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Posted by: jsonmez | July 2, 2010

The Importance of Always Reading

It has been a while since I wrote a book review.

There is one coming soon, but I wanted to talk about why it has been so long.

Simple answer… I stopped reading.

What happened?  Well, I got caught up with switching jobs twice.  Lots of different things going on.  I started a running program, etc… etc… excuse… excuse.

I wasn’t following my own advice.

It is really important to take a moment every once in a while, when you feel like you are off track or not reaching your goals, to reassess your priorities and goals and figure out what you need to get back on track.

CodeIncomplete

You have to set a schedule

That is primarily where I failed, and that is how I am succeeding now again.  At one point I was reading through books about 2 a month, but pretty soon a few months passed by without one book read.

When I was successful at reading, it was because I had set up a schedule or reading every day for so much time.

The simple matter of it is, as humans we are not good at making good choices about priorities without explicitly planning them out.

Now that I have set up a schedule of reading a minimum of 30 minutes each day, I am making progress again, and much faster than I thought.

Aren’t you being a little strict?

You may think that just reading blogs is enough to keep up with the information stream, and it may be, but it probably isn’t going to really expand your mind like a book will.

Why I recommend reading technical books (although, I would argue a book on people skills and other self-improvement books should also be mixed in.)

Breadth of knowledge will increase.

You will learn more about things and understand more of what is available to you even if you do not employ all the practices and technologies in the books you read.

Depth of knowledge.

Sometimes drilling down into an API or deep into a technique can help you truly master a technology or practice way more than hacking out code or consulting APIs to just find what you need to know.

Motivation.

This one is a surprise to most people, but what you read is what you are excited about, not the other way around.

Try it if you don’t believe me.  Pick any topic and start reading about it.  You will become passionate about that topic.

If you want to be a better software developer, read about software development.

Reputable source of authority when influencing decisions.

You can have the best idea in the world, but if your only authority is yourself, it doesn’t hold much credibility.  It is much more effective to say, “I think we should do it this way.  In Code Complete, Steve McConnell says…”

Unconscious knowledge absorption.

I have always been amazed by how much information I picked up from reading than what I was conscious of knowing.

Many of my blog posts will echo things I have read in Code Complete, or Clean Code, or any number of other books I have read, which I do not even consciously recall.

Sometimes when I write code, I intrinsically know it is the right way to do it, because of an unconscious conditioning.  (Make sure you read good books, or you will have the negative aspect of this effect.)

My little tip

One great way to get your reading done, and to stay in shape at the same time, is to do it on a treadmill.

I have been doing this for awhile now, and it really makes me feel like I am using my time wisely.

You can just walk on the treadmill, set a little incline to burn some extra calories, and after awhile you’ll forget you are walking.

As always, you can subscribe to this RSS feed to follow my posts on Making the Complex Simple.  Feel free to check out ElegantCode.com where I post about the topic of writing elegant code about once a week.  Also, you can follow me on twitter here.
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Responses

  1. […] talked about this several times in my blog.  Make sure you are always reading a technical book.  Create a schedule and […]

  2. Well, that was a great read and hopefully i might start reading more books from today. Thanks for such posts John, really appreciated. 🙂

  3. Little question: since you’re an experienced developer, do you alwasy read every chapter in the book? Example: you were writing comments on the book C# in depth. I guess there were numerous things that you already knew – what is your motivation to read all these anyway? You always read everything in the book?

    • I usually do. Sometimes what I am reading is something I already know, but extra reinforcement is always useful. Also, many times my depth of understanding increases by hearing someone else talk about it in a different way.


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