Reading Strategies: Business Journals

In the world of business, there are the movers and shakers and then there are the bystanders who study what happens and publishes it as Business Journals. In this symbiotic relationship, the bystanders happen to be researchers and professors at Business Schools who teach the future movers and shakers – and provide insight to the current movers and shakers to help them get out of their pinch. Reading business journals not only helps the corporate guys to stay abreast with the latest concerns in their industry, it also helps a thriving small business owner widen his/her perspective on current offerings that could help their business.

There are many types of journals specific to each industry such as Finance, HR, Automotive, but for this blog post I will concentrate on the reading strategy for business journals that is compiled and widely published as books – the Harvard Business Review.

The reason I chose to provide a reading strategy for such business journals is because Harvard Business Review is the most cited journal publication in the world. Its impact shows that the in-depth study that is done before the journal is accepted for publishing is indeed useful. Apart from that, a journal selected as part of a published Harvard Business Review does speak for itself. A lot of hard work had been put to churn out that seven to 12 page of journal. Make no mistake that the studies are NOT based on small samples; there are studies that have gone on for decades and passed on to younger researchers before the journal is sent for publication.

My personal take on Harvard Business Review is that I have yet to read any business books so heavy with information that is as relevant, yet easy to digest as Harvard Business Reviews. That said, having the reading strategies for business journals would give you an upper hand in making sure you are making the best investment for your time spent on the book and your money.

STEP 1: READING SAMPLES

There is a myriad of topics that is covered by Harvard Business Review such as Managing People, Managing Yourself and Organizational Culture. Besides that, there are publications for Entrepreneurship and also Leadership Lessons from Sports. It is an extensive list so the first step you need to do when choosing a Harvard Business Review to read is to choose one topic that you are interested in.

If you are currently looking at restructuring your company and many division will need to leverage, the most insightful Harvard Business Review for you would be HBR’s 10 Must Read: Collaboration. Never mind the need to manage a huge change as there exists an HBR’s 10 Must Read: Change Management 🙂

If you can’t seem to decide which you should read, whether on Collaboration or Change Management; Step 2 will give you a better insight to invest your time and money on the best Harvard Business Review for you.

STEP 2: FINDING OUT YOUR OVERVIEW

Personally, I find the most beautiful trait about Harvard Business Review is their Index page. If there is something we are truly overwhelmed by on the Internet, it is information overload and HBR nails exactly that. Their Index page is so well and specific that you only get the information you really need. Let’s say I read a journal about blockchain on Harvard Business Review and want to find out more, I simply use the terms indexed under blockchain on its Index page so that I only get the relevant information I need. Doesn’t that save a lot of time?

So in order for you to find out which Harvard Business Review you would learn best for the situation you are in, head to the Index page at the back. Scan through the terms and decide which publication holds more relevant terms that speak out to you in its Index page. That’s how you decide whether your topic is Collaboration or Change Management.

I know, you may thank me later 🙂

STEP 3: BREAKING DOWN THE BOOK (JOURNAL)

The main idea of reading a Harvard Business Review is to figure out something. It is not about evaluating the author’s writing skill, nor is it to question the validity of the information. Holding on to your main purpose of reading business journal, which is to figure out something – quickly skim through the Editor’s Notes to weigh the gist of each journal. Once you have identified your top priority journal, move to the Contents section to find out the page number of that journal.

Once you have landed on the right page, find the section Idea in Brief to get an overview of what the journal will cover. One great tip I can give is to move straight to the Case Studies included in the journal, this way you immediately identify if the problems you are facing is relatable to this journal. This would also subsequently arouse your desire to find out more and read the business journal thoroughly.

At this point, you could quickly skim through the main topics in the journal (usually in bold) and only read content that is relevant to you, without wasting to much time on the learning if you have already figured it out. Some people do read business journals just for inspiration on how to solve their current problem at work.

If you intend to read for learning, you might want to actively engage yourself with the content of the journal to get the best out of your investment of time and money on reading a Harvard Business Review. This can be done by following Step Four and Step Five below.

STEP 4: PLANTING QUESTIONS

The easiest way to start planting questions when reading a Harvard Business Review is to focus on any chart, figure or table that is included in the journal. Skim the figure and be critical with what you see as to question how the this figure would benefit to serve your problem. With the knowledge on the case studies and a summed of figure in your hand (and mind), you are ready to plant questions as you read through the journal.

Another tip to boost your question seeking activity is to read more on the author of the journal from the About the Contributor section on the final pages of the Harvard Business Review. Having background information about the author would give you an insight to the author’s bias and perspective to help you plant questions and actively engage yourself while reading.

