Knowledge is power: I still remember the posters on the walls of elementary school homeroom class.
Little did I know just how true those posters were.
I read voraciously as a youngster and teenager, and I continue to enjoy cracking the spine of a new book, clicking to open a new ebook or hearing the narrator start reading a new audiobook.
But my reading habits have changed since I was younger. I no longer just vacuum up information and content indiscriminately.
Instead, I have taken my reading to the next level, using what I read as a way to grow in my own thinking and reflection.
I continue to work on reading consciously and making my reading into a higher-level, dynamic process rather than just consuming information.
If you also want to join me on this journey, here are the top reading habits that show you’re a high-level thinker (or working on becoming one).
1) Interdisciplinary reading and stepping out of your comfort zone
Growing up my favorite genre was science fiction. Several favorites I recall are Mike Resnick’s 1986 space opera “Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future,” and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy (“Red Mars,” “Green Mars” and “Blue Mars”).
But my foray into sci-fi isn’t where I stopped, it was only a starting point.
Since that time I’ve come to love history, classic literature, comedy, autobiographies and many non-fiction genres.
When you have a habit of reading across a variety of disciplines, it broadens your mind and opens many doors for you.
2) Taking notes and keeping a book journal
Keeping a book journal is a great way to raise your thinking level.
Track what you’re reading and what you’ll read next, writing down your thoughts and feelings as you read.
A second option is to write in the actual margins of the book you’re reading or on the ebook using digital notes.
Either way, it’s a great practice to engage in more introspection in your reading process.
Start a book journal, you won’t regret it!
3) Familiarizing yourself with the classics
There’s a reason the classics are considered classic. I can’t count how many times I approached a classic work with trepidation only to find that it changed my whole view of the world.
From Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” or the “Brothers Karamazov,” to “1984” by Orwell and “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, great literature is a privilege to read.
Then I think of timeless novels and works I’ve read by Goethe, Schiller or Hermann Hesse. I’ve never wasted an hour I spent on reading classic literature.
4) Introducing yourself to a wide range of perspectives
When reading, it is extremely helpful to imbibe a wide range of perspectives.
Reading books from many different cultures and points of view is a great way to do this, as well as reading across many different levels.
There are some young adult fiction books which are more profound than world-acclaimed bestsellers, and there are forgotten detective novels that are unparalleled masterworks in psychological realism and short but impactful descriptions.
Never judge a book by its cover and read across genres and age levels.
5) Regularly reflecting and meditating on what you’re reading
Keeping a book journal is a wonderful idea as I mentioned earlier.
Meditating and reflecting on what you were reading is also another wonderful way to raise the level of what you are taking in.
This involves reading slowly and consciously, savoring the words and allowing your imagination and mind time to form pictures and complete thoughts from what you are reading so that you can fully take it in and experience it.
6) Actively discussing and debating books and themes
Book clubs and discussing works of literature or nonfiction with friends is another great way to gain more from what you read.
Reading is only part of the activity of transforming words on a page into something real.
The interactions we have with others and the meaning of those words for us and for those who we talk to are where the words come into play in a very real and powerful way.
7) Critically evaluating and challenging what you read
Just because somebody wrote something or set it on TV or any other medium does not mean it is true.
Even official biographies or documents and having consistencies or biases in their content.
For example, maybe a book written by a former US secretary of state isn’t the most reliable account of a historical event or US policy during that era; a contrasting series of works by numerous other individuals and statesmen could add a lot to the conversation!
Learning to critically dialogue with yourself and others over what you were reading is a fundamental and crucial step in terms of reaching a higher level in your reading habits.
8) Consuming a variety of long-form content
In addition to reading books, it is very helpful to consume a variety of long-form content, from academic journals to magazine and e-zine articles.
The more different kinds of content you consume the more you are exposed to a variety of ideas and mediums across a wide range of disciplines and subject matter areas.
This broadens the scope of the content you have access to and the types of subjects and ideas that are presented to you.
9) Connecting up ideas and themes
Connecting ideas and themes among the various books and articles that you read is another excellent way to raise the level of your reading.
When you find things in common or that diverge, note them down, discuss them and reflect on them.
What trends or differences do you notice and what you were reading?
Why do you think certain themes are more common in Victorian literature, or in literature of the 1980s, or in medieval literature?
These are all interesting things to ponder.
10) Following your curiosity
There is almost no limit to what you can find out by reading and researching.
In many cases you may end up with more questions than answers, but sometimes that is the most valuable of all.
Having the right questions leads you even deeper down the rabbit hole to find out things you never imagined one day discovering in the dusty corridors of your local library.
With access to the internet, informational access has never been so unparalleled.
Following your curiosity where it leads is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of reading a broad variety of material and perspectives.
11) Reading mindfully
Earlier I mentioned the value of reading consciously and carefully.
When you give your mind time to absorb what you are reading and allow your imagination and memory time to operate, you gain much more from what you read and also come away feeling refreshed and revitalized instead of drained or overwhelmed.
This is an excellent way to read mindfully and raise the quality of what you were taking in.
12) Applying book learning to the real world
All the books in the world are still just books unless and until they hit the real world.
From a gardening how-to all the way to a sacred text or philosophical masterwork, it’s ultimately about how this book changes your life in a real way.
Maybe it’s emotional, intellectual or physical. Maybe it’s a change in the way you work or a new understanding of your career. Maybe it’s starting a new company, repairing a relationship that was in trouble or going on a trip inspired by a book you’ve read.
Whatever the book inspired you to do, apply what you’ve learned to the real world if at all possible and desirable.
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