Self-Improvement The Surprising Power of Reading Fiction: 9 Ways it Make Us Happier and More Creative

“There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.” ― Doris Lessing

One of the most inspiring perks we’re lucky enough to have at Buffer is a free Kindle for each teammate (and her family!) and as many free Kindle books as you like, no questions asked.

What’s interesting—and maybe a bit counter-intuitive—is that reading fiction can provide many of those same self-improvement benefits, even while exploring other worlds through stories that exist only in the mind.

In fact, the practice of using books, poetry and other written words as a form of therapy has helped humans for centuries. Fiction is a uniquely powerful way to understand others, tap into creativity and exercise your brain.

The next time you feel even a tiny bit guilty for picking up a work of fiction instead of a self-help book, consider these 9 benefits of reading fiction.

1. Empathy: Imagining creates understanding

To put yourself in the shoes of others and grow your capacity for empathy, you can hardly do better than reading fiction.  Multiple studies have shown that imagining stories helps activate the regions of your brain responsible for better understanding others and seeing the world from a new perspective.

When the psychologist Raymond Mar analyzed 86 fMRI studies, he saw substantial overlap in the brain networks used to understand stories and the networks used to navigate interactions with other individuals.

“…In particular, interactions in which we’re trying to figure out the thoughts and feelings of others. Scientists call this capacity of the brain to construct a map of other people’s intentions ‘theory of mind.’ Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage this capacity, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.”

ann patchett quote

That’s because when we read about a situation or feeling, it’s very nearly as if we’re feeling it ourselves. As Fast Company reports:

Two researchers from Washington University in St. Louis scanned the brains of fiction readers and discovered that their test subjects created intense, graphic mental simulations of the sights, sounds, movements, and tastes they encountered in the narrative. In essence, their brains reacted as if they were actually living the events they were reading about.

2. Disengagement: Reading is most effective for stress

Your brain can’t operate at maximum capacity 24/7—far from it. We all need periods of disengagement to rest our cognitive capabilities and get back to peak functionality.

Tony Schwartz talks about this as one of the most overlooked elements of our lives: Even the fastest racing car can’t win the race with at least one or two great pit stops. The same holds true for ourselves. If we don’t have “pit-stops” built into our days, there is now chance we can race at a high performance.

And reading fiction is among the very best ways to get that disengaged rest. The New Yorker reports that:

Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.

Research at the University of Sussex shows that reading is the most effective way to overcome stress, beating out other methods like listening to music or taking a walk.

Within 6 minutes of silent reading, participants’ heart rates slowed and tension in their muscles eased up to 68%. Psychologists believe reading works so well because the mind’s concentration creates a distraction that eases the body’s stress.

reading and stress

3. Sleep: Regular readers sleep better

In fact, the kind of relaxed disengagement that reading creates can become the perfect environment for helping you sleep.

Creating a sleep ritual is a great way to build up a consistent sleep pattern. One of the key things is to have the last activity completely disengage you from the tasks of the rest of your day.

Buffer’s CEO, Joel, has a ritual in the evening of going for a short walk and, upon returning, going straight to bed and reading a fiction book. He reports that it helps him disengage from the work he’s done in the day and get the sleep he needs to wake up refreshed and ready for the next day.

Serial optimizer Tim Ferriss also believes in the power of reading before bed—fiction only:

“Do not read non-fiction prior to bed, which encourages projection into the future and preoccupation/planning. Read fiction that engages the imagination and demands present-state attention. Recommendations for compulsive non-fiction readers includeMotherless Brooklyn and Stranger in a Strange Land.”

4. Improved relationships: Books are a ‘reality simulator’

Life is complicated. Oftentimes, interpersonal relationships and challenges don’t have the simple resolutions we might like. How can we become more accepting of this reality? By using fiction to explore ideas of change, complex emotions and the unknown.

Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto,proposed to the New York Times that reading produces a kind of reality simulation that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.”

Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

fiction for relationships

Writer Eileen Gunn suggests that reading science fiction, in particular, helps us accept change more readily:

“What science fiction does, especially in those works that deal with the future, is help people understand that things change and that you can live through it. Change is all around us. Probably things change faster now than they did four or five hundred years ago, particularly in some parts of the world.”

5. Memory: Readers have less mental decline in later life

We know that hearing a story is a great way to remember information for the long-term.

