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Cultivating a Love for Books, Becoming a Better Reader, & Setting up a Capturing System

Resource: Neil Gaiman on Why We Read and What Books Do for the Human Experience
Description: Neil Gaiman on the importance of cultivating a love for reading and letting children choose their own books


We all have an obligation to read and to allow others to see us read. We should read not only in private, but also in public. Each time we’re seen reading, we do our part to popularize and normalize the sacred art of engaging the written word.

Refuse to be an elitist snob in your observations about what others choose to read. Your personal tastes in literature are neither universal nor objectively good. Read and let read. As long as others are enjoying themselves in what they read, consider this a good thing.

Books will never be replaced by other mediums because nothing else can do a better job than a book at being a book. Books are like sharks: they’re very old, they’ve been around for a long time, and they’re still around because nothing else can do what a shark does better than a shark can do what a shark does.

We have an obligation to not destroy children’s natural curiosity by forcing them to read things they’re not interested in. Many natural appetites for reading have been killed because of some adult to replaced what a child prefers to read with something the adult deemed respectable.

Fiction improves your sense of empathy towards others and it breeds the healthy kind of discontentment that inspires creativity.


“You don’t discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is the gateway drug to other books you may prefer them to read. And not everyone has the same taste as you. Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the twenty- first-century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant.”

“When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world, and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.”

“Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. And discontent is a good thing: people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different, if they’re discontented.”

“Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told.”

“I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.”

“We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. We have an obligation to use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.”

“We writers — and especially writers for children, but all writers — have an obligation to our readers: it’s the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were — to understand that truth is not in what happens but in what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all.”

“We have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader, after all, is a tale they cannot stop themselves from reading.”

“We have an obligation to understand and to acknowledge that as writers for children we are doing important work, because if we mess it up and write dull books that turn children away from reading and from books, we’ve lessened our own future and diminished theirs.”

“We all — adults and children, writers and readers — have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.”

Description: Why being a reader is essential for uncommon success and how to improve your reading habits.


Warrent Buffett, one of the riches people in the world, once said that his greatest investment was in books.

Reading is an investment in your future. It not only provides pleasure, relaxation, and entertainment, but it also makes your more creative, confident, and competent in all areas of your life.

If there’s a subject that captures your curiosity, zoom in on it even if it’s not relevant to your problems or practical goals. Creativity comes from making unconventional connections between seemingly disparate topics. Prioritizing the things you’re naturally interested in will give you an advantage in what you read. Being interested will make it much easier to find the value in it.

People often ask “how can I find more time to read?” But this is like asking “how do I find time to eat or brush my teeth?” The answer is simple, but unsexy: you make time. Reading has to become a priority. You have to get dramatic about it. You have to look at reading as a matter of life and death. Your success, health, and fulfillment are determined by your commitment to building excellent habits of learning.

Don’t borrow books. Buy them. It’s an investment. Don’t be cheap about it. Take pride in your book collection,

Build an anti-library. Your library is the collection of books you’ve read or are reading. Your anti-library is the list of books that you haven’t read, but that you wish to get to someday. Your anti-library shouldn’t be something you feel guilty about. The books in your anti-library are there to remind you that there’s more to know than what you’re already explored. They call out to you saying “don’t forget about me.” They put positive pressure on you to keep reading and to keep striving to become a better reader.

Be ruthless about the process of seeking knowledge through books.


“Whatever problem you’re struggling with is probably addressed in some book somewhere written by someone a lot smarter than you.”

“People have been moving West, leaving school, investing their savings, getting dumped or filing for divorce, starting businesses, quitting their jobs, fighting, and dying for thousands of years. This is all written down, often in the first person. Read it. Maybe you are an entrepreneur running your own business and looking for an innovative marketing approach. Maybe you want to understand power and strategy. Or you simply want to be a better person. Trust me, the answer is there in books.”

“No one says: How do you have time to eat? How do you have time to sleep or have sex? You make time. It’s the stuff of life.”

“Carry a book with you at all times. Every time you get a second, crack it open. You also need to constantly be discovering new books. As a simple rule of thumb, always ask the smart people you meet for book recommendations, as I did with Dr. Drew (and if you need more recommendations, I am your man). Don’t borrow books—build your library instead and take pride in that. It will be an investment that pays off in the long run. If you see anything that remotely interests you, just buy it. If you don’t get to read it immediately and it piles up, that’s ok. It’s part of building your “anti-library,” or the stack of unread books that will humble you and remind you just how much there is still to learn.”

“be ruthless about acquiring knowledge through books. If you see anything that remotely intrigues you–just get it. Quit books that don’t hold your interest or deliver the goods. Swarm onto topics that do, even if there is no immediate relevancy to what you’re doing. After all, creativity comes from combining old ideas into something new. Reading a variety of topics gives you more ammo than your competition.”

