While president and chief software architect at Microsoft, Bill Gates would spend one entire week reading as many papers as he could in a secret cabin in the Pacific Northwest.
“I would literally take boxes out to a beach place and sit there for a week reading them day and night and scribbling on them to putting it entirely online,” Gates explained during Microsoft’s CEO Summit a few years back.
These, “Think Weeks” would occur about twice a year until he relieved himself of some of the executive duties that attended his early years with the massive tech company.
Not to suggest that Gates has in any way curbed his appetite for literature since. Presently, the magnate tries to read at least one book a week, saying nothing of his contributions to and consumption of academic guidance on infectious disease research.
The link between habitual reading and occupational success is scorned among the general public. We’re both aware of its credibility and resentful of the correlation’s resistance to shortcuts.
Because it isn’t enough to just read. In order to receive the maximum benefits to phonemic awareness, various visual and auditory functions, comprehension, and fluency, studies suggest a reader must make a concerted effort to engage with the substance of the text that they’re reading.
“You don’t really get old until you stop learning,” Gates said on his disciplined reading regimen. “Every book teaches me something new or helps me see things differently. For me, taking notes helps make sure that I’m really thinking hard about what’s in there.”
Gates often credits reading’s insistence on self-reflection with his early success.
Authors are always trying to convey something through their work–irrespective of genre. Sometimes this something is a tone, or a feeling, or a worldview. In every case, our brains have to set to work translating literary devices into concrete instructions.
This process can’t help but reveal things about the way we operate. That’s why everyone has a different opinion about the most profound elements of Crime and Punishment. Why some people who hated East of Eden when they read it in high school remember loving it as adults.
The commonalities of language rarely extend to interpretation, so the more we read of the experiences of others the more we understand about the things that excite our own perspective.
“Using MRI scans, researchers have confirmed that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, those networks also get stronger and more sophisticated,” Healthline reports.
“In one conducted in 2013, researchers used functional MRI scans to measure the effect of reading a novel on the brain. Study participants read the novel “Pompeii” over a period of 9 days. As tension built in the story, more and more areas of the brain lit up with activity. Brain scans showed that throughout the reading period and for days afterward, brain connectivity increased, especially in the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain that responds to physical sensations like movement and pain.”
Theory of mind (ToM) refers to a set of skills essential for building, navigating, and maintaining social relationships. A recent neurological study determined that routine reading sessions dramatically improve ToM in humans.
“Human self-consciousness as the metarepresentation of ones own mental states and the so-called theory of mind (TOM) capacity, which requires the ability to model the mental states of others, are closely related higher cognitive functions,” the authors wrote.
Gates has identified four primary ways to benefit from reading sessions.
- Make notes in the margins to ensure you’re comprehending what you’re reading
- Finish every book you start to enforce discipline
- Read whatever format that you’re most comfortable with
- Set aside one hour a day to read to formulate a structure
“This is not the kind of thing you can do five minutes here, 10 minutes there. Magazine articles or short YouTube videos fit into those little slots,” Gates adds.
“You know, when you’re reading, you have to be careful that you really are concentrating; particularly if it’s a nonfiction book. Are you taking in new knowledge and sort of attaching [it] to knowledge you have? For me, taking notes helps make sure that I’m really thinking hard about what’s in there.”