Now there’s also evidence that readers experience slower memory declined later in life compared to non-readers. In particular, later-in-life readers have a 32 percent lower rate of mental decline compared to their peers.

In addition to slower memory decline, those who read more have been found to show less characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2001 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

6. Inclusivity: Stories open your mind

Can reading Harry Potter make us more inclusive, tolerant and open-minded? One study says yes. (A butterbeer toast for everyone!)

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, tested whether the novels ofHarry Potter could be used as a tool for improving attitudes toward stigmatized groups.

After 3 experiments in which students read passages of the books about discrimination, the students showed changed attitudes about everything from immigrants to gay students.

Mic reports that “the researchers credited the books with improving readers’ ability to assume the perspective of marginalized groups. They also claimed that young children, with the help of a teacher, were able to understand that Harry’s frequent support of “mudbloods” was an allegory towards bigotry in real-life society.”

7. Vocabulary: Fiction readers build more language

We all want the kind of vocabulary that can help us express ourselves and connect with others.

Fiction can help you get there. A 2013 Emory University compared the brains of people after they read fiction (specifically, Robert Harris’ Pompeii over nine nights) to the brains of people who didn’t read.

The brains of the readers showed more activity in certain areas than those who didn’t read—especially the left temporal cortex, the part of the brain typically associated with understanding language.

The website testyourvocab.com analyzed millions of its test-takers to discover the somewhat expected conclusion that reading more builds a bigger vocabulary. What was less expected was how much of a difference the type of reading made: Fiction readers were significantly more likely to have a larger vocabulary:

vocabulary size of readers

The study noted: “That fiction reading would increase vocabulary size more than just non-fiction was one of our hypotheses — it makes sense, after all, considering that fiction tends to use a greater variety of words than non-fiction does. However, we hadn’t expected its effect to be this prominent.”

8. Creativity: Fictions allows for uncertainty (where creativity thrives!)

In the movies, we often long for a happy ending. Have you noticed that fiction can be much more ambiguous?

That’s exactly what makes it the perfect environment for creativity. A study published inCreativity Research Journal asked students to read either a short fictional story or a non-fiction essay and then measured their emotional need for certainty and stability.

Researchers discovered that the fiction readers had less need for “cognitive closure” than those who read non-fiction, and added:

“These findings suggest that reading fictional literature could lead to better procedures of processing information generally, including those of creativity.”

9. Pleasure: Reading makes you happier

All the above factors are great. But the very biggest reason I try to read every single day? I love it. It makes me happy, and I’m not alone—a survey of 1,500 adult readers in the UK found that 76% of them said reading improves their life and helps to make them feel good.

Other findings of the survey are that those who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel that the things they do in life are worthwhile.

It’s fascinating to me to think about how much has changed in American life and media during the years in the chart below, published by Pew. Somehow reading for pleasure has been able to hang in there throughout—even with the advent of the Internet, smart phones and so many more attention-zapping inventions.

This article is published in Buffer.com.
Web link: https://open.buffer.com/reading-fiction/

8 Reasons Why Reading is So Important

Why Reading is So Important?

Everyone knows that reading is important, but have you ever asked yourself why that is so? In this post, I will list out 8 reasons why reading is important. I hope you can really find out the reason why reading is so important for you, so you can get a brand new desire to explore the world of reading.

 

1. Expose Yourself to New Things

Through reading, you expose yourself to new things, new information, new ways to solve a problem, and new ways to achieve one thing. Who knows – you might find your new hobbies within it. Who knows – you might actually explore one thing you really like and it may end up becoming your career and success in the future. Exploration begins from reading and understanding.

 

2. Self Improvement

Reading does help you form a better you, doesn’t it?  Through reading, you begin understand the world more. Through reading, you begin to have a greater understanding on a topic that interest you; for example: how to build self confidence, how to make plan better before taking action, how to memorize things better and more. All of these self improvements start from the reading; through reading, you create a structured path towards a better understanding and better actions to take in the future.

3. Improve Understanding

The more you read, the more you understand one thing: the A to Z of a thing. Let me give an example here: reading allows you learn more about crocodiles and their habits. That you need to be aware of places it usually lurks for, the purpose of staying away from being harmed or bitten. Or perhaps you can try by real life experience, in approaching the crocodile, to see what happen. It can also help you find out the truth of something, right? Reading also increases the understanding of the rules of life, in order for you to adapt, adopt and accommodate into the society better. To play well in a game, you first need to understand the rules well.

