Tell me about the last book you read
Unfortunately, this easy question, once supposed to connect you closely with another person and start a lively discussion, today just makes many people feel awkward and uncomfortable.
Indeed, recent USA statistics shows that more than a quarter of Americans have not read a single book in the past year. Moreover, this percentage has almost tripled during last 30 years.
Why is it happening? Why do people intentionally refuse to access such a rich source of information and wisdom?
The answer is simple: books require concentration and time while we live in a world of multi-tasking and constant time pressure, in a world of numerous deadlines and availability 24/7.
It is not easy to find space for books in such a hectic life. I think that considering all relevant questions – what, how, when and why we read – is the only way to do it
1. WHAT and HOW we read – Approach books differently
Nowadays the problem of choice overload is as urgent as ever. People have always been overwhelmed by the amount of books available, but now there is one more choice complexity – different ways to read books. The system described below will make a decision process regarding reading more straightforward and clear.
To begin with, let’s divide all the books you want to read into three categories based on their importance level. Then, let’s think about the most appropriate way to read each category.
This book is extremely important for your career or personal development. You feel that reading it will change your way of thinking / approach to job / life perception significantly. You want not only to read this book but also to work with it: make notes, highlight some ideas and write down your comments. Therefore, this book requires a maximum of concentration and attention.
I prefer to read ‘crucial’ books in paper format because it helps me increase my concentration and create a feeling of deep connection with a book.
- Highly Important
You definitely want to read this book, but you do not feel that it will require so much work and concentration. Therefore, you can read it whenever you have a couple of free minutes just to make some progress.
- All fiction literature from Dostoevsky to Palahniuk
- Some professional books with high ratings, such as Getting Things Done by Allen.
I prefer to use audio or digital format for this category since it is the best way to read on the go and combine reading with other activities. It does not really matter if you choose Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Audible or Scribd, all these solutions are pretty good and meet the highest expectations.
You are curious about the content of this book and you want to understand the main idea, however, you are not sure that spending much time on it is worth it.
The first way to deal with this type of books is to apply the concepts of skimming and scanning. Scanning can be really useful if you are interested only in a particular question / topic discussed in the book while skimming can be applied to all non-fiction literature.
Check out the plan for skimming non-fiction, suggested in the recent HBR article.
- Start with the author
- Read the title, the subtitle, the front flap, and the table of contents
- Read the introduction and the conclusion
- Read/skim each chapter
- End with the table of contents again
Another way to read ‘important’ books, which requires less effort, is to use the right tools that do the entire job for you. If you do not use blinkist or getabstract, you should definitely check out these apps. They provide you a 15 min structured analysis of the overall book highlighting the most important ideas and interesting facts, enabling audio, comments and integration with other apps. These applications are on a subscription basis, but it is absolutely worth it.
2. HOW fast you read – Work on your reading skills
Most of us treat the concept of reading speed as something already predetermined and forgotten since our primary school. However, it should not be the case: think about integrating this concept into your daily life because it allows you to consume information much faster.
To start with, measure your reading speed. You can do it with a free online test offered by Staples as a marketing tool.
How happy are you with your result? How close are you to the average level of the university professor that actually can be achieved by anyone?
3. When you read – Form a habit
People treat reading in many different ways: hobby, entertainment, learning, working. The most effective way is to treat reading as a habit. In the beginning building a habit is not easy and it requires some effort, however in 66 days ( it is said that exactly this amount is needed to form a habit) everything pays off.
Schedule time for reading and stick to it.
- Crucial – Since ‘crucial’ books require maximum concentration, it is better to do it before or after your working day, when your mind is clean from daily tasks and concerns. 15 min of reading in the morning after you wake up or at night before going to sleep will make a difference.
- Highly important – Reading e-books and listening to audiobooks is ideally combined with commuting and working out
- Important – One summary or book scanning takes around 15 min. You can do it whenever and wherever you are free. I think in this case it is better to set a number of ‘important’ books that you want to read per week and follow it
Let’s make a simple calculation to demonstrate the power of treating reading as a habit.
- You read ‘crucial’ books 15 min every day 7 days per week – 420 min = 7 h pm
- You read ‘highly important’ books while commuting to work 5 days per week (it takes you 20 min to get to work) – 400 min = 6.7 h pm
- You decide to read two ‘important’ books per week (15 min each) – 120 min = 2 h pm
- All in all, you spend 940 min=15.6 h reading pm
- Let’s assume that an average student reading speed is 450 wpm, average book size is 250 pages and number of words per page is 300
- As a result, time commitment of 4h pw in one month will result in 2,5 ‘crucial’ books, 2,4 ‘highly important’ and 8 ‘important books’ – all in all 13 books pm.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Even though it is hard to believe that you will be able to follow the system all the time, it is worth at least trying.
4. WHY you read – Keep track and make use of it
Do not forget that we never read only for the sake of reading, we read for the sake of learning and growing. Therefore, keep track of what you read and what you learn from it. Reading journal, simple Word or Excel file, account on Goodreads or even personal blog about book reviews. It is absolutely up to you unless you have a system keeping track of your reading success, so you can easily make use of all the new ideas you learnt while reading.
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