STEP 5: MEETING YOUR CONCLUSIONS

Once you finished reading the journal, you need to have a check-and-balance to see if your comprehension is aligned to the points provided in the business journal. One way to do this is to re-read the Idea in Brief section and see if you had missed any important part in the journal. On the other hand, you could re-visit the chart, figure or table to see if you have a better grasp at understanding the point the author is trying to make.

When your new knowledge jives with the idea that is formed in your mind, you should start sketching a draft proposal to solve your problem. When you are able to formulate a solution from your reading, it is suffice to say that you met your conclusions and you have made a good investment of your time and money by reading a business journal!

So there you have it! My five steps for Reading Strategies: Business Journals to help you with a structure when reading such publication. Enjoy!

-Baini Mustafa

Reading Strategies: Crime Fiction

If there was a genre of books that can be honoured to relieving a lot of problems just by distracting readers with a greater set of problems that is beautifully written, Crime Fiction should win the prize. I can’t begin to tell you how much Crime Fiction I had been absorbed in while waiting for time to pass, to fill up boredom (there was no handheld gadgets while I was growing up), so much so that Crime Fiction could be the very reason I read at all.

The fascinating streak about Crime Fiction is that someone had done wrong and could get away with it. The fact that you are toying with the idea that the criminal could get away builds suspense and the mystery of the unknown is just another reason for you to keep reading the book. If there was a genre that could help you relax and distract yourself, I highly recommend Crime Fiction as a ‘bibliotherapy’.

Through my experience with reading, I have set up the strategies below on how to read Crime Fiction. Crime Fiction can be read passively, where you let the author unveil the mystery to you at the end. But you could also engage in active reading to let yourself be part of the book and this would allow you to finish the book much faster than usual. Imagine being able to make time to do other things AND still read enough books?

Check out below my READING STRATEGIES: CRIME FICTION.

STEP 1: READING SAMPLE

A little research on the book you are planning to buy would always pay off. The large selection of Crime Fiction makes it easy for you to make a bad purchase that doesn’t suit you. The best way to determine whether or not a book suits you is to find out the background of the novel. Where does the story take place? What does the main character do for a living? What type of crime is being done here?

If you are working in the Information Technology sector and planning for a trip to Sweden soon, maybe A Girl With A Dragon Tattoo would serve your interest and curiosity. If you are planning a winter trip to Scandinavia, Jo Nesbo’s Snowman is a chilling page turner for you.

Your selection should serve both your interest and curiosity. If you have no intention of ever cross-country traveling via train, the details in the Murder on The Orient Express by Agatha Christie would serve you no purpose. But on the other hand, just reading that book might make you want that experience!

STEP 2: FINDING OUT YOUR OVERVIEW

The thing about Crime Fiction is that it is read by a great number of people of different walks of life. My tip when trying to narrow down your selection is to simply go by the numbers. It is safe to pick up Crime Fiction that is wildly lauded by many.

Once you have cultivated your own liking for Crime Fiction, then it is safe for you to make your selection more personally.

STEP 3: BREAKING DOWN THE BOOK

Besides the plot and the mystery in a Crime Fiction, the characters should be unforgettable for the Crime Fiction to be an interesting read. You can see how Sherlock Holmes seem to have a life of his own, as created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Interesting main characters weaves the story line in a Crime Fiction. So based on the back of the Crime Fiction you are planning to purchase, read the synopsis and spend some good time there to learn about the main character.

Next, skim through the book to find the main character’s name and try to read a little whenever you see it. Do you like what you read? Do you like how the author writes about the main character? It is important to have a positive feeling about the main character to be able to read through the book. Do note that if you do not feel an instant attraction to the main character, it might not be worth your time to read the book.

STEP 4: PLANTING QUESTIONS

Once you have selected the Crime Fiction of your choice, make a conscious decision to read actively through the book. This will not only increase your momentum and interest, it serves as a check and balance between the characters. I said this because, when you read a Crime Fiction, you need to read as a witness – not as the main character of the book. As a witness, you need to question the motives of each character and that means you also question the motive of the author for what he/she unveils.

When planting questions in a Crime Fiction, you will find that the pace of the story line is aligned to the questions that pop in your mind. This is when reading becomes a two-way street and you are engaged to the author and his masterpiece.

