Why Keeping a Rotation of Books Could Boost Your Brain

The Urban Monk

If the last book you read to completion was a manual, or a high school book report assignment on The Invisible Man, you’re one in four Americans.

You see, 27% of adults in America have not read a book in the last year, according to the Pew Research Center.

So the thought of solving that problem by trying to read more might sound crazy…

But here’s the situation: we have now spent more time indoors than most of us ever have in our lives.

And even as that may be changing, many people have been shocked to discover that they’re not interested in returning to a life that was as bustling as it was before. Which makes now the perfect chance to experiment with stretching our reading capabilities.

There are lots of reasons why adults tend to fall off in their reading habits.

For one thing, deep love of reading isn’t instilled in everyone; depending on the way you were taught to read, you may associate it with embarrassment, disappointment, or failure.

Taking that idea one step further, if your relationship to reading hasn’t been warm, mutual, and accessible, many see reading as a punishment since their only connection to it was in the form of assignments and requirements.

A lot of adults maintain insecurities about reading comprehension, or time taken to finish a book, or titles of choice. But they’re forgetting something.

There are no rules anymore.

Your relationship with reading is your own. And if you haven’t built it yet, this may be the perfect way to start.

There are lots of reasons to read: mental stimulation, stress reduction, increased knowledge, expansion of vocabulary, memory strengthening, better focus, etc…

So let’s talk about how reading more than one book at a time can help you supercharge your drive to achieve those goals.

Exposure to Multiple Genres

Part of the struggle for non-readers, or even regular readers, is choosing a book to read.

There are millions. There are classics, mysteries, romances, historical tales, spiritual journeys, autobiographies, biographies, comedies, nonfiction tomes about birds, etc.

If you don’t have an organized, scheduled reading list, you may find yourself stuck in an overwhelming paradox of choice.

So why choose just one?

Gracefully challenging yourself to choose two or three books from two or three different genres can give you a better idea of:

  1. What you enjoy reading…
  2. What you had no idea you had an interest in…
  3. What doesn’t appeal to you at all…
  4. And where you should explore more deeply.

Balance in Your Content

Some stories are emotionally heavy. Some are factually dense. Some are light and breezy.

Reading through a sprawling epic like Shogun or Anna Karenina can be an exhausting experience if you don’t give yourself a break.

And many people give up if they feel they aren’t fully engaged in a story.

Rather than giving up…

Switch to another story. Taking time off of a complex story with intense war strategy chapters to read a story about Norse mythology may just leave you feeling refreshed and confident enough to go back to your complex story.

Plus, different genres affect your mental and emotional growth in different ways.

It can be very positive not to limit yourself to only focusing on one area!

Add More Books to the “Finished” Pile

Not every book appeals to every person.

When you don’t feel a connection to the book you’re reading, it’s easy to feel uninspired. It’s also easy to write yourself off as “a person who doesn’t enjoy reading.”

If that happens, getting back into the flow of reading can be difficult.

By keeping the rotation open, and allowing yourself to believe the very real possibility that it isn’t reading you don’t like, but just reading that book, in particular, you’ve escaped the dangerous trap lots of would-be readers fall into:

Limiting yourself by labeling yourself.

But by simply moving on to the next book in the pile, you greatly increase your chances of finishing a moving story that taught you new lessons about the world.

A Book for Every Moment

Reading an intense biography of a complicated world leader or a spiritual guide from Ram Dass requiring acute focus may be difficult in line at the DMV.

But reading a Hemingway novel with sparse prose and simple actions might go a lot easier.

Making sure you have a diverse array of books in your rotation means that you’ll have a book for every mood.

So that “I don’t feel like reading” may become “I don’t feel like reading that book… but I am in the mood for this one.”

Again, the key is to expand your reach and thus expand the space you’ve made for reading in your life.

There are many more benefits than are listed here.

But the main one should be that the world is full of things you don’t know. And it always will be.

Not everyone has to identify as a reader — some connect more easily with song, or film, or visual art.

But we all love stories. And everyone should be able to feel like they can sink as softly into a book as they can into a TV show.

And the way to do that is by giving yourself a break, trying out lots of different kinds of stories, and finding a rhythm that works for you!

If you enjoyed these thoughts and think we’ve got something in common, I have a feeling you’re going to love the Urban Monk Academy. It’s the home of every class I teach — from Qi Gong to Life Gardening to Dream Yoga and even Tantra — and for two weeks, you can try it for free.

NY Times Best Selling Author, filmmaker, and founder of whole.tv.

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