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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.

Reference

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Arthur Peirce

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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