Read Above Your Pay-grade

“The book you don’t read won’t help.”

Jim Rohn

The first book I enjoyed that was a little above my reading ability was Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Our class read it in middle school, but I don’t remember enjoying it very much. Probably because it was assigned. Written around 1813, it’s language and flows feel thick and difficult to read unless you are familiar with that level of reading comprehension.
But a couple of years later on a family road trip down to Savannah GA, I randomly decided to give it a second read on a whim. And I loved it. It had me at the first line:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Unlike the first time I recall reading it, I understood it. I didn’t feel like I was swimming in banana pudding. Sure, I couldn’t read it as fast as something like Harry Potter. but it felt possible. So I pushed through and ended up loving it.

Reading is a toolbox of skills. There’s a lot of hidden sub-skills you hear but also explicitly taught—vocabulary, muscle movement, speed, comprehension, reason, attention, making connections and memory. The expectation (assumption, perhaps) we will pick it up ourselves, but just because you can read, doesn’t mean you want to read.

Reading is one of the most valuable habits you can cultivate in life. What you read can have a direct impact on the quality of your life. A great book is like a great life mentor—all for around ten bucks.

The key is not to completely overwhelm yourself, but to reach for just a little further than what you are currently comfortable with.

When you think about reading is taught to kids, we don’t just plop Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky into their little laps and force them to understand it. Rather, we meet them on their level. We start with the literal ABC’s. In the early stages, books are more drawings and pictures with a few words here and there. You give them The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Dragons Love Tacos. They work their way up to Green Eggs and Ham, Charolette’s Web and The Little Prince. Maybe you show them Winnie the Pooh and Matilda. Eventually, it’s The Hobbit, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and Coraline. Each book has new words, new worlds, and new challenges. Each book takes you from one level of comprehension to the next.

A lower level isn’t something that is demeaning or less than. It’s just the level they (or we) are currently at. We’re all learning here. If you don’t understand Hemingway yet, that’s okay. But know that building up the ability to comprehend his and others’ work is possible.

If Moby Dick isn’t doing it for ya. Give the Great Gatsby or The Picture of Dorian Grey a try.

If you are befuddled by most of Shakespeare’s work, don’t sweat it— so I’m I!

Find where you are at, and then reach for that next level. and then go a little bit above it after that too.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #878

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