Monday, December 31, 2018

Reading in 2018

This is the year in which I made one key change to my reading habit which was influenced by a post from Tim Urban titled ‘The Tail End’. The gist is the following. I manage to read at roughly the rate of a book a month, and I turned forty recently. So even if I live to be ninety, I’m going to read around 600 books more. Millions of books have been written and catalogued and there are thousands more to come in my lifetime, but the sobering conclusion is that I only have time left to read 600. That insight destroyed an enduring superstition that most booklovers seem to carry, which is to persist with a book once you have started it. This year I abandoned books ruthlessly but here are the ones I managed to complete.

Three remarkable books by three different authors hailing from different parts of the globe.
Though I started this piece with how limited my overall reading time is I still reread two classics for two reasons. First, the key to reading productivity is to read what you like and there’s no better test of likability than to know that you’ve read it once and liked it. Second, there’s always more value left to derive from the truly great classics. I read Slaughterhouse and 2001 nearly a decade after I first read them and it was as refreshing to read them now as I remember feeling back then. One thing to note was how little I remembered of the details in each of these books that I professed to like, and I now realise, the primary aim from good fiction is to be affected by it, and not to remember details.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Thoughts on Learning

Some random notes to myself on "Learning"
  • The brain is unlike a vat, or a hard disk, that has finite capacity. A closer metaphor is the Banyan tree, with each of the prop roots representing your grasp of the basics. Those props have to take root to allow you to learn more. In short, the more you learn, the more you can learn.
  • On a related note, effective learning happens when you weave a web of related knowledge. Islands of disconnected pieces of knowledge are less effective and more prone to fading. 
  • When you learn something, test yourself out to increase retention. If you can’t explain a concept in simple terms, you probably haven’t learnt it adequately yet. 
  • Bursts of learning are great (like completing a course, for instance) but don’t ignore the compounded effect of learning a mere 1% more, iteratively and consistently.
  • Success is almost directly attributable to how much you can learn.
P.S: This is not original. Almost all of the above are paraphrased from scattered sources. I just haven't had the discipline to save the links.