Everyone wants to read more books, but we don’t spend the time required to do so. Reading is difficult in an environment based on feed refreshes and new blog posts.
It’s a noisy world, and reading just doesn’t fit in that well.
Or does it?
In many ways, reading is like a home-cooked meal compared to the fast food diet of instant information found on your screen.
When you create a good menu you need to plan for it, acquire it, prepare it and then digest it.
Reading is no different. It is food for your mind.
For a long time, I used to read a book a month. Now I read about a book a week.
Here are five ways I found to read more books:
#1 Have a book buffet. I always have more books to read than I do read. I visit the library and borrow anything that looks unique. I add books to my Amazon wishlist that might be good.
When I tell people how much I read, their response is often, “Yeah, I need to find a good book.”
But there are so many great books out there to read:
- What happens when the best deep sea divers in the world find a sunken U-boat off the New Jersey shore? There’s a book about it.
- What happens when a private company stages a coup, complete with an army of mercenaries, all for the control of a single fruit in Central America? There’s a book about it.
- What happens with a fugitive flees England, makes it halfway across the Atlantic but is captured all because radio waves were finally harnessed for communication? There’s a book about it.
Each of those books were ones that I found because someone suggested them. I never would have thought, “I need to find a good book,” and stumbled on one of them.
With this mindset, I ordered a copy of Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. It was fantastic, a fantastic bore. I tried to read it, but just couldn’t. I gave up on it. Which brings me to number two.
#2 Go ahead and quit a book. Don’t be afraid to stop reading a book. When you go to a buffet, you don’t feel like you have to eat everything, so apply this same approach to your book buffet. Some books are bad, some you just aren’t ready for, some won’t make sense. If you started Lord of the Rings with the third book and wondered why the author kept writing about a “white” wizard, you missed something, right?
This can be hard because we are wired to finish things. It’s why you clean your plate. It’s why we rationalize choices by saying, “we’ve come this far, we might as well finish.” Don’t read a book unless you are excited to read a book.
One of my favorite books is Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile, but I failed to read it the first three times. I had to listen to the audiobook first. Then I read a book related to it. Then I was finally able to finish it. During the first few attempts I wasn’t excited for the book; on the third attempt I was.
And I have a confession, I’ve never finished a single Seth Godin book. I’ve tried, but they aren’t for me. It doesn’t matter that other people love his books, it’s not a good fit for me.
#3 Don’t care what other people think. After college, I thought that knowledge in life was like a giant Lego project. Each time you learned something you added a block to your structure of knowledge. In my twenties, I realized this wasn’t the case. My Lego architecture of Greek history looks more like the current ruins, I know almost nothing. At first I was embarrassed. Guess what, a lot of people are like this.
I had forgotten the specific years of World War II until I read a book about it. That’s alright. People who know about a specific field, whether it’s history, productivity, or medicine are all people we can learn from. They are kindred spirits of learning who just happen to be further up the trail than you. Those people won’t embarrass you for what you don’t know. Those are all people who’ve been able to read more than you, in part because they’ve created good reading environments.
#4 Surround yourself with readers who are reading. I’m in some great book clubs with people like Jamie Rubin, Ryan Holiday, and James Altucher. But none of them know it. I follow them all online and as they share the books they’ve read, I read those books too. I also follow other people that read a lot. This inspires me. It reminds me that the people I admire are all readers and that I should be a reader too.
Shane Parrish at Farnam Street, Maria Popova at Brain Pickings, and the many guests at 27 Good Things all remind me of the value of reading. This has given me the social influence of a book club.
#5 Make reading as easy as possible. Reading in an environment of noise is hard. Would you read at a birthday party? Of course not. But our normal lives can be just as busy. So what did I do?
For me, to read more I had to create more moments that made it easier to read.
- When I sit down on the couch, I make sure I sit down with a book. I don’t always read it, but it’s there.
- I deleted Facebook from my phone. The notifications were like a gateway drug. Once I was in the app I was too tempted to scroll and refresh the feed.
- I moved Twitter off my homescreen. Like Facebook I got in the cycle of scroll-refresh. I also learned that after a long-weekend vacation, I could miss what happened on Twitter and not miss much.
- I limit when my emails to arrive at 9:30 and 4:00 thanks to Inbox Pause. That I know I’ll deal with email then makes it easier to stay out of my inbox.
Each of these small actions makes it easier to read.
Each book I read builds on a last book. If I learn about some aspect of psychology, I start to see it in non-psychology books. If I read about something that takes place in the 1940’s it enriches each other book that takes place then.
Reading isn’t easy. Especially when barriers like not knowing what to read or feeling dumb because you don’t know something.
Reading is absolutely worth it. Outside of the people in my life, it’s the most satisfying thing that I do. If you want to read more and are looking for a source of suggestions, check out my reading email list. It’s a free, monthly list of the books I read.