This past year, I read close to 70 books.
I don’t say this to impress you. It was (probably) an anomaly. The number shoaled me. I never really kept count or score until this past year. In the years prior to 2018, I felt that my book reading was lapsing. I was giving in to my impulses for newsfeeds and YouTube channels, Netflix binges and tweets. In the end, it felt like hollow calories. The time passed quickly. The content was ingested and enjoyed, but had it sunk in? Had it helped me? Had it made me smarter? The main discrepancy that people have between books and other forms of entertainment, is that books are not as enjoyable (or consumable) as other forms of media. It’s easy to slip into that thinking without really thinking it through. Books are a fantastic voyage. If you don’t believe it… chant it like a mantra until you do 🙂
How to read more books…
- Keep score. If you want to lose weight, the experts agree that it’s best to track what you’re eating. The same is true for books. The moment I started the file “Books 2018” in Evernote, I found myself wanting to read more and admiring the list at it grew/remembering the books that I had read.
- Go digital. While I prefer to read physical books, the act of remembering to bring a book, and carrying it around just doesn’t work with my lifestyle. I originally switched to reading on my iPhone with the Kindle app, but found myself wanting a Kindle device. I went with the Paperwhite device (and recently upgraded to the newer version). Having many books (asynchronous across my smartphone and Kindle device) encouraged/reminded me that books were “everywhere” with me. So, instead of hitting the Facebook feed, I found myself reading. Once I finished and enjoyed a book, I would buy a physical copy for my library. It was a nice treat and nod (to myself) that I completed the task at hand.
- Steal moments. Books used to feel like “moments in time.” Moments that I had to schedule (and with business, lots of travel and a young family), I found every excuse not to find the time. When I went digital, I could read a few sentences here or there. I could take those “down” moments (waiting in line, waiting for my kids at their extra-curricular activities, etc…) and read a bit without the heavy pressure of finding or making the time to read.
- Slightly scheduled. Two “scheduled” moments worked for me. I would read for a few minutes as soon as I woke up in the morning. I did this (mostly) to replace my habit of checking email and social media feeds. Not only did this allow me to read a chapter (or two) before the day got started, I found this morning practice very meditative. Like if nothing else happened of value in the day, at least I got some quality reading in. I also read when my kids had to read for their school work. If your child has to read for 20 minutes every night, schedule life so that you too can read alongside of them. Not only did this increase my reading, it was an activity that the kids looked forward to. Power trick: do it by FaceTime if you’re on the road. It closes the distance and connects the family more than you might imagine.
- Go audio. Last year I focused on my personal health. This happened with brisk morning walks. I started off with music and podcasts, but quickly shifted to audiobooks (big shoutout to hibooks). There is a lot of discourse on the value of listening to a book instead of reading it. Because I read (mostly) non-fiction, I found it very hard to listen to books that were too business process-like. So, I would listen to autobiographies or non-fiction books that told grander stories, and saved the more detailed books for physical reading. Listening to audiobooks on walks eventually led me to listening to them while in the car, or when I was bored on a plane. Power trick: only listen to audiobooks when you can really “listen” to the content. It’s easy for the mind to wander or get distracted, so try to do activities that allow you to listen attentively.
- Mix things up. This became more important as the months passed by. Reading the same genre or style will get boring. Mix it up. Because I read (mostly) non-fiction, I would flow from business books to biographies to stories about businesses (or individuals) to the latest from David Sedaris to more technical books to books that I should have read long ago. It also helps shift between longer reads and shorter ones.
- One by one. Many heavy readers like to have multiple books going at the same time. That didn’t work for me. I would read one book at a time. That being said, listening to an audiobook while reading a physical is not really one book at a time, but that system worked for me. Your mileage may vary (as Seth Godin likes to say).
- Take notes. Whether it’s in a physical notebook or highlighting the important portions on an ebook… take notes. It helps keep the action moving forward, and it’s invaluable if you read a lot (especially non-fiction) to be able to quickly access the truly important stuff that resonated with you.
- Kill your darlings. Life is too short to ready crappy books. If you’re not enjoying it… ditch it.
- Don’t beat yourself up. I’m not always reading. I miss days. I miss moments to read because I’m “busy” watching videos and looking at stupid memes. I’m human. You’re human (I hope). It’s not worth beating yourself up over not reading. Reading is (and should be) a joy.
Reading is a chance to disappear into the words, and build your own worlds in your mind. I happen to love the feeling of reading (not just the content that I read). That’s the real joy that I hope you discover/uncover as well.