A Reader’s Digest

By Hu Wo (Cuckoo’s Song)


SOONER or later most readers will begin their reading after they have learnt to read well. Reading is beloved in various parts of the world, especially in developed countries. Then, ‘why the people from those countries read a lot’ has turned into a big question. In fact, reading gives readers pleasure, knowledge, wisdom, and even life. People like to get happiness, information, ideas, and opinions from reading books, newspapers or whatever easily without lots of costs, time, and energy. Readers to the core could do anything new more creatively, more effectively, and more efficiently than those who might have read very little. Thus, a nation crowded with reader citizens is improving better bit by bit, its standard of living included. Reading for life means that reading would be as essential as daily food and drink, or a must for everyday living.


My reader life began with Sayadaw Ashin Sandadika’s many books, which were bought by Sayama Daw Yin Thein from Pathein as Dhamma gifts. His books fitfully include a few of the jataka tales which mean the 550 stories of Buddha-to-be. Although those books on Dhamma look boring to death for a young reader, the tales are absolutely interesting indeed for me and impart some moral lessons. In addition, Sayadaw’s writing is simple and clear enough to understand. Among the books written by him, `Lotaya-hnalonethar´ (လိုတရ နှလုံးသား) is my favourite as well as my memorable book. After reading several of his books, I picked up and tried to read Sayadaw U Jotika’s ones. Sad to say it seems to be beyond me what Sayadaw means that he wants to say. That is, his thoughts on Buddha’s Dhamma are so serious that an average reader cannot absorb them very well. After him, Thutaythi Bhone Myint Thway became my favourite writer. His writings exerted a strong influence on me until I was nicknamed `Bhaddanta´ which is the title of an abbot in Buddhism. After that, it was Pi Moe Hnin who taught me to try thinking wide big after reading is done.


To my way of thinking, digested reading means knowing the subject inside out. To be said better, digested reading comprises reciting the subject partly or from beginning to end, knowing which subject has been written on what page by whom by heart, seeing the purpose, writing style, choice words, and creative thinking of the subject, repeating the subject, and speaking out one’s own second thoughts on the subject. Of course, digested reading is just a kind of habit and therefore, such reading could not possibly be taught but practised by any mentor. Not every book, particularly light reading only for pleasure, should be finished through digested reading. If a reader cannot, however, do a type of digested reading over the subject matter, he will not be supposed to be the very reader except he is an amateur reader. That is why a reader must be able to get digested reading done if he wants to lead a true reader’s life.


So, how to digest reading will be presented here as far as I am concerned. Firstly, by the time a book is read, readers should read the whole book, not excluding the writer’s foreword, thanks, others’ remarks, and further reading if they are included in the book. Such things may help the readers show the right way to read a book. Secondly, readers ought to take a look at the contents page. From the contents, they can not only guess which subject matter might be written in a book but also skim the section of the book that they would like to read first because they do not have enough time for reading if need be. It does not matter to readers how fast their reading speeds are, but they must scan the entire book if and when the time and circumstance allow them to do that. Readers usually keep repeating a good read for them over and over, but not some read like classics, nice even. That should not be so, actually. Old as classics are, they managed to pass through ages, did they? Thirdly, hence, any great book needs to be read again and again by readers whether they like it or not. Lastly, there has to be logic, memory, convergent or divergent thinking, imitation, and practice in the art of digested reading.