STEP 5: MEETING YOUR CONCLUSIONS

Making assumptions throughout reading a Crime Fiction is the boon of this genre. Where else would you be given free reign to assume and will not stump if you were wrong? But if there is one advice I can about making conclusions when reading a good Crime Fiction is: don’t get too carried away with your conclusions 🙂

Personally what I love about reading Crime Fiction is the contented feeling when my conclusions are met AND the pleasure of of discovering the alternative to my conclusions. Both are equally satisfying.

There you have it, five steps to help you read Crime Fiction more effectively by actively reading and engaging your mind as part of the plot. I hope you enjoy the Reading Strategies series and I will see you in the next blog post on non-fiction reading strategies.

-Baini Mustafa

Reading Strategies: Legal Thriller

When browsing the fiction shelves at a bookstore, it is hard to miss the Legal Thriller section. Let alone walking into a bookstore without seeing any book with the name John Grisham across its cover. Legal Thriller certainly has its cult status following and that begs the question, have you tried reading a Legal Thriller?

A Legal Thriller is of the mystery genre but usually has a lawyer as its main character. Although a lawyer’s main task is to prove his/her client’s innocence in court, this is not without paying the dues of investigation, priming the witnesses and jurors, building up the case and last but not least presenting the argument in court. The dramatisation of the entire tasks, with the many characters of varying roles, intelligence, importance, and intentions, makes a Legal Thriller an interesting read and is high on my suggestion list whenever someone asks for a fiction recommendation as a break between reading non-fictions.

The beauty of reading a Legal Thriller is that your mind is aroused with the description of activities you are reading in the book and at the same time, your brain is high on alert to also do its part in solving the mystery. Although most people read fiction to relax, I discover that a Legal Thriller relaxes you by shifting your focus on a different problem and sharpens your problem solving skills. Ultimately, the fiction not only gives you the satisfaction of finishing a book, it refreshes your mind and believe it or not, you feel ready and excited to solve your own problem.

So ARE YOU READY TO PICK UP A LEGAL THRILLER NOW? Let’s armour our time investment, pick up the right book by applying the Reading Strategies: Legal Thriller.

STEP 1: READING SAMPLES

As I have repeatedly mentioned around my blog, it is important to pick up a book that serves your interest. Before purchasing a book, make sure you invest a little time by researching reviews to see if you could relate to the book. If you had lost a relative to lung cancer, then maybe The Runaway Jury by John Grisham will keep you interested throughout the book. If you love sports, especially baseball, maybe A Pitch for Justice by Harold Kasselman will keep hands glued to the book. It is all about finding the right match between you and the book that makes reading enjoyable.

STEP 2: FINDING OUT ‘YOUR’ OVERVIEW

Even though you think you have found a Legal Thriller that should excite you, hold on to your horses. Just an extra five more minutes of research should be able to make or break your decision. Find out a little about the people who likes the kind of Legal Thriller you are planning to buy. Do you feel you could relate to the people who gave a positive review about the book? Does the people who gave a positive review about the book, your kind of people? Do they impress you? If they are not YOUR kind of people or even simply you don’t feel inspired by the people – don’t waste any more time and just move on to finding the next Legal Thriller for you.

Do not underestimate the power of demography when selecting the best kind of reading to suit yourself. It might seem counter-productive to find a suitable book and then discover that it is not, but trust me that this five minute research might save you from a draggy five months of trying to finish one book. If there was a way to search via demography first, and then by book – you would need to follow avid readers that match your demography. For example, if you are here to follow my readings tips then most likely your demography matches mine and I can save you a lot of time and money simply by letting you know which books to read.

STEP 3: BREAKING DOWN THE BOOK

At this point, you need to get the feel of the entire book so that it keeps you coming back after you put it down. My personal tip when reading a Legal Thriller is to breakdown the book into 100 pages. For example if the book weights 423 pages, I will break it down into four parts and read a full page within each 100-page part.

This way, I get an idea of how fast the story line would progress and specific scenes, characters and my first hand exposure to the author’s writing style. Ask your self, do you like what you read in that broken down portions? If not then put it down and go back to the first step in the Step 1. Fret not, there are still millions of books out there just waiting to meet its right audience.

If a book doesn’t have the lure factor that appeals to you, it is not worth your investment of time and money.

STEP 4: PLANTING QUESTIONS

Now that you have found the perfect Legal Thriller suited for you, it is time to actively read the gem you picked. In order to actively read a Legal Thriller, it is not only important to be aware of the little details of the plot’s twists and turns – it is also important to notice the small quirks of each character in the story.