 

4. Preparation to Action

Before you take action on anything, where should you seek for help and guidance? Reading is an essential way which can help you out. In today’s world, getting reviews and feedback from other people can make a big impact on your next decision, and the pros and cons of each choice. Read about how to cook a meal; how to play chess; which place is nice for the holiday family trip; read the menu before ordering food, read the manual before using a new gadget. These all can help you become more prepared before you really get into it.

Read > Learn > Do > Achieve

Reading is a starting step of many things, which build a more solid stairs for you to climb up achieving something big out there.

 

5. Gain Experience from Other People

When you are reading, you are actually gaining the knowledge and experience of someone. It can hasten your success towards a goal, as you don’t need to repeat the same mistake while focusing on the right path in achieving one thing. It’s like a mountain of gems for you to discover in books, which contain people’s successes, failures and advice. Life is too short for you to keep repeating the mistakes that had been done by other people in the past, in order for you to reach the results that someone might already reached. There are more than four thousand billionaires and 12 million millionaires today. To become one of them, the first thing is to learn and get to know their past, what they did in the past that makes them where they are today. Reading is a great path to get to know them, and learn from these great people.

The art of reading is in great part that of acquiring a better understanding of life from one’s encounter with it in a book.  | André Maurois

 

6. Tools of Communicating

Communication is the most important tool which can be transmitted through reading. As you communicate through reading, you understand more, and thus you can communicate better with people. As with a person that knows nothing, he hasn’t had anything to share, and he probably doesn’t even understand what people are sharing. Through reading, you build a more solid foundation for communication. It is one of the most important tools we use every day to connect with each other. Whereas if you don’t read, you can’t even connect with the world and what people are talking about out there, including understanding what this article is all about. Reading connects you with the world.

 

7. Connecting Your Brain

When reading, you’re in full silence because reading connects directly to your brain. In silence, you seek for more; in silence, your brain is clear and focuses. Thus, you learn and grow, and therefore you feel and see from the point of view of the author about everything in life. Hence you shape a better self.

Because silence exists with total abandon, it is fearless. Because silence is fearless, it holds the power that can break through any barrier. | On Silence

8. Boost Imagination and Creativity

Reading exposes you to a world of imagination, showing you nothing is impossible in this world. By reading, you are exploring a different angle to see a thing you’ve known, on how different action leads to different results. Books are beyond imagination. It’s like a huge spider web, where you keep linking to more and more to things you knew, and things you just learn, structuring  new solutions and answers.

This article is published in Inspiration Boost. 
Web link: http://www.inspirationboost.com/8-reasons-why-reading-is-so-important

glasses-on-book.jpg

How to Read a Book a Week

It was the late 1980s and I was sitting in a university lecture hall listening to Abbie Hoffman, an author and an activist, ranting about my generation’s indifference. Next to me was Gloria Emerson, a brilliant and eccentric journalist and author. We were discussing Hoffman’s talk when I told her how much I loved being in the thick of all these ideas.

“It’s such a unique opportunity to be here,” I said to her, “to be part of these conversations with smart, thoughtful people.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” she responded. “Anybody can be part of these conversations. Just read some books!”

Ironically, as a history major, I was reading three to four books a week. And Gloria was right: through these books, I had a seat at the table. I was part of a cutting-edge conversation that was going on between great minds.

Flash forward too many years, and I am now back in that conversation. Since I startedmy podcast, I read as many nonfiction books as I can — at least one a week. It’s a requirement, first, to decide if I want to speak with an author and share their ideas, and, second, to make the conversation valuable if I do decide to have them on as a guest. (This may seem obvious, but you might be surprised at how many times I have been interviewed by people who have not read any of my books.)

I am richer for all this reading. I know more and take more risks as I apply what I’m learning. I also feel more confident in my own views and actions, as well as empathize and understand others better, since I have more context.

But reading is time-consuming. I was already over-busy before I started reading several books a week. And I am a slow reader.

I tried the traditional shortcuts, but none of them worked. Reading the PR materials is insufficient for understanding a book, and executive summaries are awful. I have never read an executive summary that came close to conveying what’s interesting and useful about an author’s work.

So how can we read a book or more a week? It turns out that what works best for me is following some advice I got while I was still in college. Michael Jimenez, a professor of Latin American history, was one of the best professors I ever had. One day I told him that I was struggling with the reading load.

