The Art of Reading

I love this piece: “Warren Buffett’s Best Kept Secret to Success: The Art of Reading, Remembering, and Retaining More Books.” It is reassuring to know that reading is still a great way to learn.

I learned a secret yesterday when I talked to my wife about the article and how I have become obsessed with books. She obviously already knew that. She told me that when her dad asked her why she wanted to married me even though I was totally useless when it came to fixing things around the house. Her response was that because I love reading and that later on when we have kids I could teach the kids to read. I asked her how did she know I loved to read and she replied, “Well, you spent most of your time at the bookstore when you weren’t working.” Came to think of it, the first time we met were at Barnes & Noble. So reading played a role in landed me a wonderful wife. How could I stop doing something with such a big benefit?

She also said that so far I haven’t done anything to help the kids to read. First of all, they’re two and five. Dao is a bright kid so I don’t think he would have a problem with reading. However, I don’t think reading could be forced. It has to come within yourself. I was not into reading when I was a kid. In fact, I hated it. My cousins kept telling me to read. One of them even signed me up for a local library card. I used to checked out book, read a few pages and fell asleep. Maybe my English was limited and I couldn’t understand the story.

In high school, one of my favorite classes was literature. I loved the teacher’s lecture, but I hated the reading. Fortunately I had a Vietnamese friend whose English was much better than me took the same class. Each night I would call her up so she could tell me what the book was about. I think the title of the book we had to read was The Red Badge of Courage. I am glad she was willing to do it and didn’t think I was being lazy.

When I was in college, I stopped buying books after my freshman year because I read none of it. I am still not sure how I graduated. My required courses such as religion, philosophy, English and biology ranged from grade B to C. Needless to see, my GPA wasn’t that good.

The love of reading came to me quite late. Blogging plays a part of it. I wanted to read books so I could write reviews. When I got into jazz, I read because I wanted to learn about the music and the players. My reading habit is determined by the things I was into at the time. For a period of time, all I read was books on Flash then on web design. When I was passionate about Miles Davis, I read every book I could get my hands on about him. Typography is both fascinating and challenging for me. There is so much to learn, but now I have read as much as I could and things have started to make sense.

One of the benefits of working at a University is the access to all the libraries in the area. I could get a loan from American or George Washington. I have picked up the habit of carrying a book with me whenever I go. If I have a spare moment like waiting for the kids to sleep in the car or waiting for a car service, I could pull out a book to read.

An ideal vacation for me would be to just relax and read. Because I have a lot of books that I want read and not much time, I try to read whenever I can. People probably think that I am just trying to look intelligent, but I am not. I just wanted to read. Because I want to learn something when I read, I hardly read fictional books. Not that I don’t get anything out of fictional books. I always enjoyed the writing style. I just want to read something that I could take away from it.

I have also been interested in the art of rereading. I return to Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style every now and then. I could learn something every time I read those books. I hope that my kids would be interested in reading as well. It’s probably better if they start young. I was too late into the game, but better late than never.