Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
Reading a book is like falling in love: It must happen naturally; you cannot force it, and if you do, the relationship develops cracks in no time, and before long, there is a break-up. If you wish to later start afresh, the past memories, opinions, prejudices begin interfere with the present, and the effort to reconcile meets a tragic end.
But…just like true love, reading must ‘happen’ to us at some point in our lives. And there could be no better time than when we prepare for the CAT.
Compatibility is a major factor is our relationship with the books we read. I personally do not believe those who say that they do not ‘like’ to read. What they actually mean is that they have tried to read what inherently did not interest them.
It’s like saying ‘I don’t like to be loved!’ It is simply untrue. All it means is that we have not yet found the right person.
We all have our likes and dislikes, preferences and aversions, which significantly influence our choice of the books to read. The books we read reflect the boundaries of our curiosity.
Curiosity is usually inversely proportional to narcissism.
One of the major obstacles to developing the habit of reading is obsession with the self, which leads to a very myopic view of the world, one that does not transcend the immediate matters of one’s existence.
Ask yourself: what are the subjects, activities, pursuits that interest you without there being any direct material benefit to you?
Search within yourself for these answer. It could be anything: Economics, cooking, management, law, physics, sports, films, drama, painting, music, gardening, pottery, or almost else anything under the sun.
Take a paper, and list everything that interests you. You will see for yourself what kind of individual you so far have been – curious or self-centred.
Needless to say, the top B-school look for candidates who are curious (and therefore likely to be well-read and better informed), for such individuals are most likely to learn new things quickly, and become better managers in the future.
In fact, one of the main objectives of the entire process of selection – right from the CAT to the WAT and the PI – is to find out how much interested you are in the world outside yourself.
Once you have prepared your list, which, I feel, should have at least 5 topics on it, go to your nearest bookshop and browse through the titles on those topics. You may even buy a couple of books with which you may fall in love at first sight.
This way, you shall be reading the books that actually interest you, and therefore, you are more likely to persist with them.
Don’t just be in a relationship – work on it!
Once you have started reading on a topic of your interest, explore its adjacencies.
For example, many of us are interested in sports. We may begin by reading the daily sports column in a newspaper, then go on to web columns, then to autobiographies of famous sportspersons, then to sports management, and so on. Some of us may be more attracted to the medicine side of sports (such as sports-physiotherapy). Some may venture into the philosophical side of sports – a universal exploration of the relevance of sports to our lives. Some may develop further interest in war and combat – a not-so-unlikely-turn that your reading on sports may take. Then we will have opened another avenue of reading for ourselves. This avenue could lead us into history and politics, and so on.
A majority of us are also interested in films. A reading journey that may begin with the film reviews may further continue into biographies, books on film-making, music, even film scripts. Such reading may even inspire some of us to pick up the pen and write on our favourite movie personalities.
Do you see what is happening here? Reading a book is like a carrying a flame, a flame that can potentially ignite another, and spark the joy of knowledge in our lives – only if we allow it to.
Relationship with reading, like that with a person, may require us to make some sacrifices – primarily small adjustments to our daily routines. Start your day by spending half an hour or so over a newspaper. Keep a book with you – either printed or digital –whenever you travel. Switch off your mobile phone and immerse yourself in a book. Let yourself miss your bus-stop or the train station every once in a while, for there is no more beautiful and fascinating way of being lost than being lost in a book.
A person who is capable of getting lost in a book enjoys a rare freedom, in which happiness is not dependent on another person. Learning only happens in such freedom.
Keep a book by your bedside, and at the end of the day, allow yourself to look into it as you would into a mirror – looking back at what kind of day you have had, and what new you discovered that day. Such books are usually not the garden-variety self-help books that abound corporate libraries or airport bookshops. Instead, they are the works of genius that, through their sheer brilliance, reassure you of the tomorrow that is full of human possibilities. If you doubt this, read any book by Bertrand Russell.
Keep a balance of fiction and non-fiction in your reading.
The CAT RC passages, as most of you must have discovered by now, are mostly non-fiction. We may see a poem, or something story-like, once in a blue moon. Reading non-fiction requires us to work harder to comprehend. Most readers usually take almost twice as long to read non-fiction as they do to read fiction, unless either they are familiar with the subject matter or the level of difficulty is low, the latter being impossible in the CAT. Most stories, by virtue of their vivid descriptions, make it quite easy for us to flow through the text. Non-fiction, on the other hand, does not have to ‘entertain’ us. It is therefore harder to comprehend, and needs a concentrated effort on our part.
Fiction, on the other hand, enriches us with idiomatic vocabulary, which is also tested in most of the management entrance examinations.
In my experience, most students usually stick to either fiction or non-fiction. We need both of them from the perspective the examination, and we must practice reading both.
To recommend books to someone is quite similar to setting up someone on a blind date. It is a gamble, and if it fails, I get the rap!
However if true love is what stands the test of time, here are a few things of beauty that I have read, and re-read over many years, and yet they have always surprised me with something new.
Category: Philosophy, mind, and thought
Category: Science and technology
Online journals and magazines:
www.guardian.co.uk/weekly – quite simply the best weekly I have ever read
www.lrb.co.uk – not just a book review site – you must discover for yourself how fabulously comprehensive (or comprehensively fabulous!) it is
www.prospectmagazine.co.uk – excellent coverage of political, cultural, economic happenings
www.nybr.com – the best book review site on the other side of the Atlantic
www.newyorker.com – an all-encompassing commentary on popular culture and literature
www.smithsonianmag.com – covers history, arts, science, travel, and more – absolutely brilliant
The list above is (and can only be) indicative. In future, we shall discuss many more. The reading material suggested here will help you familiarise yourself not only with the range of topics that may feature in the CAT RCs but also with the level of difficult usually seen in them.
Approach these books and journals like you would a blind date – with an open mind!
Who knows, the relationship that begins in an ephemeral glance may last an entire lifetime. You can check out another list of books compiled by Ravi over here:
This post was contributed by a friend Sanket Chowkidar. He has an MA from University College Falmouth, UK. He is currently a faculty for English with one of India’s leading test-prep organisations. He has been teaching CAT aspirants for close to a decade.
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