The Best Book is the One You Have with You

Why you should fill the time gaps of life with books rather than digital nonsense

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Chase Jarvis, a famous photographer and former colleague of mine at CreativeLive (he’s the CEO and co-founder) once wrote a book called “The Best Camera is the One That’s with You”. This isn’t a totally profound concept, but you can only take photos if you have a camera and any photo you take is better than taking no photo at all right? This concept can obviously be applied to many things, but I want to focus on reading and learning. The best book is the one you have with you.

Have a Reading Plan

I’ve written about how important it is to have a reading plan if you’re a serious autodidact. And with that plan comes the concerted effort of reading more books in less time. Therefore, you should always have something to read. There are many small gaps of time throughout the day. Making the small shift of filling them with books rather than mindless smartphone tasks is a real game-changer.

So with that logic in mind, you should always have something on hand to read when these gaps of time present themselves. You don’t want to be caught in line at the grocery store or waiting for the bus with nothing to read. Sure, there are plenty of benefits to just sitting and thinking, but is that really what you’re going to do if you have nothing to read? No, you’re most likely going to waste time on your phone. You may even be reading clickbait in place of books, which is definitely something to avoid.

Make it a Habit

Ok, so you know that you should fill this idle time with meaningful reading, but how can you make that happen? I encourage people to always have a book in their book bag, (what a genius name!), purse, or even jacket pocket. This can be a slim paperback book. For me, I rely on the form factor of the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. It’s just small enough to fit in the pocket of most of my jackets and even some of my pants pockets.

Just put this book in your bag or jacket and forget about it. It should just be there when you need it. Granted if it’s a library book that needs to be returned at some point, you may not be able to just set it and forget it. If it’s your primary Kindle, you may move it around a bit based on where you’re reading. But the important thing is to remember to check for it before you leave. It should be another vital part of your everyday carry or EDC. It’s just as important as your keys or your phone.

Don’t Overthink It

It’s the same approach that Chase talks about with the camera. It doesn’t have to be the best camera in the world, it just needs to be accessible. Think about it the same way with your book. It doesn’t have to be a huge novel. It doesn’t have to be the best book you’ve ever read. Maybe you save those books for your evening reading. But it should be content that you’re eager to read and able to read in small doses.

Maybe a scholarly journal isn’t your best bet for this. Anything that requires hyper-focused attention for long stretches should probably be left for home reading. But I’m sure there is something on your reading list that fits this description perfectly.

Why Can’t I Just Use My Phone?

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Why can’t I just read on my smartphone? That’s the device that is already with me at all times. This is a slippery slope. Yes, you can use your smartphone as a reading device. But here’s why I urge against it.

There are so many distractions when you turn on your phone. I know there is a Kindle app for iOS and Android that looks to replicate the experience on the Kindle device. But do you have the willpower to only open that app and read books? Will you be able to resist reading clickbait articles or checking social media? Can you stare at the glowing blue light of your phone and not turn into a zombie?

I’m joking a little bit, but you see what I mean. You could disable all notifications, use a night mode, and just read on the Kindle app. If you can pull that off, more power to you! The vast majority of us will get sucked into the many infinity pools of content that are found on the modern smartphone.

And instead of reading a solid chapter in a book we’re trying to finish, we end up going down a rabbit hole and learning obscure facts about pop culture or listening to the latest playlist on Spotify. Just save yourself this struggle and read an actual book or distraction-free e-ink Kindle.

Conclusion

So hopefully now you see how important it is to have appropriate reading material with you at all times. Don’t be caught with time to read but no book on hand! Just a few simple steps can have you ready to fill these gaps with mindful learning instead of mindless smartphone minutia.

What do you think? Is this a scary concept or something you can pull off with ease?

I write about the intersection of technology, productivity, and mindfulness. Get my weekly newsletter at iterate.substack.com

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