“I hope you’re not reading these books word-for-word like they’re fiction books,” he told me.

I told him I was.

He looked around the room and the other students sheepishly nodded alongside me. So he pulled a number of us together and taught us how to read nonfiction.

“Listen,” he said, “you don’t need to read these books. You need to understand them.”

He explained more: Fiction demands that we enter a world of the author’s making, inspiring a more immersive experience. Nonfiction — at least the type we tend to read to support our work as business leaders — makes a point and asks us to learn from it.

As readers, we gain momentum with each book we read. The more we read, the more quickly we can understand their perspectives and where they fit into a conversation they’re having with other authors, and the more informed we are when we use their advice or incorporate their perspectives into our work.

In other words, the more books we read, the faster it goes.

Here’s Professor Jimenez’s advice on reading nonfiction, with a few additions of my own:

  1. Start with the author. Who wrote the book? Read his or her bio. If you can find a brief interview or article online about the author, read that quickly. It will give you a sense of the person’s bias and perspective.
  2. Read the title, the subtitle, the front flap, and the table of contents. What’s the big-picture argument of the book? How is that argument laid out? By now, you could probably describe the main idea of the book to someone who hasn’t read it.
  3. Read the introduction and the conclusion. The author makes their case in the opening and closing argument of the book. Read these two sections word for word but quickly. You already have a general sense of where the author is going, and these sections will tell you how they plan to get there (introduction) and what they hope you got out of it (conclusion).
  4. Read/skim each chapter. Read the title and anywhere from the first few paragraphs to the first few pages of the chapter to figure out how the author is using this chapter and where it fits into the argument of the book. Then skim through the headings and subheadings (if there are any) to get a feel for the flow. Read the first sentence of each paragraph and the last. If you get the meaning, move on. Otherwise, you may want to read the whole paragraph. Once you’ve gotten an understanding of the chapter, you may be able to skim over whole pages, as the argument may be clear to you and also may repeat itself.
  5. End with the table of contents again. Once you’ve finished the book, return to the table of contents and summarize it in your head. Take a few moments to relive the flow of the book, the arguments you considered, the stories you remember, the journey you went on with the author.

Throughout my reading, I take notes in preparation for my conversation with the author. Where do I agree? Where do I disagree? What questions are still simmering? What might I want to discuss with others or think more about in the coming days? These notes are a good idea for every reader to take.

Here’s the interesting thing about reading a book like this: while it’s much faster than a traditional reading (it takes me 1–2 hours to read a book, instead of the usual 6–8), you will retain far more.

That’s because you’re not simply reading the material; you’re actively engaging with it. Your mind is alert the whole time and you’re able to see the book more holistically. You’re not just taking it in; you’re figuring it out.

When I started my podcast, it was with the intention of giving people spectator seats to conversations I was having with smart, thoughtful people about their passions, learnings, and perspectives. What took me a little by surprise is how much we all already have access to those people simply by reading them. Yes, I am enriched by these conversations. But 90% of that is because I have read what the author has written.

We can all read books and listen to podcast conversations with smart, thoughtful people. We can all have access to great ideas and apply them to our lives.

In other words, with a little effort, we can all go to back to college.

This article is published in Harvard Business Review.
Web link: https://hbr.org/2016/02/how-to-read-a-book-a-week
feb16-08-84209167-850x478.jpg

Helpless Voyage

A group of 15 writing enthusiasts gathered in the basement of the main Liberty Bookstore on the afternoon of Saturday, April 02. Everyone was there for the Writers’ Guild Workshop: an attempt to promote love of reflective reading and writing among a cross-section of writing enthusiasts in Karachi. It was a combined effort by Liberty Books and AKU to enhance the learning and writing process for students and professionals. The participants were encouraged to then submit their own brief narratives consistent with the ‘Ordinary Encounters –Extraordinary Narratives’ theme of the workshop. Here’s an ordinary encounter shared by one of our workshop participant “Anum Fatima” 

I felt something wriggling on my left foot and I sleepily tried to throw it away, forgetting that I had been precariously perched up on a tree when I had fallen asleep. Before I could realize, I was in the air, and then on the ground with a thud. My head was spinning and throbbing from the fall. I tried to get up but couldn’t move. I used up all my energy but could not even lift a finger. It was all dark and I was too exhausted. I didn’t realize when I drifted off to sleep again.