Plant questions that would inquire the behaviours of each character in the story. This keeps yourself interested in the psychology of the characters that you may build up in your mind. Does this lawyer have a blond paralegal who obediently brings his double espresso every morning? Is the prosecuted criminal a cat person or a dog person? Sometimes the questions you ask yourself has nothing to do with the story line, but planting questions regarding the psychology of each character in a Legal Thriller would build suspense and almost always satisfy your theories about people. And maybe who knows, you might crack the case before the lawyer does 🙂

STEP 5: MEETING YOUR CONCLUSIONS

When reading a Legal Thriller, the story line is maneuvered with yourself as the main character. On the same note, you need to be aware and understand the roles and the limits of other characters in the story. Did you know the real roles of the jurors? Did you know the basics of a judge’s jurisdiction within a county? It is as simple as a quick Google search to find the answers and it will give you an insight that will help with your active reading. After all, if your conclusion is accurate wouldn’t that boost your confidence to read more Legal Thrillers?

As a tip, I will let you in on my own conclusion that is always find accurate whenever I read a Legal Thriller – Lawyers have the ability to argue black as white AND lawyers would always prime their witnesses to believe what the witness testifies to be the truth.

There you have it! My Reading Strategies: Legal Thriller that will help you navigate through a fiction as an experience that is worthy of your time an money. Let me know if the strategies work!

-Baini Mustafa

Reading Strategies: An Introduction

Did somebody say strategy???

This week I will start another series of post called Reading Strategies. In the first of its posts, I have its Introduction so that readers have a basic idea how the Reading Strategies can help.

Contrary to popular belief, reading is not a passive activity where the author does all the job. Let me introduce you to a term “Active Reading” where readers seek in a book for its gold, rather than simply peeling page by page to be entertained.

I remember the time I read The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle that took me months to finish. It was my first non-fiction of that genre – it was new and exciting but terrible to digest. I was rereading paragraphs in one sitting and I kinda felt like I was at wit’s end. Just like that jar of jam that wouldn’t pop open!

But I still continued on and on because I really liked the book and what I wanted to know what the New Earth was about. Until I found a point where the sentences started to make sense without having to think too hard about it. That was when I realised that every book needs its own visor for the reader, so that the book can be read through a specific lens. And this specific lens comes from having an expected ‘theme’ for the book to fulfill, rather than having an empty slate that your mind can wander on and off the ‘theme’.

So that is where the Reading Strategies will help you and give you the moral support you need to read fifty books a year! YES, IT’S POSSIBLE!

Below are the seven parts of the Reading Strategies series to help you with improving your reading and making the best out of your investment of time and money on a book. No more mindless reading and deciding halfway that the book isn’t worth your time with these strategies.

  1. Reading Strategies: An Introduction
  2. Reading Strategies: Legal Thriller
  3. Reading Strategies: Crime Fiction
  4. Reading Strategies: Business Journals
  5. Reading Strategies: Self-Help
  6. Reading Strategies: Pop Sociology
  7. Reading Strategies: Business

I have included both fiction and non-fiction in the mix because I do believe that a lot of business aspects can be learnt by reading Crime Fiction and Legal Thriller, so I wouldn’t want my readers to miss out on its benefits. And these are great vacation books – light, exciting and a little bit of learning here and there – I promise!

In the Reading Strategies series, 5 key elements will be delivered in the following fashion. Where the first three elements is done prior to reading and the last two elements is actively done throughout the reading. This structure helps tremendously to build and keep your reading momentum.

  1. Reading sample
  2. Finding out an overview
  3. Breaking down the book
  4. Planting questions
  5. Meeting your conclusion

The 5 key elements above will help you get the most out of your reading in the interest of time and money invested on the book. Applying the elements above will also help you read actively because you feel more involved in the process of discovery instead of passively accepting whatever the author had written.

The strategies I expose are ones that I use to help me make the most out of my reading and I find that different types of books require different strategies. It is my wish to see somebody come up with a fool-proof formula that can be applied to all types of reading to aid comprehension.

MY CHALLENGE TO YOU IS: To apply the strategies as I post them throughout the week and let me know if it doesn’t work. I would be more than glad to refine these strategies.

-Baini Mustafa

 

 

How to Stay Awake When Reading

Someone told me that the easiest way to fall asleep is to read.

I agreed immediately with the person that reading should be a pleasant, relaxing experience and let’s you unwind. Falling asleep is a way your body telling you that you should read more books, not to avoid it. It is crucial to keep coming back at the book and to see yourself through with the book. Do not abandon the book simply because it puts you to sleep. Because chances are, you needed that sleep.

