Last year I read more than 120 books. When I posted a collage of my favorites of those 120 reads on Instagram, a lot of people asked me what my secret was to digesting that many topics in 12 months.
I've developed several strategies over the years of reading for both work and hobby, and I'll share them below. If you're looking to read more books this year, maybe they'll work for you, too.
The biggest trick to read more
When people ask me how I read so many books, they usually expect a speed reading technique that allows their brains to swallow the book whole.
Reading speed certainly plays an important role in reading technique but that's not my real secret.
Sit down, please. I will whisper the secret to reading many books.
Are you ready?
1. You should spend more time reading.
I spend a lot of time reading because it's part of my job.
In preparation for my podcast, I read client books. When I write articles, I read books to study. Reading is only part of my job.
The amazement at the number of books I read in a year is the same as the surprise at the number of leaky faucets a plumber fixes in a year. It's not very impressive when it's what you do for work.
That said, in addition to the books I read specifically for The Art of Men last year, I also try to read 2-3 books a month for my enjoyment. That's more than two dozen non-work related books in 12 months. That's the amount of time I think most men with the busiest schedules can achieve in a year.
So the #1 secret to reading more is spending more time reading.
How did you have this time?
2. Make time to read
In fact, you can't find the time to read; you have to make time for it. And the best way to make time for something is to include it in your daily schedule.
You don't have to spend an hour reading. If you're just starting to make reading a priority, you probably haven't given it enough attention yet, and trying to read for that long in one sitting will likely frustrate you.
Instead, spend 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night reading. More unfortunately, do that about 20 minutes if half an hour is still too long. Instead of wasting your usual time scanning smartphones at those times, you will read.
You will be surprised how many books you read in a month by reading for an hour a day.
3. Take advantage of your free time to read
Although your daily schedule may seem hectic, there are always little moments hidden in its crevices that you often waste. A few minutes between activities or appointments may seem trivial, but they create amazing possibilities in your spare time!
Standing in line at the post office? Read a book. Cooling the roots of your teeth at the dentist? Read a book. Waiting to pick up your child from school? Read. I would even read between sets while I was lifting weights.
The easiest way to get ready to read when you're short on time is to download the Kindle app on your phone. You almost always carry your phone with you and therefore will almost always have a library at your fingertips. (And for cheap if you want; you can get thousands of classics for free.)
4. Avoid reading on your smartphone
I just recommend using the Kindle app on your smartphone to read more. Now I will do the exact opposite of that advice by recommending that you avoid reading on your smartphone as much as possible.
Let me explain.
I've noticed that when reading on my phone, I tend to get really distracted. I would read for 5 minutes, but then itch when checking email or scrolling through Instagram. I'll do a quick check of other apps and then come back to read. Five minutes later, the "addiction" returns, and I repeat the cycle. I never got any good and focused reading while reading on my phone.
Therefore, I try to read mostly with physics books. Furthermore, studies show that reading comprehension increases when you read an analog book compared to reading on digital devices. Maybe it's because you're more focused when using old media.
Another advantage of a paper book is that I find it easier to highlight and take notes than with e-readers.
While I try to do most of my reading with physical books, digital books still have a place in my reading schedule. I use the Kindle app to read in my spare time and need nothing more. An idle “moment” lasts about 5-15 minutes, or how long I can read on my phone before developing an itch when checking another app.
Of course, I read different books on my phone and paperback. At any given time, I'll read one book in paperback and another on my Kindle app, often choosing a "lighter" book over the latter because it doesn't give me the most money. lasting attraction and attention.
5. Use your travel time
If you commute to work by subway or bus, use that travel time to read. Before our managing editor Jeremy started working for AoM, he took the bus every day to work and used that time to read. He was able to complete several books during those trips.
My favorite time to read is when I'm on a plane. You'll be surprised how much reading you can get on a two-hour flight without the distractions of relying on Wi-Fi. In fact, you could finish an entire book from start to finish in that amount of time. Short books, of course. I've read The Road, The Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman, The Bhagavad Gita, and The Innovator's Dilemma, all in 2-hour rides.
Next time you're traveling by plane, instead of loading your phone with apps and movies, stock it up with books. Better yet, carry a physical book or two in your carry-on.
