Written by Chua Jia Ying
Two weeks into my semester break in November, I started going through an awfully repetitive routine each day. Eventually, being the hyperactive energizer bunny that I am, I was bored out of my brains (I cleaned the entire house, twice) and in desperate need of a change to my lifestyle.
I was a girl on a mission. I bought myself 30 new novels and decided to allocate one book for each day of the month of December, the main motive being to read all 30 books by the end of the month.
It is no secret that reading is an extremely beneficial activity for the human brain. In school, we were encouraged to read often and till now we still stumble upon articles online about the benefits of reading, but there’s a niggling doubt at the back of our minds: were they for real? Let’s find out, because here are some changes I noticed about myself after reading 30 books in the span of a month.
1. My vocabulary
When you’re reading books written by all these critically acclaimed and experienced authors, chances are, you’re going to stumble upon a lot of words you’re unconversant with because you’ve never heard of them in your life thus far.
A significant amount of my time throughout the duration of this project was spent on familiarising myself with all these new and foreign words. As I was going through each book, I kept a notebook wherever accessible so that I could jot down words that I didn’t understand and look them up after on an online dictionary with ease. Like anything remotely interesting, they stuck in my mind; and slowly, I began finding myself integrating these new words into conversations. My vocabulary bank grew immensely in a sudden spurt, an incredible feat considering English is my second language.
2. My grammar
Being a non-native speaker, grammar was something I struggled with. No amount of reference and exercise books could help the train wreck that was my grammar. There was often a gap between my spoken English and written English, and while I could pen an essay with minimal erratum, I found myself having to exhaust all my available brain cells to string together a grammatically correct sentence as I conversed.
Reading was like experiencing firsthand how a conversation sounds for native speakers. This approach to learning grammar was much more potent in improving my understanding of the concepts and usage of grammar than textbook examples. At the end of the experience, I was much more articulate in conversing in English.
3. My writing style
When it comes to writing, it’s not always about impeccable grammar and fancy word choices. It would be a lie to say that all the 30 books I read were equally as engaging and entertaining. There were a handful of books that were so painfully boring to the point that it was maddening, and another handful of books that woke me up with tear stains on my cheeks and bloodshot eyes because they were just that good. Great authors are great because of their words that emote so much realism, you don’t even realise that the contents of a book aren’t reality.
Reading all these books spanning across umpteen genres, I found myself acknowledging that ameliorations had to be made to my own writing style. While I always had decent grammar and a fairly diverse vocabulary, I noticed that I never quite found my voice in the old articles I had written. It was deadpan and monotonous: something that would not grip a reader’s attention at all, let alone be relatable to them. Comparing my previous works to those of professional authors, mine probably definitely belonged in the trash.
This one is a stretch, but hear me out: spending more time on books meant that I was spending less time on my gadgets. I had replaced hours of scrolling through my phone in the dark late at night with an 11PM bedtime and a well-exercised mind.
My eyes were so exhausted by the time I was done with a book and the plot left me yearning for more so much so that I didn’t have the time to even think about checking Instagram or Snapchat. The migraines I would have in the middle of the day resulting from spending an extended period of time in front of my laptop bothered me less and less and eventually, went away altogether.
5. Memory and concentration
In our modern-day society, our attention is always pulled in a million directions. Our lives have become so progressively fast-paced that a moment where we’re not doing something or distracted by a thought is rare. Reading requires one to completely isolate their minds so that they can focus on the story itself. Once you’re immersed in the story, everything else seemingly just melts away. I found myself to be more at peace whenever I read because my attention remained undivided towards my choice of reading material. While reading, I was simultaneously training my mind to deviate less from what I should be doing, in essence, learning how to ignore distractions. My training was fruitful because eventually, my improved focus translated into my study sessions where I am now more willing to sit down for an hour without fidgeting and yearning to do something else.
In addition to that, I observed that I was able to absorb and retain effectively the information from my study materials with relative ease, something I was unable to accomplish previously. I was intrigued by the fact that reading was capable of boosting my memory in such a way that no memory-retaining tricks and food had managed to do for the past decade. Here is where some science is involved, because it turns out that remembering an assortment of characters and their backgrounds, history, features even, as well as the plot of a book triggers a new memory to be created, which in turn forges new synapses and strengthens existing ones in our brains. These traits are natural mood stabilizers and enhance short-term memory recall. Now you know why reading is an excellent method to improve the brain’s ability to recall more information.
The beauty of time is lost in the world of modernisation. In our fast-paced society, we exhaust our attention for little, insignificant things, not realising that our lifetime is ticking by. We deem reading to be a slow activity that we simply do not have the time for, forgetting that we have all the time in the world and most importantly – the privilege to choose how to utilise it. In order to relish the joy in reading, putting away our gadgets to make way for old-school entertainment is imperative; but in exchange for that sacrifice, the knowledge and experience that you accumulate from reading will undoubtedly remain forever.
The past month has been an enjoyable experience. It takes some time to get used to isolating yourself from the digital world and to immerse yourself in that of fiction temporarily, but once you have adjusted yourself to it, you will find yourself asking for more because it is that addictive.
If you would like to challenge yourself to a reading project, here are the rules:
- Choose 8 books of your liking and a month to commence the project.
- Allocate two books for each week throughout the entire month.
- Divide the books into sections and spread them throughout the week.
- Get reading!
Note: Do not be discouraged if you find yourself unable to keep up with the reading schedule. You can always tailor your schedule and the rules to suit yourself.
Let us know if you have tried this project and share with us your experiences. In the meantime, happy reading!