I do fall asleep when I read too and I do sometimes have to force myself to get through some pages before I put the book down and retire to sleep. This could happen to anybody. Fighting to stay awake when reading is normal, we just need to discipline ourselves and let the body know who’s boss. In this post, I will help with ways to stay awake while reading.

Let’s say you have advanced a bit further in your reading habit and would like to keep a goal to yourself, for example reading 10 pages before going to sleep. However you find that after the fifth page, the book keeps slipping off your hands and your head just made a deep dip towards the book (familiar, right? LOL), just try to sit up straight and stretch. If that doesn’t help much, here are my three tips on how to stay awake when reading.

NUMBER 1: HAVE A DRINK/SNACK WHEN READING

Chewing or drinking while reading really helps the body and mind to awaken, thus help the page turn faster. Notice how your munching becomes faster as the story line evolve with more suspense. Just be sure not to overeat or overdo the sugar in your snack. We don’t want to avoid reading just because we want to avoid snacking now, do we?

NUMBER 2: AVOID HEAVY READING MATERIALS BEFORE GOING TO SLEEP

Reading your office financial report before going to sleep surely would put a heavy load on your brain and cause even more drowsiness. If not that, it would certainly add more anxiety before you retire to bed. Avoid reading books that require analytical thinking if you can only make time to read before bed. It is best to read materials that allow your right brain to take centre stage – put your imagination at play and get your body to relax as you read. This way, your body would find reading enjoyable and you will find yourself looking forward to more reading.

NUMBER 3: KEEP A GOAL TO STAY MOTIVATED TO READ

Rewarding yourself after having achieved a reading goal is a great way to keep yourself motivated to read. Treat yourself to a body massage if you manage to read a book within a week. Better yet, allow yourself some time me-time at the library to see more books that you might like. Once you acquaint yourself with the idea of reading for pleasure, you will find yourself wanting more and more me-time with books. To indulge yourself in a world that only you know inside your head.

It is really important not to give up on your attempts to read. Nothing easy is worth doing.

-Baini Mustafa

 

How to Read One Book A Week

There is no accurate data on the average number of books Malaysians read in a year but maybe we can just agree that it is not enough. In general, people do not read because they find reading boring and burdensome in the sense that their free time should be spent doing things that don’t require thinking. Although I would pounce in disagreement when I hear people say that, I think it is time we address this problem.

I believe everyone has their own personal reason for not making the time to read, hence I would attempt to solve this problem by suggesting how you can try to read one book a week. In my other posts, I have explained the need to choose the right kind of reading materials as this is essential in keeping ourselves interested in the book. Apart from that, it is also essential to move on to the next book once you find that the book you’re reading doesn’t ‘launch’.

Although I always preach that we should read with the purpose of gaining knowledge, for this post I would skip the nitty gritty part of that as the purpose here is simply to read one book a week. So below I outlined three ways on how to read one book a week.

NUMBER 1: DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT ATTITUDE

Although the benefits of reading is lauded by many successful people, some people still believe that they are too busy to read or that reading does not solve their current problems. I would say that the only way to solve this is to change the attitude about reading or they can keep on trying to fix the symptoms of their problems instead of identifying its root cause. I’ve also encountered people who think that they don’t need books to help them with their life because their brains are better than that… so just imagine the amount of ideas that you can generate in that already brilliant mind once it is triggered by reading *rolls eyes*

NUMBER 2: GET THE THINNEST BOOK YOU CAN FIND

If at all possible, get the thinnest book in the biggest font you can find – I have an immediate suggestion to make: Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson is great if you are also in need of change in your life. The reason you need to choose the easiest book to read is so that your mind registers the feeling of having completed reading one book. It is important that your brain recognises this achievement and builds pride around such wins.

NUMBER 3: MAKE THE TIME FOR READING

We are not talking about blocking two hours from your daily schedule to read here, we are simply asking for five minutes here and there through out the day for you to glimpse through the book. Better yet, whenever you feel the urge to mindlessly browse through social media is the right time for you to pick up on your reading. Your future self will thank you for this habit because that’s when you realise that your life is not built by watching what other people are doing.

The benefits of reading one book a week far outweighs the relaxation benefit you think you are getting from watching TV or going through your News Feed in the long run. Being able to accomplish reading your first book is the only hard part, as I promise the journey would become much easier with time. Pick up your next book right after you have finished the first one, do NOT even bother to wait until the next Sunday has come if you have finished your first book earlier.

Wow, that was stern.

