In 1887, Srinivasa Ramanujan was born into poverty in a small village in Southern India. At 16, a friend gave him an old math textbook containing 6,000 theorems. The book stimulated his mind. He became obsessed with understanding and inventing new solutions.
Ramanujan’s work caught the attention of Cambridge University. After moving there, Ramanujan made ground-breaking discoveries in number theory and infinite series.
A single book helped a poor boy in India become one of history’s greatest mathematicians. You have millions of books at your fingertips. What will you do with this gift?
In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time—none, zero.
Importance of reading
Here are brilliant benefits:
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
How to start today
The average American watches television 3 hours per day, but only reads 4 books per year.
Change this habit by putting a book beside your remote as a cue to read. Before watching a show, read for 30 minutes.
Alternatively, read for 30 minutes before bed.
Read what you love until you love to read.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve read 1–2 books per week.
Here are my all-time favorites:
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker
The Master and His Emissary by Iain McGilchrist
From Third World to First: The Singapore Story by Lee Kuan Yew
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson
When you read, you can absorb the entire life of another person in a few days.
Musacchio S. (2016, April 8). Ramanujan: The man who knew infinity. CNRS News. https://news.cnrs.fr/articles/ramanujan-the-man-who-knew-infinity
Importance of reading
Peng P et al. (2018). A meta-analysis on the relation between reading and working memory. Psychol Bull. 144(1): 48–76.
Mol SE, Bus AG. (2011). To read or not to read: a meta-analysis of print exposure from infancy to early adulthood. Psychol Bull. 137(2): 267–296.
A meta-analysis of 99 studies with 7,669 students found that reading improved academic achievement, spelling skills, reading comprehension, and oral language skills (effect sizes = 0.30–0.58)
Graham S et al. (2018). Reading for writing: A meta-analysis of the impact of reading interventions on writing. Review Educational Research. 88(2): 243–284.
Cunningham AE, Stanovich KE. (1993). Where does knowledge come from? Specific associations between print exposure and information acquisition. Journal Educational Psychology. 85(2): 211–229.
Cunningham AE, Stanovich KE. (2001). What reading does for the mind. Journal Direct Instruction. 1(2): 137–149.
A review of reading studies found that reading increased vocabulary, general knowledge, spelling, and verbal fluency
Popular magazines have roughly 3X as many opportunities for new word learning vs. television or adult conversation
A study of 5th graders found that a child at the 90th percentile read almost 2 million words per year outside of school, which was 200X more words than a child at the 10th percentile
How to start today
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020, June 25). American time use survey summary [Press release]. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm
Perrin A. (2019, September 25). One-in-five Americans now listen to audiobooks. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/25/one-in-five-americans-now-listen-to-audiobooks/
Nakanishi T. (2015). A meta-analysis of extensive reading research. TESOL Quarterly. 49(1): 6–37.
A meta-analysis of 34 studies with 3,942 participants found that “extensive reading” increased reading (effect size = 0.46–0.71)
Extensive reading is providing students with large quantities of easily comprehensible books
It is different from traditional intensive reading in terms of quantity, difficulty level, freedom for students to choose books, and motivation to continue reading
Bus AG, van IJzendoorn MH, Pellegrini AD. (1995). Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review Educational Research. 65(1): 1–21.
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