For starters of reading, I shall continue to recommend 12 excellent books in the Myanmar Language.  The first two books are all about how to read: `Laminko-htayanpaukma-kyichin´ (လမင်းကို ထရံပေါက်မှ ကြည့်ခြင်း) by Mya Thann Tint, and `Ngadoh-baloe-saphatkyatalae´ (ငါတို့ ဘာလို့ စာဖတ်ကြတာလဲ) by Lu Thaman. Another five books in the collection of stories are as follows: `Payayahna´ (ပါရာယန) by Shin Maha Thilawuntha, `Thaykanesitetaenya´ (သေကိန်းဆိုက်တဲ့ည) translated by Aung Thinn, `Khitsanponepyinmyar´ (ခေတ်စမ်းပုံပြင်များ) edited by U Pe Maung Tin, `Kotwewuthtumyar´ (ကိုယ်တွေ့ဝတ္တုများ) by U Phoe Kyar, and `Htamilaytahte´ (ထမီ လေး တစ်ထည်) by Nu Nu Yi Inwa. The other five books of novels are in the following: `Pyoneywaele-gadokhandawmupa Yeywaele-gadokhandawmupa´ (ပြုံး၍လည်းကန်တော့ခံတော် မူပါ၊ ရယ်၍လည်းကန်တော့ခံတော်မူပါ) by Nu Nu Yi Inwa, `Ma Ein Kan´ (မအိမ်ကံ) by Khin Khin Htoo, ‘Htetmyattaedathwarpawka-chomyamyapyaryaysat´ (ထက်မြက်တဲ့ဓါးသားပေါ်က ချိုမြမြပျားရည်စက်) by Nyi Pu Lay, `Naw Yin Mgwe´ (နော်ရင်မွှေး) by Mya Thanda, and `Amattaya´ (အမှတ်တရ) by Ju. All the above-mentioned books are the ones I have never forgotten, and also the books for digested reading.


Speaking as a reader, it is natural if more digested reading is carried out in books written in foreign languages. The best idea for this is to bury ourselves in our books and to study intensively. The less achievement in a learned foreign language anyone has got, the more attention he will pay to that language. Here, I would like to mention it only as an aside that any book in a foreign language we are reading must run our literacy very close to the level. Otherwise, we shall get sick as a parrot of digested reading in any other foreign languages at the double.


Like digested reading in some foreign languages, rare book resources are one of the major problems which readers are always confronting. There are no books available or no libraries where they can get very quickly to their place to live. At that time, they tend to replace radios, TVs, online learning, literary talks or discussion groups with books, but it looks like they kept away from digested reading as well. If possible, readers had better buy and collect as many books as on hand for digested reading. Perhaps reading with books does not seem expensive, long, and wasted; it can certainly be repeated, if necessary, too.


There did significantly turn up one writer who could do digested reading in the field of Myanmar literature. His name was Aung Thinn. He named his non de plume his real name only. He is still famous as a great thinker among adolescent readers. Those readers include myself. I have been deeply influenced by his articles till I do not enjoy other writers’ articles any longer. I find that Saya almost always describes someone else’s popular thoughts at the beginning of his articles, and then he writes his own thoughts logically in the end. Because of him, I have always accepted the definition that wisdom (`Pinnya´ in Pali) is just reasoning in the light of Theingathu-Thamee’s Tablet. If truth is known, only the writers that are very digestedly read in language and literature will be able to write out a vastly superior read.


The effects of reading, or more specifically, digested reading, are enormous. Everyone that has already felt them, needless to say, knows the reading effect pretty well. Every now and then the digested-reading effect drives a reader to turn into a writer. Moreover, this effect provides students with readiness to pursue their studies, have a discussion about subjects, or conduct a presentation of something new for another study. It is possible for a reader with digested reading to be a fast reader or literary critic, at the very least. A digesting reader can even predict that a book is written by whom with a brief glance at its writer’s writing.


To sum up, digested reading also says a sort of effective and efficient reading. That digested reading might contain silent reading and read aloud. Maybe silent reading is good for most readers and authors, maybe reading aloud for writers of poetry in particular. Digested reading is often connected with a higher frequency of reading than the time taken. I believe that it will take at least 15 minutes to get digested reading every day on end. The daily maximum time of reading should be up to 1 hour long. If this time is over, it is anything but good in that a reader wastes time in reading, pure and simple. For digested reading, we can pick and choose the only writer’s writings, one period’s writings, the individual subject matter, or a single style of writing. Read well!