6. Read with your ears
I don't listen to too many audiobooks; it's not my preferred method of taking in literature. But if I'm going on a long road trip where I'll have to do most of the driving, I'll buy a few on Audible to spend some time. time. If you're on the road a lot, your drive could be a golden opportunity to digest a large library of books.
7. Speed read strategically
As mentioned above, when people ask me how I read so many books, they often assume that I am reading so fast. But when I use the reading methods above, I usually read at a fairly normal speed (I think my normal speed is a bit faster than average, but not so fast it qualifies as speed reading).
Speed reading courses will confirm that you can have amazing comprehension reading a million words a minute. It's not true. While there are many exercises to increase reading speed while maintaining good comprehension, there are bound to be some people who lose comprehension if they read faster. For that reason, I don't like speed reading.
I sometimes read quickly or skim books. But I do so strategically.
Certain types of books are beneficial for speed reading
Specifically, business books and self-help books are “pop-y” – the kind of books you would buy at an airport bookstore. These genres of books are often formatted for easy browsing. They make extensive use of headings, bold first sentences, and bulleted lists. You can read and skim these books fairly quickly and still understand their contents. The subtext in it usually doesn't really add much to the main points; it often includes anecdotes demonstrating how a certain principle is put into action. Such stories can be interesting, but they are often trifling stories.
Another reason these business/self-improvement books are easy to read is because they all say the same thing. If you've read a personal development book, you've read them all. I can't count how many I've read with reference to the marshmallow test or that "stealth" gorilla in the basketball court study. As soon as I see the “marshmallow test” in a book, I skip all the pages describing the test and the imperative explanation of the importance of delaying gratification because I read about it all three million times.
While I will skim through personal and business development books, I do not speed up reading things that require concentration and attention to fully understand, like works of philosophy, history, or science. . For example, Alistair MacIntyre's After Virtue is extremely confusing when you're reading it at a snail's pace; will be incomprehensible if you pass it.
I also don't speed up reading novels. First, with fiction, there's a lot of nuance in the story that can be lost if you skim it. Second, fiction is often filled with literary flourishes that must be read slowly and deliberately in order to be truly absorbed and appreciated. If you're reading Dickens or Austen quickly, you'll miss the prose that's worth loving. Finally, reading novels is supposed to be fun. Why would you want to go through an exciting experience as quickly as possible? I remember how confused I was when I finished Lonesome Dove for the first time; I just want it to continue.
So reading speed is necessary but only occasionally and strategically.
8. Taking Notes and Remembering What You Read
Another question I often get with my reading too much is whether I have a note-taking system.
I have - but it's nothing fancy and might not even qualify as a 'system'. If I'm reading a physics book, I underline the sentences; put brackets around main paragraphs of text; And if there's a point that I think is really important, I'll put a star next to it. When I finish a book, I will skim the book and review my notes.
If I'm using a Kindle, I just bookmark passages and revisit those highlights when I've finished reading the book. Sometimes I also download those notes and save them on my computer.
A final question I often get asked about my reading is how do I remember everything that I read.
I don't! I just try to remember the things that are important to me. I mentally strengthen those important things in a few ways.
The biggest key to remembering what you read is to synthesize and apply it as quickly as possible. For me, that means writing an article or giving podcast questions based on my reading notes. Those two actions help me better remember what I just read.
With the books I read for pleasure, I will share some of their interesting tidbits with Kate or a friend. It's much easier for me to jot down what I say to other people.
Another way for me to remember what I read is through repetition. As I've spent years reading a lot, I've seen the same ideas pop up over and over again. For example, I know a lot about World War II history because I read a lot of books about World War II. I know a lot about Theodore Roosevelt because I have read many books about Theodore Roosevelt. I know quite a bit about psychology because I have read a lot of books on psychology. And when it comes to the self-help genre, while it's beneficial to hear different authors' perspectives on things, there's really not much that's new! Every time you come across the same ideas and set of facts - put in slightly different ways and contexts - they become more and more firmly established in your brain.
So if you want to remember what you read, find a way to synthesize it, apply it, and talk about it right after. That could mean writing a book review, summarizing the important things, or coming up with some ideas from a book in conversation with your friends.
Another way to remember more of what you have read is to simply read more about that particular topic until it is well rooted in your brain.