The Left-Handed Way to Unlock Books



Let me guess. You buy books faster than you can read them.

You watch interviews with authors, love the conversation, buy the book, but you don’t read it.

You’ve got shelves of books. They all seem like they’re probably interesting, but you’re stuck at not reading any on a normal day.

It feels like you don’t know where to start, and you simply can’t commit to reading an entire book over weeks.

You might benefit from leaning into the random-ish book-flicking technique that’s natural for many left-handed people.

It doesn’t matter if you’re left-handed or right-handed, give it a try.

The Awkward Left-Hander

In the Irish language, the joke’s on you as a left-hander.

Left-handers are known as ciotógs. A ciotóg is literally an “awkward person”, or at least the words are synonymous.

Even opening a book is strange for a ciotóg. Yet there’s a special value in this.

The Thing About Flicking Through a Book, Left-Handed

When you flick through a book as a left-hander, the thumb letting the pages whizz by is the left hand’s thumb (unless you’ve adapted and use your right hand). This means:

As a left-hander, I naturally start at the back of the book.

I flick backwards through the book from back to front.

The table of contents comes last!

The Random Page Isn’t So Random

From a depth psychological perspective, the page you flick to may not be so random.

It’s often a synchronicity — a meaningful coincidence.

The Random Book Isn’t So Random

The books I have at hand are already biased to my worldview, or sympathetic toward it.

Some books go forever without being opened, some go a long time without being opened.

Sometimes, a book will jump out at me. I see the book, and I feel the inkling that I’d like to have a read of it.

I’ll flick through the book in my left-handed way, and fall onto a passage which wasn’t so random at all.

(As I was finishing this article, I was listening to The Creative Act by Rick Rubin. He suggests to pick up a random book too and see what you can get from it. I also then came across suggestions by Questlove in Creative Quest to kickstart creativity by several methods of randomly picking out words from a book or dictionary.)

Liminality Synchronicity

At a psyche symposium at the art college in Limerick in April 2024, the topic was liminality—a feeling of being between two states. The symposium had me pondering its implications.

A day or two later, I picked up the book “Strength to Strength” by Arthur Brooks off my shelf. Flicking through it left-handed, I stopped at a page on “Liminality”. I thought, “no way, this is more than coincidence”.

It was a meaningful coincidence for me, as I was looking at liminality for my college end-of-year essay. I learned from this bit of the book, and used it as part of the essay.

Another example: I was procrastinating on that same college essay, and reading the news about Russia. I closed my phone, and I opened a book by Freud I had out for the essay. I landed on a page mentioning “a small provincial Russian town”.

It was a story about an unconscious decision that the person hadn’t realised they were making. An interesting insight, and I was glad to have found the story.

What to Do with a Synchronicity?

On the advice of one of my lecturers: take a synchronicity as a sign to look into the idea further. This approach orients you toward action rather than sheer awe.

If you take a synchronicity as just a hint to follow up on it, then you can see it as a positive guide. It won’t stop you in your tracks.

Think of Your Bookshelf as a Wine Cellar

As Luc van Donkersgoed wisely put it: “Think not of the books you’ve bought as a ‘to be read’ pile. Instead, think of your bookcase as a wine cellar. You collect books to be read at the right time, the right place, and the right mood.”

This perspective shift can make your reading experience more enjoyable and less pressured.

So is This Technique Only for Left-Handers?

No, and more specifically it’s probably for right-handers! You normally get to flick through a book from front to back. (I can only imagine what that’s like!).

Your Left-Handed Book Reading Challenge

Here’s my challenge to you to unlock the books on your shelves for your benefit.

It doesn’t matter if you’re left or right-handed. Just to this challenge mindfully.

1. Pick up a physical book off your shelf that’s calling you (I don’t believe so much in doing this this with a digital book, but I could be wrong).

2. Start flicking through the book from the back of the book to the front.

3. Stop at a “random” page.

4. Read the page. Did anything jump out at you? Was it really that random?

5. If nothing jumped out, not to worry, keep flicking through until something jumps out at you.

Now you can dip into your book collection as you have time and energy, and it doesn’t need a commitment of reading a book in any particular order.

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