Reading as a lifelong practice

During my formative years, my parents took pains to ensure that I got access to a lot of books. As a baby I used to happily tear out pages from a book; the only reason my parents must have restrained themselves from taking that book away from me was the hope that one day I shall start reading the book instead of simply tearing it. Well, they were right, many torn books later, I opened a book and started reading it instead!! ’twas hand-me-down book which had been purchased on the footpath of Fort area in Churchgate. Malory Towers by Enid Blyton … Darrell Rivers and her stay at the Cornish school, it was almost magical (ala Harry Potter).

Then came the Famous Five and Secret Seven, soon followed by the detectives; Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Hercules Poirot and of course my favorite Sherlock Holmes. Every year my sister and I used to wait for vacations, because vacations meant – travel, bags of books, library subscriptions and lounging around all day reading books. Reading was a big help at various points in my life, to which I will always be grateful towards my parents.

Vocabulary

Reading and especially reading at a young age tremendously boosts your vocabulary skills. The words which a lot of people mug-up using word-lists for GRE and CAT preparations, are already familiar to you since you have read them in one book or the other. Language suddenly is not a constraint but a medium to be leveraged. Think about it, the section which a lot of people fear is the Reading Comprehension (RC), this becomes your forte because of your reading.

Learning is not a pain

Since you can read faster, there is a chance that you understand things faster as well; Ergo lesser time to study ;-). In fact who knows you might even enjoy it!! (Although I don’t guarantee this!)

General Knowledge

The amount of knowledge you pick up when reading through different books/magazines/articles is immense. Don’t believe me? Then try this simple exercise … pick-up a newspaper, any newspaper and just spend 15-20 minutes reading through any random set of articles. If you are not more informed then either you have been reading the daily funnies or the page 3 :-).

Communication

It helps you communicate better. Being well read is simply more topics to discuss :-). Ever stuck in a conversation where you have  no idea what the others are talking about? Well that’s ignorance. Read and drive away that ignorance!!

Helps in exams/vivas

Often during my engineering vivas and exams, I used to hope for questions which were outside the syllabus. Simply because the question outside the syllabus were from more or less current events. Having done a lot of other reading, this always gave me an edge over other students (who were much better at studies :-D). When it comes to dealing with the unknown, the well read person is at a distinct advantage.

The great thing about reading, is that it’s never too late. You might say, that I do not have any exams to give, but reading still comes in handy. Reading helps you be more informed about things which are interested in. Without reading, you cannot write. If you are a creative person or are involved in a creative job, then you have to read. Think of it as one more avenue of getting your inspiration. Your personal muse.

Ahh, and more thing, this is a form of entertainment which is customized for you, the book you read is your choice … if you like magic – then the Lord of the Rings, satire – then the Inscrutable Americans, sci-fi then – Isaac Asimov or the Dune series, philosophy then – The Fountainhead, medical then – Any Robin Cook, legal – then any John Grisham … I can go on. So what are you waiting for!?! If you can read through this entire post, then you might as well go to the nearest book store and pick-up any book that holds your fancy!!

Technology as a catalyst

This on the New York Times, an article about how a librarian had to change her practice skill-sets from being an archive keeper of knowledge to someone who teaches the right way to access the right data.

How many of us still read books? Flip through their pages? Very few of the new generation do this … they prefer new age media to books. If the same concepts can be taught through videos, games, et al then why bother with reading the books?

If this is the world to come (and I am not fighting against it or complaining), then the article takes an interesting take on how old age practices have adapted themselves to the new age solutions.

Work is Play!!

I have been reading Reeves and Read’s Total Engagement: Using games and virtual worlds to change the way people work and business compete, this is as part of my work (I know, rocking job :-)). The whole idea started when we decided to see how individuals change their approach of work if they see their passion in their work (and not the other way round!!). One of my passions is games. Hence the book, and to see how games can be used in work scenarios in order to change the way employees engage with their jobs.

By the first set of chapters itself, the authors had me re-affirm my faith in games completely. The authors looked at around 800 different jobs available with the US Labour Department (O*NET), and identified around 50 0r so different capacities/skills needed to function in those jobs. Each of these skills was then explained as something that we (as gamers) do whilst playing our favorite games.

So why do we pay for doing the something for which we can also get paid for? Why cannot work become play? I strongly believe it can be made into a play-space. Imagine your job as a MUD :-)

Alexander

image image image By Valerio Massimo Manfredi, this is one epic which I highly recommend to you all. I bought this trilogy set from Crosswords on the spur of the moment, the fact that I play Rise of Nations also helped pique my interest about wanting to know more on Alexander and his Companions.

More popularly known as Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king is said to have conquered most of the known world. Very few people have tried to do this and reached so far. Reading the books struck me that even back then, there were concepts such as PR, Marketing and branding. The fact that King Philip had huge heroic effigies of his son made throughout Greece ensured a faster acceptance of Alexander amongst the greeks.

The set talks about the lift, the rise and the ultimate death of Alexander and his kingdom. It tells us about how great men make great follies, and how heroes are borne out of great deeds. How leaders come to the fore and take problems head on, how expectations are managed effectively, how people believe in their leaders. There is much to learn about history, Manfredi has truly provided a masterpiece.

Atlas Shrugged and the Samajwadi Party

This Sunday’s headlines read that the Samajwadi Party has promised that they will ban English in schools and the use of computers at work. I assume, these promises are to woo the masses into thinking that banning English will somehow make us “more” Indian. Banning computers means more jobs (although I seriously doubt that).

I was shocked. Reviled even. In one instant I wanted to kill Mulayam, Mayawati and their minions. Yes, minions is the word, because they are demons; demons for Indian economy. People who learn to exploit the country for their personal benefit under the pretext of social/community good.

But this takes the cake, how can banning English and computers help the Indian nation? It can only cripple the economy ensuring that the next genre of professionals are disabled without computers and incompetent in the global market without English. And we vote for these bastards?!? The link to Atlas Shrugged in my mind was almost instantaneous. They know the underlying concept … and they are exploiting it. I hate the way politics has changed, compared to this, the US presidential elections are a treat. Wake up India!!