-Baini Mustafa

How to Choose Non-Fiction: Social Science

Without a doubt, a good non-fiction on social science is the best non-fiction reading materials around as it explains about ourselves. Why we do the things we do, how we have come to doing the things we do and when we will stop doing these things. The whole nine yards on the study of human behaviour is parked under non-fiction as Social Science. Such reading is not limited to just textbooks for schools and my goal is to enlighten the fact such books provide vast knowledge and is not intimidating.

When reading social science non-fiction, I believe the writing skill of the author is not as important as the idea that the author is bringing forward. It is important to get to know whether the content of the book would pique your interest and curiosity in order to keep the momentum of reading from cover to cover. I have listed below three best books to choose when reading non fiction sectioned under Social Science, where I have further categorised them into narrower brackets for your ‘easy consumption’ 🙂

NUMBER 1: SAPIENS BY YUVAL NOAH HARARI

The rave reviews about this book is true, it is definitely something to read to find out the perspective of human evolution from a historian’s point of view. Harari points out the reason that human advances is not because our fingers function better (who came up with that theory, again?), but because of our ability to form an idea and disseminate it. Throughout history, ideas have been disseminated where the process of convincing and believing happens in exchange through conversations, publications and broadcasts. Harari points out that one of the most popularly believed and practiced idea is capitalism.

Harari explains that the advancement of the world today would not have been possible without the idea of ‘credit’ and explains the change in human behaviour as the idea of developing something based on someone’s future worth is condoned by human. He also went on to the assert that the future of human is dependant on automation. I would recommend this book if you are interested in human behaviour throughout history as I would section this book under social science non-fiction and further catogerise it under Anthropology.

NUMBER 2: TIPPING POINT BY MALCOLM GLADWELL

Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell covers a lot of technical social science theory into a readable and enjoyable book. In this book he covers the Pareto Principle at length, not in theory, but in the form of real-life stories that anyone could relate to so that the effects of Pareto Principle is easily understood. If you are new to non-fiction, Malcolm Gladwell is definitely an author you should try reading as I had stated in my post about Tried and Tested Authors.

I would recommend The Tipping Point to anybody who is interested to see the explanation on why sometimes things happen and why sometimes things don’t. Malcolm Gladwell has that all in this page turner that can be finished within a weekend and I would park this social science non-fiction under Sociology.

NUMBER 3: THE MALAY DILEMMA

In this controversial book, Tun Mahathir pointed out the problems that the Malay race faces if they don’t change their behaviour. Not only did he not sugar coat when he spoke about his own race, he also exercised the same writing style when commenting about the behaviours of other races. As a Malay myself, I would say that even though Tun M’s writing at the time was not backed by data but merely his own observation, his claims are true. As a Malaysian, I read his book without feeling offended because I read from the perspective of a person who wanted to solve a problem that exists in his country.

I would recommend this book to all Malaysians who would like to understand Tun M’s perspective in racial harmony and the importance of education and can-do attitude in the long run. I would further categorise this read under social science non-fiction as Politics.

There you go, three different types of non-fiction under the arm of Social Science that you could choose from. I hope my recommendations help you to assess the type of reading that is suitable for your need and more importantly, it keeps you peeling page after page!

-Baini Mustafa

 

How to Choose Non-Fiction: Science

It is a peculiar fact that anybody who had freely chosen to read non-fiction in the Science section would freely pick up more and more of the same kind. I have found reading books of this genre particularly interesting and difficult to put down. Never mistake science non-fiction books as boring and difficult to read. Movies like Star Wars, Planet of the Apes all stem from the creative use of science knowledge.

The essence of choosing a great science non-fiction heavily depends on the author’s storytelling skills. The writings of great scientists paired with their knack for storytelling, creates magic of a book that I often find myself spellbound amidst reading. I would not be exaggerating to say that there is a sense of ‘lift’ after completing such book for just having experienced an upheaval of my mediocre science knowledge to its application level. Probably the brain just loves new triggers for ideas or the fact that reading such genre would always trace back to A Higher Order or An Invisible Hand or A Creator or in any other name, God.

Although science writers rarely state this fact themselves, it would require your own train of thoughts to develop your own ideas as you read science non-fiction effectively. Here below, my recommendation on how to choose science non-fiction by the most compelling Non-Fiction: Science writers I have experienced.

NUMBER 1: STEPHEN HAWKING

Most famous for his book A Brief History of Time but I choose The Grand Design as the best I’ve read of his work because I can’t remember how much I smiled reading it. Nope, I didn’t smile sarcastically because I thought his theories were absurd, I smiled/chuckled because it was really funny and I totally enjoyed going through the pages. In the non-fiction genre of Science, I would further categorise Hawking’s books to cosmology. If you are interested in cosmology, try picking up a Stephen Hawking book – you would be surprised that Hawking had a great personality that is reflected from his writing.

