your topic of interest might be history (macro aspect); delve a bit deeper by looking at geography (micro aspect) and, perhaps, your area of focus could very well be the history of Bali because you had visited the island before the pandemic. Extend and navigate your search easily by linking it with personal experiences.
Do Good Through Reading
Instead of checking out with your online cart brimming with books which are to be delivered or shipped in five to seven days, why not visit a used bookstore or support an online enterprise that sells donated books in support of charities or social enterprises to uplift lives of the less fortunate? What do we achieve by doing this?
We do good deeds helping a charitable cause that helps others in need. Second, we display a green spirit in support of the environment by appreciating books that are still in good condition instead of letting such books fill the landfills. Finally, we get a good bargain for such prices. This in turn provides us with the opportunity to channel our extra funds for other causes, if we choose so.
Find a quiet place, away from the television and mobile devices (unless you are reading a digital book!). Get rid of any other temptations such as heavy snacks that could potentially impede concentration. Never underestimate the importance of ambience when it comes to setting the right mood to read uninterrupted and create an enjoyable experience that bears repeating. Take note of posture. A good back support goes a long way in avoiding neck and back aches.
When you have finally crossed the finish line, do not totally disengage from the book. Talk about it, write about it and share on your social media accounts. This creates a great opportunity to make new friends online based on shared interests or books read. It might even lead to having a reading partner if joining a book club sounds too archaic for you.
There are no fixed steps to follow in order to cultivate a healthy reading habit. It is up to you to decide the best pathway for yourself and share insights with others. The choice is yours to make.