I woke up to the sweet chirping of birds and intense heat of the day. It took me a while to remember what had happened. I still could not move. No sound would escape my lips, however hard I might try. I could feel a few insects on my hands and legs. It wasn’t a good feeling. I could not throw them off me. I could feel their numbers increasing. They were now on my neck, under my shirt, moving toward my face. The bites and the little feet of the armies and armies of unknown insects were unbearable. I wanted to shout, scream, shake myself violently but I was helpless. I could feel the ugly sensation all over myself. They moved around my eyes, inside my ears, precariously close to my nose. I wished to God for mercy. I wanted to cry out loud but all I could manage was tears.

My entire body felt raw when it started raining. For the first few minutes, it was like my body was on fire. All the wounds started burning, but then there was a soothing sensation and the insects began moving away, probably to find shelter.

By the time it stopped raining, the sky had already darkened. It had been an unbelievably long day and I was dreading the night. But it was a peaceful night, and that was when I realized that I was famished, and thirsty. Amongst thirst, hunger, pain, fear, helplessness and hopelessness, I didn’t realize when I drifted off to a dreamless sleep.

I woke up when it was still dark, and I knew from my previous day’s experience what daylight had in store for me. I couldn’t go back to sleep. Around dawn, I heard my name being called. It was my team, I knew, but I couldn’t respond. Their voices were already fading. Helplessness brought tears to my eyes again.

The morning bloomed, and another band of insects attacked. There are no words to describe what I went through. Being a wildlife biologist, I had spent a big part of my life in jungles and these small insects never bothered me. I had never imagined being left at the mercy of these tiny creatures.

By judging the sun’s glare on the ultimate top, I knew it was around mid-day when I felt a horrible stinging sensation in my left toe. It was more painful than all of the previous days’ pain put together. I don’t know what bit me but instinct and experience told me that it was poisonous. I could feel the pain throbbing and moving through my veins. I was in such pain that, for the first time in life, I wished for death. But death is infamous for being merciless. Each cell in my body screamed with pain,and soon , I was only vaguely aware of the little crawling creatures. I was still breathing when the sun decided to set, and the pain was nowhere even close to subsiding. I don’t know for how long I lived , but before dawn. liberation finally came and I was relieved of all the  the pain, to be set free…once and for all.

-Anum Fatima.

 

12901545_1715613538706290_4675206874676323445_o.jpg

 

 

Open Your Eyes

A group of 15 writing enthusiasts gathered in the basement of the main Liberty Bookstore on the afternoon of Saturday, April 02. Everyone was there for the Writers’ Guild Workshop: an attempt to promote love of reflective reading and writing amongst a cross-section of writing enthusiasts in Karachi. It was a combined effort by Liberty Books and AKU to enhance the learning and writing process for students and professionals. The participants were encouraged to then submit their own brief narratives consistent with the ‘Ordinary Encounters –Extraordinary Narratives’ theme of the workshop. Here’s an ordinary encounter shared by one of our workshop participant “Zoya Ziad12916876_1715613642039613_4737477902976648578_o.jpg”.

‘Bablu, tumhara sabun slow hai kya?’

I wouldn’t be exaggerating the sentiment if I admit how offended I stood after watching this Lifebuoy

advertisement. The way the children gathered together to laugh at the little boy in mockery of his

mother’s teachings, which was to wash hands for one whole minute, was abysmal. Frankly, the advice

was completely relevant given that I’m a medical student and we take washing hands very seriously.

Indeed we have seven proper steps for it which does require a minute of scrub and rinse.

Just to clear it up, I am not antagonizing the product nor challenging its effectiveness as a super-speedy

cleanser. I’m simply negating the narcissistic image these advertisements provoke in our sensitive

youngsters who have already internalized every corruptive and vile personality trait portrayed so

appealingly on media.

Whenever I flip through local cable television, alongside very amusingly sought entertainment I find such

obnoxious, eye-rolling, criminally cheesy and so outrageously depicted stories that I loose myself in the

wonderment of our nation’s mentality.

The worst kind of lie is the one you tell yourself.

Rummaging through local channels, I find myself lost midst layers and layers of tainted, superficially

remodeled garbage, struggling to exit through a relevant conduit. The news channels compete to deliver

the nastiest affair, the spiciest debate, casting aspersions on anyone publically hot in current matters.

The news is bursting with chaotic, traumatizing happenings that are dramatized so as to impact the

audience more acutely. All this cripples and transforms any optimistically sane person into a cynical

manic-depressive freak. The relevant, positive news rarely makes it to the screen and I’m left

speculating why that is.