NUMBER 2: RICHARD DAWKINS

Richard Dawkin’s works are always controversial because his thoughts are so advanced and new, it is difficult for people to accept. Acceptance of an idea is a totally different ballgame when it comes to reading because in my opinion, reading critical thoughts of a highly intellectual person allows yourself the freedom to weigh his opinion and then for you to form your own opinion. Reading books by a man who purportedly claimed that there is no such thing as God in all the unguided process that happens in all humanly or worldly whether intrinsic or extrinsic – would surely rub off a little on you in terms of critical thinking. Richard Dawkins has written a plethora of books which I would further catogerise as non-fiction science: Biology.

NUMBER 3: THE MYSTERIOUS WORLD OF THE HUMAN GENOME BY FRANK RYAN

Although Frank Ryan is the least famous of the authors I have listed, I must say that his book, The Mysterious World of the Human Genome is one of its kind. I would describe my experience reading this book as an intellectual adventure. Never had I ever read a book that covers the history of evolution with all the theories and personnel involved in it be captured in a way a novel would. A box in my head imagined DNA, proteins, bacteria, virus, all at play when reading this book. Definitely not something you get from a science textbook. I would recommend this book to anybody who would like to understand the works of genetics without its intimidating terms. I would categorise Frank Ryan’s book as non-fiction science: Genetics.

I hope my list above helps you loosen up around the Non-Fiction: Science shelf. The books are there to teach and entertain, not to create an elite section for superior readers only. Especially Stephen Hawking books with all his hilarious toons in his explanation. Go on, give it a try!

-Baini Mustafa

How To Choose Non-Fiction: Business Books

Picking up business books as a leisurely read sure need to come with time and practice. I have a few in this genre that I am very keen on and found too heavy to read even a single chapter in one sitting, so I tend to break it down to be read through several months. Truth be told, I started reading The Intelligent Investor in 2008 and haven’t finished it. But as I have always iterated in this blog, just put the book down and move on. The book will be ready for you when YOU are READY!

Let’s begin with the definition of business books here – when I say business book, what I mean is books which contains text on how business is run or managed through innovation, use of case study, well placed strategies or even data analytics. Don’t be intimidated by the terms, as some books are great to be read before sleeping to assist your subconscious with dreaming up a solution to your problem. Yes, that’s a by-product of reading 🙂

Although a lot of business books are aimed for corporate managers, you shouldn’t have to wait until you are one to begin reading business books. If you are an adult who needs money, that is an identification enough that you need to read business books. The books will help you understand how the corporate works, how entrepreneurs persevere, how to climb the right ladder and most importantly the hardship and time investment it takes to be on top. If my previous sentence did not appeal in any way to you, I would really wonder why you are still reading this.

Now that we have the definition and purpose of reading business books sorted, I will list three types of business book to read depending on your interest. Here goes how to choose non-fiction: business books.

NUMBER 1: ANYTHING WRITTEN BY RICHARD BRANSON

Richard Branson is an amazing writer, and I can feel that he contemplates each word and term he uses in his books. I have read his books over the decade not as a business person, but as a person who loves good books. That said, if you are looking for business books to read why not pick up a book written by him? He usually covers his concept with an example that came from his own experience so you not only get some business knowledge, you get a personal insight by him as well.

I would recommend Richard Branson’s books to managers, entrepreneurs, basically anybody above the age of 18, EXCEPT (yes, except..) EXCEPT if you are narrow minded (like who would admit that, lol) or can’t accept liberal ideas that involve parties, fun, music. Then don’t ever pick up any of Richard Branson’s books because they’re not for you.

NUMBER 2: FREAKONOMICS

There are various case-study books out there that I have read and I found the Freakonomics series the easiest to read for us without a Masters Degree in Economy. When I read Freakonomics, I get a feeling like I’m listening to a talk show on radio. It doesn’t feel too much of a read and the sentences just flow as you nod at the nuances that totally explains something that had puzzled you before.

Here’s what I say whenever I recommend Freakonomics to people: Do you want to know why whenever you receive a scam chain email from somebody asking you to help get their inheritance money from blablabla, the person would always include the fact that they are from Nigeria? Wouldn’t they have a higher chance of you helping them out if they hadn’t mentioned the fact that they are from that country? I welcome you to be enlightened to the concept of ‘False Positive’ by reading Freakonomics.