“If something enthralls you and you want to deeply understand it, go at it. You don’t have to slowly trudge along through a book. Think of someone like Frederick Douglass, who brought himself up out of slavery by sneaking out and teaching himself to read, or Richard Wright who forged notes from his white boss so he could check out books from the library. Books weren’t some idle pursuit or pastime for these great individuals, they were survival itself.”

Resource: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen 
Description: Initiating your capturing system


Capturing isn’t the same thing as being a pack rat. Capturing doesn’t mean “gather up a bunch of stuff and hold on to it. Capturing means “systematically collecting the stuff that commands, demands, and attracts your attention for the purpose of defining what it is, deciding what needs to be done with it, and determining how and when it needs to get done.”

When in doubt, capture it. Don’t worry about overdoing it when capturing stuff. Since you’re going to eventually come back and clarify everything you’ve captured anyway, it’ll get taken care of.

When you’re setting up your capturing system, just focus on capturing. Don’t get distracted with clarifying and organizing. Those activities require a different kind of mindset.

If you need to capture something that doesn’t fit into your physical or digital inbox, write the name of the item on a sheet of paper and use that as a placeholder for the item. This will ensure that the item will be clarified later.

If something is unimportant, go ahead and trash it. If you’re not sure or it’s a very minor thing you may want to keep, capture it. Capturing isn’t just about gathering the important stuff. Unimportant things are notorious for stressing people out and using up mental bandwidth. Even if something is unimportant, you still need to decide why it’s not going to get trashed, what needs to be done about it, and where it needs to go.


“Until you’ve captured everything that has your attention, some part of you will still not totally trust that you’re working with the whole picture of your world. “

“You can only feel good about what you’re not doing when you know everything you’re not doing. “

“t can be daunting to capture in one location, at one time, all the things that don’t belong where they are. It may even seem a little counterintuitive, because for the most part, most of that stuff was not, and is not, “that important”; that’s why it’s still lying around. It wasn’t an urgent thing when it first showed up, and probably nothing’s blown up yet because it hasn’t been dealt with. It’s the business card you put in your wallet of somebody you thought you might want to contact sometime. It’s the little piece of techno-gear in the bottom desk drawer that you’re missing a part for, or haven’t had the time to install properly. It’s the printer that you keep telling yourself you’re going to move to a better location in your office. These are the kinds of things that nag at you but that you haven’t decided either to deal with or to drop entirely from your list of open loops. But because you think there still could be something important in there, that stuff is controlling you and taking up more of your energy than it deserves. “

“The first activity is to search your physical environment for anything that doesn’t permanently belong where it is, the way it is, and put it into your in-tray. You’ll be gathering things that are incomplete, things that have some decision about potential action tied to them. They all go into “in,” so they’ll be available for later processing. “

“If you can’t physically put something in the in-tray, then write a note on a piece of letter-size plain paper to represent it. For instance, if you have a poster or other piece of artwork behind the door to your office, just write “Artwork behind door” on a letter-size piece of paper and put the paper in the in-tray. “

“If you’re like 98 percent of the people we work with individually, your initial gathering activity will collect much more than can be comfortably stacked in an in-tray. If that’s the case, just create stacks around the in-tray, and maybe even on the floor below it. Ultimately you’ll be eliminating the stacks, as you process and organize everything. In the meantime, though, make sure that there’s some obvious visual distinction between the stacks that are “in” and everything else. “

“If you’re not sure what something is or whether it’s worth keeping, go ahead and put it into “in.” You’ll be able to decide about it later, when you process the in-tray. What you don’t want to do is to let yourself get wrapped up in things piece-by-piece, trying to decide this or that. Clarifying requires a very different mind-set than capturing; it’s best to do them separately. You’ll process your stuff later anyway if it’s in “in,” and it’s easier to make those kinds of choices when you’re in that decision-making mode. The objective for the capturing process is to get everything into “in” as quickly as possible so you’re appropriately retrenched and have “drawn the battle lines.” “

“Often in the capturing process someone will run across a piece of paper or a document that causes her to say, “Oh, my God! I forgot about that! I’ve got to deal with that!” It could be a note about a call she was supposed to handle two days before, or some meeting notes that remind her of an action she was supposed to take weeks ago. She doesn’t want to put whatever it is in the huge stack of other stuff in her in-tray because she’s afraid she might lose track of it again. “

“If that happens to you, first ask yourself if it’s something that really has to be handled before you get through this initial implementation time. If so, best deal with it immediately so you get it off your mind. If not, go ahead and put it into “in.” You’re going to get all that processed and emptied soon anyway, so it won’t be lost. If you can’t deal with the action in the moment, and you still just have to have the reminder right in front of you, go ahead and create an “emergency” stack somewhere close at hand. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’ll do. Keep in mind that some potential anxiousness is going to surface as you make your stuff more conscious to you than it’s been. Create whatever supports you need.”

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