Books and reading, to me were, and still are, important enhancers of life. 2022 was the year that I started reading. Reading seriously. For real. Before that, I read a book here and there. I read a book when it came on my path, or when it was recommended by a highly valued friend. Long before that I had already cut the cord that connects the television to the wall, severing myself and my brain from the news, insulating my mind from the toxidity of the world. Television: the mother of all timesinks. Great decision. Perhaps one of the best moves of my life. The ability to control ones own time, ones opinions, ones mental collection of memes and ideas: it became instantly clear that the programming was meant for just that. Programming.
With that came the ignorance of contemporary news and newspapers, and the re-awakening of reason, and ideas. I could even lull myself into the notion that – for the first time in my life – when the static noise evaporated, the lagging ideas were real, and truly mine. Time-consuming interest in newssites, mindless link-clicking, and already thin social media interests petered out. Gone were the trips to far-away mental places where I – or my brain – did not belong. No more clickbait excursions into trauma-based entertainment. To consciously decide what to consume: it is hard work, but the rewards are priceless.
Books were already of more importance to me than to most, but in that year I took the challenge upon me to read fifty books. One book every week. Sometimes it was a reasonable thin hundred-and-twenty page book, other times I sat down with a ninehundred page paper brick.
Reading became a task. For some people the idea of tasking yourself with a fun activity seems idiotic. But for me it worked. I sat down with a book when I had some time to spare, and tried to take one with me wherever I went. Numbering and noting down the titles, I could, during the year, keep an eye on my progression.
I read everything that fancied my interest. For instance, I read about molecules, money, superstition, NLP, living on the South pole, Peru, stupidity, open-source, the black death, the holy grail, Verdun, deep ecology, transhumanism, surveillance capitalism, bullshit jobs, health, happiness, antifragility, courage, thinking, roadbiking, love, freemasonry, decision-making, technological slavery, fast food, more cycling, Hitler, decluttering, the psychology of totalitarianism, Edward Snowden, more about Peru, new age in Nazi Germany, the climate, and the history of the SST record label. I probably forgot some subjects here.
What to read
Fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, psychology, philosophy, economics, biographies, how-to-books, classics, history, mainstream, obscure, the esoteric, and the hidden: it resulted in a list with titles that looked as schizophrenic, as it looked – dare I say it? – diverse. I expected to tunnel towards a smaller and smaller section in the bookstore, but the opposite happened. By faithfully recording book recommendations that I stumbled upon in the books I read, and following up on that, I managed to keep going in ever widening circles. The effect of that echoes through in my brain, which now seems like a house where all the windows are opened (or broken. Choose your metaphor). On december 31th, I ticked off sixty-one tomes. Nice!
The idea that, by the simple act of picking up a book, retreating with it, and by opening it, your life becomes more meaningfull, is big. The reading of a book aligns with the urge to use intense focus, and to train that focus, to enlarge the brainspace, and to fill it with other ideas, solutions, predictions, inventions, principles, constructions, and silly nonsense.
There is nothing more satisfying than to walk around with a head filled with usual and unusual models of the world around you. It gives handles to situations around you – even to people – and provides you with a starting point in any given situation. Reading gives your life direction, meaning, and momentum. It is not farfetched to say that reading science, math, and philosophy for only one hour per day will place you – within some years – in the upper echelons of human success. Even when you are a late starter.
How to read
Reading a book is ridiculously easy. Even a child can do it. Just sit down, crack it open, and read. Give it your undivided attention. Turn off all external signals. Start with recognizing the first letter of the first word, go to the second letter, then the third. Form the first word, and off you go. Obedience is key. Obey the direction of the sentences. Obey the page-count. And better be obedient to the book you choose. Since you are going to spend some time together, be obedient, and pay close attention.
Books demand obedience. If they notice that you – the reader – are acting all smart and sassy, they with shut down, and stop cooperating with you. They will shut down at once, and keep themselves to themselves. Blind obedience. Follow without questioning of reasoning. Couple this with intelligent obedience. Surrender to the experiental wisdom born out of navigating and learning.
Sometimes, people have a a really hard time with obedience. You are not one of them. You just shut up and read.
Finding the right place where you are going to read is also easy. Just figure out workable environments, environments you can thrive in. When you found that ideal entourage, re-create that environment to highten your chances for success. No distractions. No male cow manure. Go for quality time. While reading, realise that you are hard at work, making the most successful version of yourself. This may sound like some high-octane Napoleon Hill type talk to you. Whatever you do, make sure you do it well, all of the time you are reading.
Read everything: classics, outre information, raw data. Read, read, read. Try books about insane conceptualizations for shits and giggles. Study science for finding some truthiness. Read for yourself. Develop that inner database with knowledge and anti-knowledge. Forget about the herd, the masses, the norm, the club-members, the joiners and the followers. Program and deprogram. Be a voracious devourer of word salads.
For some bucks you can fill your brain with the information that was carefully synthesized by an other brain. Multiply this, and you will realize the raw power this will bring. Now go to the bookstore and start to select some brains that are waiting there for your pleasure.
You don’t need to be motivated. Motivation is something for losers. You just need to be hungry, to be starving for information, ideas, concepts. It is hard work, even dangerous at times. Sometimes you have to plow through, cross an abyss or two, only to end up as the glorious winner.
Think before your speak. Read before you think.
It is a good idea to read books that are above your head, books that are smarter than you. When you surround yourself with people that have an higher IQ than you, it is just a matter of weeks before your IQ starts to rise as well. That’s how it works. Read slighty-too-difficult books, and make sure you understand them fifty-fifty. Reread them a year later. New shit will come to light, man. Your mind will find meanings in everything, that is what it is designed for. Think Rorschach, but then in ideas, knowledge and concepts.
A word of caution is in place here. Don’t read books that deal with identity politics, and be suspicious of trends. Old is usually good, a newer book should be investigated carefully, before you sink your precious time in it. Seek out books about truth and truth-finding. Write down book suggestions that fancy your interest. Store books away for later reading. Doing this brings you closer to your true inner self, your core being. Soon enough you will be so rooted and balanced, that you can forget about the Stoics, and you will start wondering why you did not start this ten years earlier.
When to stop reading
Don’t ever stop.