Want to read more? And does your reading list keep growing? It might be time to cross more books from your list this year than ever.
If you’re reading less than you want, you’re not the only one. One year ago I looked at my Goodreads page and noticed that I had read only five books in 2014. That realization frustrated me.
I love books, but since I graduated college in 2011, I’d been reading fewer books every single year. My work and life got in the way of reading as much as I wanted.
Why read more books? You read because you want to learn from other people’s experience. Otto von Bismarck put it best:
“Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others.”
If you want to get anywhere in this world, you need to educate yourself, and to educate yourself you need to read—a lot. Here’s how to do it.
1. Buy In Bulk
It costs money to buy books, and it costs you time to read them — I’m assuming you have both if you’re reading this. Everyone can make time. And if you don’t have money, find a way to make or save money.
As Dutch Renaissance man Erasmus once said:
“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”
Be assured, the money and time you spend on books are worth it. I can’t think of a better investment. Books are only a waste of money if you don’t read them.
If you want to read more, you have to buy more books. Some people don’t get it. They spend $200 on new shoes, but they find it ridiculous to buy 20 books from Amazon.
The idea is simple: If you have more books in your house, you’ll have more choices, and this will help you read more.
Here’s why: Most of the books you read are not planned in advance. You don’t sit down in January and say: “The first week of June I’ll read this book.”
You finish a book, look you at your inventory, and decide what to read next. Don’t overthink which book you should read next—you’ll end up reading reviews for hours, which is a waste of time.
For example, most people who want to start with Stoicism ask me: “Which one should I read first—Seneca, Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus?”
Buy them all. Read them all.
Having an inventory of books keeps up the momentum. You also never have an excuse not to read.
2. A(always) B(e) R(eading)
You might have heard of the term ‘ABC’ from the play/movie Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Closing. Many salespeople and entrepreneurs live by that motto.
I live by a different motto: Always Be Reading.
I read a minimum of 1 hour per day on weekdays and even more during the weekend and holidays.
Find a way to read more around your schedule and your life situation. Don’t make excuses like you’re tired or too busy.
Always Be Reading means that you:
- Read on the train
- Read while you’re breastfeeding your baby
- Read while you’re eating
- Read at the doctor’s office
- Read at work
- And most importantly — read while everyone else is wasting their time watching the news or checking Facebook for the 113th time that day.
If you do that, you’ll read more than 100 books in a year. Here’s how. Most people read 50 pages an hour. If you read 10 hours a week, you’ll read 26,000 pages a year. Let’s say the average book you read is 250 pages: In this scenario, you’ll read 104 books in a year.
With that pace—even if you take a two-week break—you’ll read at least 100 books in a year.
That’s a good return of your time investment. What’s the ROI of reading the news? I don’t know exactly, but it must be negative.
3. Read Relevant Books Only
Have you ever read a book that’s supposedly amazing and you don’t get it? I wouldn’t go as far as saying that any book sucks because people spend a lot of time writing and editing a book.
But not all books are for everyone. A book might be a best-seller, but maybe you can’t stand the writing. Or maybe it’s not the right time to read a book.
In any case: If you can’t flip through the pages, put the book away and pick up something you are so excited about that you tear up the pages.
Read books that are close to what’s going on in your life. There’s a book for everything you can think off. People are writing books for 2000 years, and there have been plenty of people in your shoes: struggling teen, aspiring artist, broke entrepreneur, new parent, etc.
Don’t waste your time reading about subjects you have zero interest in.
Instead, pick out the books that are related to your profession or hobby. Read books about people that you admire. Don’t read a book just because it’s a best-seller or a classic if it has no meaning to you.
4. Read Multiple Books Simultaneously
There are no rules to reading so you can do whatever you want. At times, I’m reading 5 books at once. I might read 50 pages of one book in the morning and then read another book in the afternoon.
That’s how I prefer it. Others like to read a book cover to cover and only then read something new.
If you’re reading something that’s complicated, you might want to read something that’s easier for the evenings. I like to read biographies before I go to sleep because they are like stories. Fiction also works well in the evening.
I don’t want to read a book about investing in bed with a highlighter and a pen. If I do that, I will be awake until 3 AM because my mind is buzzing with the new things I’m learning.
5. Retain The Knowledge
Knowledge is only good if you use it. To retain knowledge, you need a system that helps you do that. This is how I do it:
- When you read a book, use a pen to make notes in the margins and highlight important text. If you’re reading digitally, be aware of over-highlighting. Just because it’s so easy you shouldn’t highlight everything you find slightly interesting. Keep the highlighting for ‘aha’ things only.
- If you read something you want to definitely remember, fold the top or bottom corner of the page. For digital readers: take a picture and store it in a notetaking app you prefer.
- When you finish the book, go back to the pages with the folds and skim your notes.
- Write down (use your notetaking software or physical notebook) in your own words what the book is about and what advice the author is giving.
- Copy the quotes that stand out the most to you.
The point is not to copy the book but to help you process the information so you can use it later.
The point is not that everyone must read 100 books a year.
Simply read more. And as much as you possibly can — but never forget to apply what you’ve learned because that is what counts the most. You put in many hours to read books, make sure you get something out of it.