It’s one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions and a commonly broken one as well. While numerous investors, big time entrepreneurs and other successful persons swear by it, it is not always that easy to follow suit.
We’re talking about reading books, obviously. Everybody wants to do it more often, but (almost) never get around to it.
I’ve been saying for over a year that I want to read more, and partially I did. I read massive amounts of blog post since I started blogging myself, more then I would even hold imaginable. But reading books has become neglected because of it. So, what happened? Why didn’t I ‘just start’ reading more? Just setting the goal to read more isn’t magically going to help you to actually read more. But that’s about to change.
Finding the time
When I was a little girl, I would devour every book I could get my hands on. Every month I would go to the local library with my mother and select three, four, or sometimes even five books to take home with me. Mostly, all of them were finished before the month ended. I still remember how I loved traveling to distant worlds full of adventures, and on one day I even started to write my own little stories in a notebook.
Throughout the years I kept on reading, from entertaining children’s books to historical novels. And from daunting detectives to insightful business books. But every year it became less and less. I stopped going to the library, and only bought an occasional new addition for in the bookcase. When I started working a job where books were literally for the picking 4 years ago, I started reading again. Although not as often as I would have liked. Since then I’ve collected a mix of books that I wanted to read, and still do.
There are many ways to enlarge your reading time. And I’ve experimented with a few of them. Like reading 20 pages every day before I went sleeping, which turned into evenings where I was asleep before I turned the first page. I started to block certain hours in my agenda to focus on reading, only to find more pressing tasks at hand to replace them with. And I even took physical books with me on the go so I could read at any place possible. Turns out the bigger books are a heavy load you don’t want to carry around.
Since then, more time has passed. And my books are still waiting.
An e-reader then solved the problem of carrying heavy books. Because of it, I’ve read an 1100-pager in only 2 weeks. And I just finished reading the book Influence by Cialdini, which is a must-read for anybody. Literally.
Additionally, I started commuting by train. Giving me an extra 50 minutes a day to read, which I gratefully make full use of.
The amount of books you read isn’t important
The reason why I was reading more wasn’t only that of extra convenience or time. But because it gave me something back in return that fulfilled the why on my wish for reading more: value.
Setting a goal of reading X amount of books per year, will not get you there. It’s not important how much you read, or how long you read. It is important that while you read, it provides a value in one way or another. Think about it. It’s the same with money. It isn’t important how much money you have, but what you can do with it that counts.
Personally, reading books gives me value in two different ways:
To be entertained: Mostly fiction, but always something more easy to read what relaxes me. Where I can dive into a story and let me tow along in their lives or adventures. And my mind is purely focused on the book. these kinds of books I often read in the evenings. In particular, I like books with a historical background or biographies.
To learn something specific: Mostly non-fiction, covering a certain topic I want to know more about. Think of books that cover philosophy, psychology or financial subjects. These are the books I read because I want to get insights, a better understanding of the crazy world we live in or to get ahead in certain areas of my life. Because I need to read actively with these books, I mostly read them early in the day.
“The goal is not to read as many books as possible. The goal is to gain as much wisdom as you can.”
– Shane Parrish
How to read better
Reading books is one of the best ways to learn new insights. Much of the amount of that learning depends on you. Once you have read a book, what are you going to do with that information? Farnam Street has a great article explaining how to get the best out of your reading experience.
“Having a deliberate strategy for anything we spend a lot of time on is a sensible approach. But most people don’t consciously try to get the most out of the time they invest in reading.
For us to get the most out of each book we read, it is vital to have a plan for recording, reflecting on, and putting into use the conclusions we draw from the information we consume. Look for a strategy for deriving the maximum benefit from every single page you read.”
By writing about and including aspects of the books I have and will read, the learning starts. By reading only, you suck up the information but tend to forget a lot of the concepts being covered. By interacting with the content, either by talking, writing, thinking or singing for that matter, you will start using the information.
Additionally, faster and more reading isn’t the key to knowledge or a better understanding of it. How you read is even more important than how much you’ll read.
Each person has his or her own method of active reading. One returning element is using the book as best you can, a.k.a. writing in them, make earmarks or high light text.
As a dedicated book lover, I’ve never been able to do just that. I wanted my books to be nice, clean and good looking. I often blame Mr. Divnomics that he ruins the books he read because of how they look afterward.
Is it truly a waste if a book isn’t looking as if it were (almost) as good as new? Would it be so bad to write in the margins, to make a book look … used?
Or is it the only way to get the best out of your reading experience? Why did I buy that book in the first place? To read and use it? Or as a piece of accessory in your living room?
In every book, there is value, a good idea that can help you grown. Either personally or professionally. It doesn’t matter which topic or genre you’re reading. The real power of reading is about sparking your curiosity and open up your imagination.
My ever-growing pile of books – or my anti-library
I recently read a new years resolution article where one of the goals was to read up the current stash of books before you buy any new ones. It saves money and helps you get rid of all books you always wanted to read in one go.
But sometimes there is a good reason you haven’t picked up a certain book yet.
Sometimes you’re just not as interested in the subject anymore, the book might be of less value than expected or is just not one of your priorities at that moment
Don’t give in to the feeling that you must read all the books you own. It’s a goal where you will not have the freedom to read whatever you want to. And isn’t that more important than getting rid of that stash?
In my collection of non-read books, there are a few I’m not certain of that I will ever read them. Isn’t that the beauty of it all? To read only the books you want to, whenever you want to? To keep on reading, but on your own terms? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same mantra FIRE folks use as a reason to become financially independent. So why not apply it here as well?
The author Ryan Holiday even calls it his anti-library. A collection of unread books that will remind you just how much more there is still to learn.
“It will be an investment that pays off in the long run. If you see anything that remotely interests you, just buy it. If you don’t get to read it immediately and it piles up, that’s ok. It’s part of building your “anti-library,” or the stack of unread books that will humble you and remind you just how much there is still to learn.”
Changing the way I read
Just yesterday I bought a new (e)book again, called Perennial Seller by, of course, Ryan Holiday. In contrary to my anti-library books, I’m actually reading this one. And this morning I bought another e-book. For whenever I’m ready to start reading it. To get to the state where I will read actively, and change my habits involving my use of books, there are a few changes I want to make in my reading habits. Like daring to use – really use – books. But also, reading more books at once, buy both physical and digital books, keep track of what I read, take lessons from it and creating a system.
To make the habit(s) stick, I’m letting reading be a part of my daily blog life by integrating book content in the posts and reviving my old page about the books I’m reading or have read (and actually keep it updated).
Secondly, I’m going to write more on what I read. The real goal I want to achieve is to learn and gain knowledge. And the only way to do that is by a better understanding of what I read. Writing about it helps me reflect and opening up discussions about the topic that otherwise would have been untouched.
Also, it will help me build a library of stories, quotes, and insight which I can further implement in this blog. With all kinds of wisdom nuggets ready to pull from, enriching my own stories becomes that much easier.