On Reading

When I’m not very sure about how to start writing a piece, I often look up the meaning of the word I’m writing about. I rarely get such a laugh out of it though. So here goes.. when you type in the word “reading” in Google, this is what you get:

Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning (reading comprehension). It is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas.

Who knew huh? Of course it makes complete sense which is the point of a definition really but when I think of my favourite things to read and the joy that they bring me, this definition is not what comes to mind.

Let me try and explain what reading has meant to me. From the moment I read my first book, I have known the incredible power of the written word. It is not a knowledge taken for granted but one that I am reminded of every time I read something that truly moves me. They say that travelling is the best way to experience the world, and I believe that reading comes a close second. Reading opens you up to worlds outside your own, perspectives different from yours and most importantly makes you appreciate beauty.

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There was a time when I believed only fiction was worth reading. Nothing, I believed, could parallel the make believe worlds of the books that I read. But over time I have come to realize that the real world can be far more fascinating and that most of the things I loved so much about books were inspired by reality. So I decided to widen my horizons so to speak and try reality reading. The problem was that I did not know where to begin. The logical thought was to start with the news but the problem with that was, in my random browsing, most news articles seemed drab and dull and I spent more time being annoyed at the writing style than actually reading! Then, by sheer coincidence I came upon an op-ed piece by Jug Suraiya and it was brilliant! It concerned the news so it was insightful but at the same time it provided a perspective, which I found so refreshing. Pretty soon, his column along with Bachi Karkaria‘s became my regular reads. But it wasn’t enough and I didn’t really know where to look next. That is when I was introduced to the concept of a news reader that uses RSS feeds. I originally thought they were a dream come true, magic applications that would aggregate everything I wanted to read about and bring them to me in one place. I tried a few of them Google Reader, Feedly, Flipboard and soon gave them up. Something just wasn’t right. It took me a while to realize that it was the readers which were the problem. The problem was that I wasn’t curating the content right. At about this time I started my WordPress blog on and discovered the Freshly Pressed section. It was a collection of the best loved blogs posted on the site. I suddenly had access to a much wider ocean of other writers and their perspectives. Every day, there are so many good posts by so many different people that I could now read my heart’s content everyday. It took me a little more time to realize that Facebook and Twitter are not always a waste of time and if you follow the right pages and handles, you’ve got yourself a very diverse library, very unexpected articles from delightful sources (Thought Catalog is my guilty pleasure)

But the thought that kept nagging me was that I hadn’t found a satisfactory way to organize all my reading and save the ones I wanted to keep. I have been using Evernote for a long time as a sort of diary of notes to myself as well as saving things I wanted to keep but I still wanted an intermediate platform, one between web browser or link and Evernote. I found the answer in Pocket. A beautiful little app to which you can save links and once synced, can even be read offline! After reading the article in question, if I like it enough, I move it to Evernote, else delete. As an added feature, I even get a weekly email with the most popular items that are being saved on Pocket by all its users. Speaking of emails, in the absence of an RSS reader, I have signed up for emails blasts from some selected sites, which once I receive I immediately save to Pocket. Notable ones include: Brain PickingsWait But Why and Quartz. Quartz is a news site that does an amazing job of actually explaining what the news means instead of throwing out facts and figures. I love the whimsical way the daily emails are crafted. I already went out on a limb at the beginning of this year and bought a subscription to The Economist magazine and I have to say it has been entirely worth it. I’ve let my Tumblr account lie idle these days but its a great platform for interesting reads too. My Pinterest account is brand new and I can’t wait to dive into that! I’m also thinking about diving into this site called Medium, I read an article from there which was very interesting. And that pretty much sums up my non-fiction reading habits these days. The search of course will always be on for the next new thing to read. The only thing to remember is that your reading habit is your own. I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty about not reading enough of the serious things, or not knowing enough about current affairs; but ultimately you have to find your own rhythm and whatever works for you. Of course that doesn’t mean that everything will arrive on a platter, it will take some searching, trying out different things until you know what works best for you!

So whats your reading story?

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