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Not All Books Are Meant to Be Read. Here’s How to Pick the Right Ones

Not All Books Are Meant to Be Read. Here’s How to Pick the Right Ones

As a culture, we have become reverential of books and the written word. This is a great thing. A great book can challenge us, change the way we think, or tell us fantastic stories that stick with us. This is why I write, why I chose to study literature at university.

I believe prose is the greatest story telling form we have, and poetry the greatest method of self expression.

Yet, are reverence of books is such that many of us see it as a faultless medium, that a bad book will always be superior to a great film or great video game…just because…
Well like with everything, there are a lot of bad books out there, books certainly not worth your valuable time. Especially as books, being a long form medium, can take many hours to read, far more than, a film or documentary.

It has been estimated that on average people read about 4 books a year [1], with the more voracious readers, going through about 12. [2] Both of these numbers are surprisingly small. We may only read a few hundred books in our life times. Perhaps the reason for this is that people are just too busy to spend time on books. Our lives are consumed by work and responsibilities, that it can sometimes be difficult to put the necessary time in to truly enjoy a book.

Life is too short to spend reading bad books

Spending hours of your life on books you don’t enjoy is ultimately doing yourself a disservice and wasting valuable time that you could be spending in other pursuits, or simply reading a better book.

Now, there are countless articles online suggesting good books to read, this isn’t going to be one of those. Nor is this article isn’t going to be a list of bad books, I am way too unqualified and not nearly sufficiently well read to give that advice. Books rely on personal taste, which is inherently subjective. There will be books others love that you will hate, and there will be books you hate that others will love. Both views are right and both views are wrong, such is the way with taste.

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What we need then is a list of potential categories, a checklist that people should consider to help work out what book you are likely to enjoy or find interesting, and what books might only waste your time.

How to tell if a book is for you

Generally we tend to buy the best sellers, after all, if millions of people are reading and buying the same book, then they can’t be wrong surely?
Well, often when a book is a best seller it means that its marketing budget has meant it has attracted a larger readership, it is not necessarily a sign of quality, as it only shows a book as been brought, not enjoyed.

Although there are countless books in the world, covering an infinite amount of subjects. So, before you decide on buying a book, you should consider why you want to read it, and what kind of book you want to read.

For example:

Are you looking for a book that might challenge the way you think? Encourage a mental paradigm shift? Then perhaps a book on philosophy is something you’d enjoy.

Are you looking to be entertained? Then perhaps check out a thriller, or even a piece of great literature.

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Do you want to know more about the life of a successful or interesting section. Then look into biographies and autobiographies.

Are you looking to expand you knowledge? Then an interesting piece of non fiction such as history is something you’d be interested in.

Once you have narrowed down and have better ascertained what kind of book you are looking for, then here is a five step guide for finding the perfect book for you.

Five things to check to find the perfect book

Pre existing interest

Let’s imagine you just walked into a bookshop, you know you are going to buy something, but you don’t know what yet.
Firstly, consider what you like already, perhaps there is some great show on and you want to read the books its based on, or read more about the subject.

For the purposes of this, lets say you really like the series Game of Thrones, but you’ve already read the books and really enjoyed them. So you go to the fiction section. If you hadn’t you’d simply buy the books they are based on.

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Author

You find the author George RR Martin, the writer of the original Game of Thrones novels, and go through his works. It makes sense that if you enjoyed one book by an author, there is a good chance you’d enjoy another.

But on this bookshelf, you’ve read all the books by him.

Subject

You stop to think what you like about Game of Thrones. For you, its the medieval setting, and political intrigue. Not so much fantasy, so you head towards the historical fiction setting.

Not knowing what books are worth reading, you decide to call a friend.

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Recommendation

Your friend recommends a few titles, but you remember one time they recommended a movie once which you hated, so probably your tastes are too different. Instead you go online and search for books like Game of Thrones.

You come across a novel about the English Wars of the Roses, the conflict which loosely inspired the story of Game of Thrones. It seems interesting, but you need more.

Reviews

You search online for the book and notice that all the reviews for it are really positive. Some of the things said about the book seem interesting to you. So you decide to buy it and once you start reading, you know it’s a book you will enjoy.

There are so many bad books with good premises, so its always a good idea to check out reviews. Of course, some reviews you will disagree with, but if the majority of the reviews of the book are positive then its a good indication that the book is worth reading.

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Reference

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Arthur Peirce

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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