NUMBER 3: HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW

I always know in my heart of hearts that my HBRs are the most precious in my collection of book. I always know if in any situation that requires me to abandon the house, my HBRs would come along with me (stuffed in the handbags that I can’t leave behind, of course). The reason being, I find the journals selected in HBR are by far the most functioning piece of information in the best indexed titles. Have you ever searched for information on the Internet and suddenly you find thousands of useless information. HBR covers that for you so that whenever you look up the Internet, you know if the search result is not relevant to your problem.

Besides that, there are various topics covered by HBR ranging from Managing Yourself (this is super important) to Leadership Lessons from Sports. Personally, reading HBR is the biggest favour I’ve done to myself as it covers the important aspects I need when reading – verified knowledge, great writing skills, the pull to reread the book. I believe there is an HBR copy for everybody out there, I will write a blog post on how to choose an HBR in the future for you.

There goes my three answers on how to choose non-fiction: business books. I hope you benefit from the post and will have more clarity in making a decision when choosing what to read and enjoy.

-Baini Mustafa

 

 

How to Choose Non-Fiction: Memoirs of Terminal Illness

One of the easiest ways to start reading non-fiction is to read memoirs. Memoirs are biography or autobiography of events in a person’s life. In my blog today, I zoom in to a specific shelf I call ‘memoirs of terminal illness’. The reason I narrow down the selection is because when you want to read and stay interested in reading, you should know what you are choosing to read and then let the author’s writing skill drive you towards the end of the book.

In today’s post, I will provide recommended terminal illness memoirs because I believe it is easy to relate to as we are all mortals and would eventually face death. On top of that, there is a beauty in the literature of a person who knows he/she was dying and vows to live to the fullest – when we, the ones blessed with freedom and health choose to browse our phone for hours a day! In that note, I would recommend reading terminal illness memoir if you would like to delve into non-fiction but not interested to read the ones from the business or self-help shelves.

But also, get ready to have your heart tugged with the list below: three terminal illness memoir and how one is different than the other. I hope my recommendation will help you select your reading!

NUMBER 1: TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE BY MITCH ALBOM

This book is Mitch Albom’s personal account of his professor (Morrie Schwartz) who faced a terminal illness. Mitch would make time to visit Morrie every Tuesday just to spend some time with him, not really to see Morrie’s progress but to just talk and be with Morrie. Along the time they spent together, Morrie began sharing some wisdom about life and Mitch began recording their conversation which he compiled as this book.

Tuesdays with Morrie is not only a memoir of a person who witnessed the degrade and suffering of a person dying with ALS, it is a philosophical account on how life should be lived.

NUMBER 2: THE LAST LECTURE BY RANDY PAUSCH

This is my personal favourite among the three because it is written as a first person, by Randy Pausch himself when was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Randy had small children and wanted to leave his kids something they can remember him of, little did he know his book about achieving childhood dreams is one EVERYONE should read in their lifetime. Randy’s narration of his perspective was highly positive in spite of his condition, he expressed his gratitude for his illness as it allowed him to make time for the things that really matter before his death.

Randy stressed that everyone should be happy at what they are doing because life is short and life can be taken away from us at any time. His vision of achieving ones childhood dreams is anchored together with his vision of enabling others’ childhood dreams, because he also emphasises the importance of quality relationship with those around us. I choose this book as the best among the three because it was easy to read and it doesn’t try to make you cry. (Randy is against sympathy to his illness.)

NUMBER 3: WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

This book is a personal account of Paul Kalanithi who was neurosurgeon and was very used to breaking bad news to patients and supporting his dying patients physically and mentally. One fateful day, his own prognosis came back with the possibility of lung cancer and after series of tests, the prognosis was positive. Upon learning that he had a terminal disease, his wife and he decided it was time to have a baby and to write a memoir about helping the dying while fully knowing he was dying too.

Some pages in this book can get a bit technical about neuro but I must give a hand at Paul Kalanithi’s writing skill. He has the ability to describe situations, feelings, taste, in a mix of words that are antagonistic – yet is fully understood. I would recommend this book for those who love literature (first and foremost) and those who wants a doctor’s perspective on living with a terminal disease.

I hope my list helps you choose the kind of books to find that ‘reader’ in you. It is best to read a memoir you can relate to according to professions, gender, the ordeal etc. Remember, it is always about making the right choice of books for yourself and I think reading on terminal disease memoir is relatable to all of us because without us realising, we are all in fact – dying.

-Baini Mustafa