I flick through more channels, coming across hopelessly blank performances on love, marriage and

complicated relationships and it makes me laugh and cry at the same time out of the idiocy of it.

This era is a combination of fools pretending to be intellectuals and intellectuals pretending to be fools.

Everyone is pretending because the reality of them is not powerful enough to break through the

imposed stereotypes that are absolved around them. Originality is overrated and rarely found. You can

talk to someone and easily classify them into a category. That’s what we’ve become, categorized

individuals who’re told how to dress, how to communicate and what to pursue. Life has become

predictable and this predictability is what plagues today’s benign mediocrity.

Unless it comes to terrorism. Then hooliya! Life’s full of nasty surprises.

Sighing exasperatingly, I flick through more channels…women being ridiculously theatrical, women

tragically crying, women objectified for advertisement, men posing for horrendous fashion line, men

roaring with guns blazing, men evicted of barbaric crimes, women dancing in obscene apparel and then

politicians screaming blasphemy!

I realize later that criticizing and pondering over television dramatics could really exhaust one out.

I try to discuss my pessimistic yet rightfully-deduced media analyses with my sisters and am surprised to

find that they possess a completely different mindset of everything I so fervently opposed.

A massive spiraling tornado is fashioned out of nothing when one fact is met with two passionate

interpretations. I realize how that’s the basic root in majority of arguments, fights and wars. Evaluating

and labeling any fact, thing or person in accordance with your own mentality and belief. I read a

beautifully powerful quotation by Matt Kahn, ‘Despite how open, peaceful, and loving you attempt to be,

people can only meet you, as deeply as they’ve met themselves.’

Television drama justifies as adequate entertainment because we tell ourselves it portrays life

realistically with just enough touch of fantasy to make us swoon. What I ardently search for in these

depictions is not just logic, but the driving force of those logics. I want to see why relationships fall apart,

why people are the way they are. The simple label of the good people/bad people is not enough. I want

the good people excised to reveal layers of their character that has the propensity to arch towards bad. I

want the bad people dissected enough to expose the ounce of good buried within them. I want people

dissected on-screen to show us what truly drives human soul. I want to see something that electrocutes

the audience to open their eyes.

I want the disclosure of secrets that define the human soul, but unfortunately our media only shows the

practical outcome of it.

Misunderstanding and miscommunication are at the core of obliterated relationships. And still people

are oblivious to what goes wrong.

Egotistical psyche and unreal expectations give roots to flawed relationships. And still people wonder

why they can’t find the One.

Immature stubborn parents raise confused, bullying children. And still people punish children and never

coach parental behavior.

The main problem is not that there are too many problems. No. We are humans. There are going to be

problems. The main problem is denial of the fact that there is a problem in us and we individually need

to deal with it.

If we lift off the curtain of denial, only then will we be able to address our problems realistically and then

solve them.

What problems am I even referring too? How did I even get here from television dramatics? I don’t

know. I’ll leave it for you to reflect upon.

We bathe in sin, wearing attires of gold. We’re deaf to all the screams as we become accustomed to

blood-stained dreams. Our chests are hollow with a niche where a heart used to be.

Is this darkness in you too?

Are you ready to fight it?

– Zoya Ziad

Motherhood tribulations

A group of 15 writing enthusiasts gathered in the basement of the main Liberty Bookstore on the afternoon of Saturday, April 02. Everyone was there for the Writers’ Guild Workshop: an attempt to promote love of reflective reading and writing amongst a cross-section of writing enthusiasts in Karachi. It was a combined effort by Liberty Books and AKU to enhance the learning and writing process for students and professionals. The participants were encouraged to then submit their own brief narratives consistent with the ‘Ordinary Encounters –Extraordinary Narratives’ theme of the workshop. Here’s an ordinary encounter shared by one of our workshop participant “Khudeja Hakimjee”.

Go Beta go!’ A mother screams form the sidelines, while another is praying anxiously, her eyes not leaving her son’s progress across the pool lane.

Another race ends, and it leaves me wondering if competitive swimming is the right thing for me to indulge my son in.

What is the point of a race anyways, I have often wondered. Get from one point to the other in the fastest possible manner. What lesson does that teach him? Does it tell him that he has to race from one end to the other, and that there’s no time for a leisurely dip in the pool? Well if that’s the case, that is all I have been teaching him as I race him from school to Quran lessons, to religious studies class, to swimming and then back home for lessons, dinner and bed.

