How To Read More Books

How To Read More Books

Advice on reading effectively through better time management, triaging, and personalizing the reading experience

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A while ago, I joined Goodreads to try to push myself into "reading more books". I had a rough start a few years ago only managing to read a single digit amount of books. Still though, that would probably place me miles ahead of many other people.

Though I managed to read 29 books in 2023 alone, I felt like these numbers were only reflecting the breadth of what I read and not the depth. However, I never stopped to ask myself:

Why did I originally want to read more books?

I will describe how I changed my reading strategy since the beginning of this year. I will talk about time management, triaging your books, and getting into the mindset of personalizing your reading.

⏰ Time Management

One of the strategies I used to nudge myself into reading is to allocate time on my calendar for it. There are different ways to allocate this time. However, it is important to note that some books require more time to be fully appreciated and should be read in a time where you know you won't be interrupted. Consider dedicating an hour to books that require more focused attention.

Depending on the sources you look at, adults on average spend 6 hours looking at screens, and on average 2 hours are spent on social media like Instagram, Tiktok, Twitter etc. Ask yourself, could you shave off one hour from your social media time to use it for reading? If you are able to spend that much time on social media, surely you can spare a few minutes for reading in its place.

🚏 Reading at the Bus Stop or Reading During Uninterrupted Time?

I wouldn't rely solely on little breaks throughout the day, like waiting for a friend or at a bus stop, in order to catch up on reading. Reading is not meant to be a race to consume as much content as you can like a "whack a mole" but for your free time. If the book is important to you, use your allocated reading time to ensure it's uninterrupted. Of course, if there are books where you know you're not going to read it that deeply, you could feel free to skim over it, pause it, and jump chapters and do as you please. Going back to the quote at the beginning, ask yourself why you're reading that book: Is it a means to an end like giving you entertainment or personal growth? If it's purely to add to your reading challenge and you feel that it is not actually giving you anything of value, whether hedonistic or practical, then it's probably a "read at a bus stop" type of book.

🚦 The Book Triage

A thing I like to do is to "triage" my books. If you're a book reader with some sort of book tracking system, you'll notice that most apps have three different book progress levels "already read", "to be read" aka TBR, and "currently reading". This is a decent system, and actually I wouldn't change anything about it if you're getting started with reading. Over time though, you'll notice that you have hundreds of books in your TBR and you aren't even interested in half of them in the next 365 days. Given this all-you-can-read buffet of TBR books, beckoning you to read them, it will lead to choice overload.

💀 To Be Read, or Not To Be Read: That Is The Question

Last year, I completely deleted all my TBR books on my Goodreads library. I had absolutely no regrets. I do still have books in my "mental TBR" but I eventually forget them if they're not important enough. Having my physical TBR wiped out gives me an even greater peace of mind.

At any moment in time, I am reading 3 different kinds of books:

  1. One of them is a book that is of great interest, in which I likely take meticulous notes if I have to. These books tend to be nonfiction.
  2. The second kind is one where I may play at a bus stop or while I'm walking in the park, often a superficial fiction. I could give it the attention it deserves while doing non-cognitively demanding tasks.
  3. The third type is probably some audiobook or book sample where I'm not sure about it but I'm also not that heavily invested in it to care and is likely to be switched to a different book.

👀 Just Like This Article, Don't Feel Obligated to Finish Reading It

Let's face it. The article I wrote here probably has millions of variations on Google by people giving advice years before I did about the same thing. Perhaps you already knew the "set reading time in your calendar" trick because of some other thing you read somewhere else. So, what should you do if you see it again in my article? Skip it! You don't need to respect me by reading the whole thing for the same reason you don't need to watch an entire YouTube video. Books can also be treated the same way.

🏃 Jump Around To Where You Need

If you have some sort of essay to write about the COVID19 pandemic, and have a book about all the known pandemics in human history, do you really need to read the section on the Bubonic Plague to get most of what you need to write that essay? Of course not. First, you need to dive into what you need, then branch out if and only if it is necessary.

Many nonfiction books have aptly named headers and you can skim over them to see if those sections are likely what you're going to read. You can jump around them, especially if the author tells you that it's alright and can be read in any order. I am currently reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, which is very much a jump in at whichever point you want and take away from it what you need.

Don't feel obligated to read every part of the book, especially if it's not related to your goals.

🗑️ Garbage In, Garbage Out

Sometimes, reading something that you genuinely get nothing out of is basically the same thing as watching a TV series just for the background noise and not the plot. Sure you could use it that way if it's an audiobook, but to intently suffer through a book that takes 14 hours to finish when there are better books out there that deliver the same message is detrimental to your valuable time. Do not fall into using the sunk-cost fallacy, especially when time is your most important limited resource.

Read for Me, Not For Thee

Reading should be consumed in ultimately the same way you consume other types of media. It should be for growth, enjoyment and knowledge. You do not need to read all the classic novels of the past century and then throw around big names like Aldous Huxley, Dostoyevski, and Hemingway to show off to other people how impressive your reading repetoire is. People are more interested in how well you articulate your newfound wisdom rather than where it comes from.

Read for your own purposes, not because they are on some online curated reading list or because they were quoted a thousand times by other people to give you the illusion that they're erudite. I find that I don't enjoy books written at least 50 years ago, and even more so 100 years ago. All the classics fall into those times, if not more. If I read a book that happens to be a classic, I probably have some ulterior motive, perhaps because of pop culture references to it.

Never compare your reading preferences, speed, and number of books with others. You have no idea whether they're getting out of reading at their pace what you are getting at your pace.

Quote of The Week

Quote by Alex O'Connor, resurfaced using Readwise

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