“Dad, that’s not how you say it,” he chuckles at my attempt at pronouncing J.K. Rowling’s dog latin.
“But it’s really hard, AH-per-CHI-cum. Shit.”
Rolling in laughter he explains, “No that’s not right, it’s, AH-par-EE-see-um .”
We’re reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and whilst I can do some pretty decent Hagrid and Dumbledore impressions—if you assume the former is from Somerset and the latter has been reduced to a generic old man,—I’m still struggling to bring Ron to life.
And I can’t pronounce, “Aparecium,” or any other multisyllabic spell.
I loved reading as a young boy and sustained many of my formative years on a diet of horror and Nordic noir.
From authors such as Stephen King and Henning Mankell, I always preferred fiction to non-fiction.
I remember spending my early teens at the local library, browsing the aisles for titles or authors to pop out and scream, “Read me.” and indiscriminately feasting on the ones that did.
Every Christmas and birthday I would get a new book to read and I could gorge on an entire crime novel in an afternoon sitting.
Which by all accounts was a good thing.
According to studies at the University of Sussex, University of Toronto Harvard and Yale University, reading books has many health benefits.
6 benefits of reading
- Reduces stress
- May add a couple of years to your life
- Improves your language skills and knowledge of the world
- Enhances empathy
- Boosts creativity and flexibility
- Can help transform you as a person
But despite all these benefits, something changed.
Because then I don’t remember reading anything at all.
My mind had been starved for over a decade, when I, back in January, set myself a goal of reading four books this year.
One for the body, one for the soul and one for the mind. And a fiction book to finish it off, that was my goal.
“I can do four books,” I thought, setting what was an unusually realistic goal for Carlos.
One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time. Carl Sagan
By March, I had finished my fourth book.
Reading is amazing.
Reading is travelling to far-away worlds or walking in someone else’s shoes for a lifetime.
Reading is being able to absorb the condensed and cumulative knowledge of an expert in any subject.
Imagine picking a subject and reading the top 3 books about it. You would know more about that subject than most other people.
My malnourished mind was ravenous and rumbling for more.
Books I’ve read in 2018
- How Not To Be a Boy by Robert Webb. It’s brilliant and you should read it right now. One of the few books where I laughed and cried my way through a Doctor Who masturbation story.
- Your Pace or Mine?: What Running Taught Me About Life, Laughter and Coming Last by Lisa Jackson. A good book for people who hate running and still want to, which isn’t me. Too sweet for me.
- Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and their 12-step program through the lens of Russell Brand. I quite like him so it resonated well with me but might not be for everyone.
- Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek. A fascinating read from one of the greatest runners of all time, interspersed with vegan recipes makes this a 2-for-1 book as far as I’m concerned.
- Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance by Christopher McDougall. Not as astonishing as his first book Born to Run. Interesting story but the idiosyncratic narrative is hard to stay with.
- Solutions For Writers by Sol Stein. Loved it. Short and declarative advice for those who want to improve their writing. Pair this with The Elements of Style and you have a beast of knowledge packed in two small packages.
- The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. Planted a small but resilient seed of, ‘Can I build a business which doesn’t need me?’. Ignores his own privileges though.
- Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior by Geoffrey Miller. Really interesting, especially the BFI-10 parts but felt a bit cynical.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This should be a must-read for everyone who wants to learn how to function in a society of people.
- The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley. Really good until the last 3rd of the book when it started talking about the ‘gay gene’ and not so much because it did, but because it referred to it in those precise ‘quotation mark’ terms.
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber. Got kids? Read it. Getting kids? Buy until question one is true. Simple, practical advice with stories along the way.
- Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. The advice at the back for improving one’s sleep alone makes this book worth it.
- The Brain: The Story of You by David Eagleman. Interesting but a bit, ‘meh.’ Didn’t find many things I didn’t already know or had read more in-depth elsewhere. Would make for a good Introduction To- book though.
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. I don’t know whether I agree with the author’s moral divisions or not, but it was very interesting and a book I would recommend to people, especially in today’s divided political climate.
- Reality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity by Carlo Rovelli. Approachable and beautiful writing about our current understanding of our universe. This should be required reading for anyone who lives in this universe.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. A brief but insightful look at racism, sexism, religion, capitalism and everything else we’ve done in the past history of humankind.
- Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan. Simple and straightforward eating advice that most of us probably already know but just “forgot” somewhere along the way. Added.
- Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. For the first time in human history, more people die from eating too mcuh than too little. Where are we going in our quest to become the gods we once worshipped? Added.
I’m now reading 2-3 books per month and spend about an hour every weekday reading.
But my goal isn’t to read as many books as I can.
Instead, I want to absorb their knowledge and have it affect my life in a positive way.
If you believe books should be kept as pristine as possible, you should probably skip the next sentence.
To keep track of thoughts and ideas I fold down the bottom corner of any pages that resonate with me so that I can return to them after I’ve finished it to take notes and annotations.
This way I can refer back to everything in one place.
Of course I’m not the only one who takes notes.
Though I might go to hell for “dog-earing” pages, the verdict is still out on that one.
In the meantime, I intend to continue reading with ravenous hunger in the next year and maybe along the way, my Ron impression will get better.
Though let’s be honest, it probably won’t.
If nothing else, maybe my laughable impressions will help inspire a lasting joy of reading for Lucien as well.
One that, unlike me, he hopefully won’t forget.