For my son’s little eyes, the world must be passing by in a blur. For him, all activities are clustered together, back to back without giving him a chance just to be. I often reminisce of my childhood to him. For me, it was just a bus ride from school to home, and after that I was free to go play on the apartment terrace with a bunch of other children, all of whom had similar routines. Research supports this laissez faire unstructured time as something that is needed for the children to develop their imagination. I remember using a wooden plank to create a seesaw, and using pebbles and scraps to initiate a treasure hunt. I don’t see my son doing that; poor thing does not have the time.

My parents like to blame me; not my husband, but me, for this hectic rush I have created in his life and mine.  I justify my role in this by stating that I am a responsible mother, I want my son to be well-rounded. But even as I make these claims to defend myself, I know deep down, that I want my son to win, I want him to come first, and if he doesn’t, I am sorely disappointed – not in him, but in myself. I go through all the motions of consoling him, and placating him by saying that it is okay, he did work hard, and that’s all that matters. In real life, hard work does not matter as an end, it matters as a means to an end – winning.

I remember this dialogue from a popular Urdu serial, the daughter tells her mother that she finds the changing attitudes of people, as they have grown richer, to be hypocritical. Her mother laughingly responds that people strive to be richer only to have others treat them better for it.

While I want my son to win, I do not want him to win without working hard. At the same time, I also don’t want him to be in a race for all things that matter in life. The tribulations are:  how do I teach him to relax, when all I am teaching him is to run as fast as possible?

– Khudeja Hakimjee

12891786_1715613188706325_2600691689179863856_o.jpg

The Reading Habits of Ultra-Successful People

Want to know one habit ultra-successful people have in common?

They read. A lot.

In fact, when Warren Buffett was once asked about the key to success, he pointed to a stack of nearby books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

Buffett takes this habit to the extreme  —  he read between 600 and 1000 pages per day when he was beginning his investing career, and still devotes about 80 percent of each day to reading.

And he’s not alone. Here are just a few top business leaders and entrepreneurs who make reading a major part of their daily lifestyle:

– Bill Gates reads about 50 books per year, which breaks down to 1 per week
– Mark Cuban reads more than 3 hours every day
–  Elon Musk is an avid reader and when asked how he learned to build rockets, he said “I read books.”
– Mark Zuckerberg resolved to read a book every 2 weeks throughout 2015
– Oprah Winfrey selects one of her favorite books every month for her Book Club members to read and discuss
And these aren’t just isolated examples. A study of 1,200 wealthy people found that they all have reading as a pastime in common.

But successful people don’t just read anything. They are highly selective about what they read, opting to be educated over being entertained. They believe that books are a gateway to learning and knowledge.

In fact, there is a notable difference between the reading habits of the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy. According to Tom Corley, author of Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, rich people (annual income of $160,000 or more and a liquid net worth of $3.2 million-plus) read for self-improvement, education, and success. Whereas poor people (annual income of $35,000 or less and a liquid net worth of $5,000 or less) read primarily to be entertained.

Successful people tend to choose educational books and publications over novels, tabloids, and magazines. And in particular they obsess over biographies and autobiographies of other successful people for guidance and inspiration.

There are many examples of successful people dropping out of school or foregoing a formal education, but it is clear that they never stop learning. And reading is a key part of their success.

If reading as a pathway to success isn’t enough to get you motivated, consider these health benefits of reading: Reading has been shown to help prevent stress, depression, and dementia, while enhancing confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction.

Whether reading is already a way of life for you, or you’re just getting started, here are some book lists to consider:

  • 9 of Warren Buffett’s Favorite Books
    17 of Bill Gates’ Favorite Books
    Books Extremely Successful People Read (From President Obama to Bill Clinton to Sheryl Sandberg)
    20 books that the world’s most successful people read and recommend
    25 Must-Read Books for Success
    And here are a few lists of 2016 must-reads:
  • 10 Must-Read Business Books for 2016 (Inc.)
    16 Must-Read Business Books for 2016 (Forbes)
    9 Business Books to Read in 2016 (Stanford)

    Happy (and successful) reading!

    This article is published in Huffington Post.

    Web link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-merle/the-reading-habits-of-ult_b_9688130.html
    billgates-books.jpg