Cultivating a reading habit Lockdown series (Part-1)

Cultivating a reading habit Lockdown series (Part-1)
By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 7/19/2020 5:07:59 AM IST

There is no wrong or right way to read; each one of us has our own. With the lockdown restrictions, many such things we might normally do at home without thinking, have taken on new patterns and significance, reading should be one too. 

One of the greatest joys of reading is that we are able to become another person whom we’ve never met, possibly admire. When we read, we read the thoughts of other people and gain a new perspective. We must seize every opportunity to constantly educate ourselves so that we can challenge preconceived notions, and the best way to do that is to read the most we can and be sincerely interested. Reading stimulates our brain to be able to focus on tasks better. That is what we train our mind to do the more we read, because the mind is forced to focus again and again from page to page on new information. Researchers as far back as the 1960s have discussed what’s known as “the Matthew effect,” a term that refers to biblical verse Matthew 13:12: “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” The Matthew effect sums up the idea that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer — a concept that applies as much to vocabulary as it does to money. Students, who read books regularly, beginning at a young age, gradually develop large vocabularies.

Things have altered for many who are staying home or working from home and time has become more elastic than ever. We can read at previously unavailable moments of the day, like right after breakfast when we’d normally be dashing to the desk or mid-afternoon. Naturally, being able to is not the same as actually doing so and for many, the early days of lockdown and furlough of all this time and space was initially close to a reading paralysis. Surely the opportunity for uninterrupted reading was what we had always wanted? But the sudden expanse of time felt fraught, uncertain, and unfamiliar.

It’s important to first have a deep willingness to read and grow in the process. If we approach reading as a fun, enjoyable and transformational activity that ultimately impacts our life, we become intentional about the books we read by picking out those areas in our life that need improvement. 

Cultivating habits take time and patience even when you’re the one driving the change, but this all happened so fast and the reading brain hadn’t caught up and is overshadowed by more fundamental concerns. But no matter what is going on in the world, a good book can provide insight, comfort or a welcome escape. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues and many of us are seeking entertainment while staying home, reading offers some respite. Now may be the time to finally dig into that epic novel you’ve had on your shelf forever, revisit an old favourite or try something out of your reading comfort zone. With schools closed due to COVID-19 and families stuck at home, books are more important than ever to stimulate minds and inspire hope. In fact, some research posted on BBC has found that reading has surged in many households since lockdown restrictions have been put in place.

Everyone has different ways of coping with the events of the outbreak; these books will allow you to get however close or far from what’s going on outside as you want. From stories of pandemics, societies and triumphant narratives about reinventing yourself to pure page-turning escapism, here are six books you can add to your reading list:

They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell
They came like Swallows is a beautiful and bittersweet novella about an Illinois family that suffer through the 1918 flu epidemic. Each chapter makes the reader empathize with the narrator and the book touches upon the loss a child feels when he loses his mother and the emptiness one feels when a spouse dies. Maxwell’s writing always feels effortless; each word and every sentence is simple, yet the effect is a luxury of acute observation and depth of feeling. Reading it is like walking into the warmth of beautifully loved parlor, full of polished furniture, a ticking clock, thick rugs, and a mother, hemming diapers, whose smile could heal all your wounds. He has written this tight, compact novel in three parts, so that we get to read the POV from the two sons and the father.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B Peterson
Jordan Peterson may be the only clinical psychologist who believes that psychology is subordinate to philosophy and the one thing that psychology and philosophy both genuflect before is story. Story, or myth, predates religion and is, in fact, as old as language itself. With passion, rage and love, Peterson has masterfully crafted a cross-disciplinary exploration into the essence of the human condition: What it means to tread on the precipice of order and chaos, of destruction and creation. What it means to transcend our primitive animalistic inclinations and the responsibilities we possess as beings of higher consciousness. What it means to live congruent to your own individual accord, and how to integrate it into a society built to tear you down.
Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis
Time’s Arrow is a masterpiece in experimental fiction. Amis literally and methodically writes the story backwards as his character experiences time going backwards. It is a book that’s well conceived, highly inventive, lyrically narrated and powerful in its dire themes ultimately relating to one man’s poignant personal relationship to the Holocaust. Amis deploys with great skill the narrative device of telling one man’s story backward in a disciplined linear story arc from death to birth. We start at a point in the narrator’s current life and systematically point the arrow of time in reverse so that each line of narrative, including dialogue, goes straight into flight to an immediately prior point of time until the narrator is three years old. Amis genuinely is a major literary novelist and his writing is reliably spectacular as he crafts lines which are pithy, ironic, tragicomic and compelling.

The light years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
The Light Years is the first of series of five novels (The Cazalet Chronicles), detailing the experiences of an upper middle class family in Britain during WWII and after. There are many threads and storylines woven into this soap opera-like tale set in the golden years leading up to WWII and all are interesting and well-written. The time period is captured perfectly and the reader is able to visualize all the settings vividly described in the book. There is grittiness to this book which undercuts the occasional cosiness. Elizabeth Jane Howard is a great and subtle creator of character and this book is remarkable for the emotional background it gives to the couple of years before WWII; an amazing feat of memory and a satisfying piece of fiction. 
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
The book is exactly what it says it is: a book of delights. Many are grateful to Ross Gay for embarking upon a project to record one delight every day for a year and then finding a way to share those delights with all of us. It’s comprised of essays of varying lengths written in the span of one year about things Ross Gay found joyous, especially the small things, like the way a candy melts in your mouth, or the birds singing outside on a sunny day. It’s a perfect book to read when everything else seems gloomy right now and is a wonderful reminder that while things may look bleak, there’s still some good in the world, still some things to be happy about during the day, even if it’s just your cat curled up in your lap purring away, or your dog continually excited that they get to spend the day with you.
The Rain in Portugal: Poems by Billy Collins
The Rain in Portugal is a sumptuous collection of poems from Billy Collins, a lifelong New Yorker (from an Irish/Canadian family) who was Poet Laureate for the US from 2001 to 2003. Collins breaks the stereotype of the stiff and stern poet. His writing is clear and he has a knack for blending the infinite with the common. In this book, he presents the bigger picture of things and his poems are on wandering, observing, and experiencing brief moments of profundity. His topics range from far-away places, to cats and dogs, from life and death to art and rock ‘n roll stars and from love to feelings that are hard to put in words. There are elements of darkness and political awareness as well and his writing reads easy and smooth, taking the reader along effortlessly.
Goals need to be backed up by accountability in order to help put a check and encourage us at times like this when we don’t feel motivated. A reading culture needs to be encouraged among young Nagas and if we do this, we would be hungry to grow beyond our comfort zones. (Tsüngrochetla Walling)

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