Reading your way to a better life

I’ve been surprised to find that I prefer to read self-improvement, business and text books in printed rather than ebook form.

I like to be able to flick through, browsing here and scanning there, as opposed to the very linear way in which I read fiction or narrative non-fiction such as memoir or biography, which is ideally suited to digital reading on the go or late at night in a dark room.

I know this because my library of business and text ebooks is gathering e-dust, while the printed equivalents find themselves dipped into regularly when I’m at my desk or plotting my future on the sofa, and shared with colleagues and friends.

The printed fiction and memoir library is feeling neglected, while its digital equivalent requires regular updating with new purchases as past buys are voraciously consumed.

What do you think? Do you find yourself reading some types of books digitally and others in print?

Speaking of books that help us to live better, I used to think self-help books were for losers. Truly, I did.

That was back when I was young and thin, with shiny hair, bright eyes, a tidy flat in a smart suburb, a healthy bank balance and zero commitments.

It’s much easier to be a career success when you can work endlessly long hours without worrying about who’ll do the childcare pick-up or whether your husband will be hurt that you won’t get a chance to eat the dinner he’s cooked specially.

It’s much easier to be thin and glamorous when you can go to the gym every night without worrying about who’ll put your child to bed, and can afford to buy several new outfits a year because your income is entirely your own.

It’s super-simple to have a neat and tidy house when you live alone in a one-bedroom place and can afford a cleaner.

It’s much easier, too, to have your finances in order when you have total control over what comes in and what goes out.

So, one day in my 30s I realised I might need some help.

I had a job that simply did not fit in with parenthood. Shift work, early mornings, late nights, unexpected breaking stories right when the baby needed feeding/settling/entertaining/dropping off/picking up … something had to give.

Start my own business, I thought. Work from home, be my own boss, that’ll work. But first, read books by mothers (and others) who have tried it, to find out whether it will, and whether I’ll enjoy it, and what I should do, and how. Hello, self-improvement/businesss section of the bookstore. Farewell, judgemental attitude to same.

It wasn’t flicking through books like Hayley Lewis’s Dream Believe Create: A woman’s guide to small business that made me realise that the time wasn’t quite right to go it alone, though. It was my bank balance. Frankly, I’ve needed guidance here for a while, but managed to get by through good luck and reasonable career and investment success. The time has come, though, for me to take some serious steps to get my paperwork and budget in order. To do that, I need some more bookish help.

To that end, I’ve just reread an old second hand book I picked up in 1989. Predictably, it’s somewhat out of date now: The Australian Women’s Money Book: A practical guide to financial planning by Deborah Brewster. It cost me $2.95 the year I finished school. Two somewhat dated but amusing chapters include, “The white knight (or Mr Right to the rescue)” and “Shopping your way to love”.

I may have to invest in a more up to date volume on personal finance. Maybe Work Less, Play More by Ron Bennetts and Andrew Foster will help. Do you have a favourite you’d recommend? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Meanwhile, on my pile of to-read or browse through this month are Paper Flow: Make paperwork easy by MaryAnne Bennie and Brigitte Hinneberg, Home Sorted! By Nina Rosace, 52 Ways to Get More Time in Your Life by Glenda May, Spousonomics: Or how to maximise the returns on the biggest investment of your life, How To Retire In 12 Months: Turning passion into profit by Serena Star-Leonard and The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich by Timothy Ferriss.

So impressed am I with Paper Flow’s promises, I’ve actually read the first couple of chapters and decided to take the authors’ 28-day challenge. But that’s another story. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Published by

Charlotte Harper

Charlotte Harper is a Canberra journalist, blogger, editor and publisher who has worked in newspapers, magazines, books and online. She runs digital-first non-fiction publisher Editia and covered book industry developments at ebookish.com.au before joining Booku.com. A former literary editor of The South China Morning Post, Charlotte has also written about books and technology for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. She once edited a mobile phone and gadget magazine, and is a published author, of a book about digital publishing – Weird Wild Web (Penguin Australia 1999).