Saturday, May 09, 2009

How to read a lot of books

A question I get periodically was asked again last night, "How do you read so many books?" The simplest explanation is that I love to read, it's one of my favorite things to do. Beyond that though, here's some practical things that might help someone read more:

- Pick books you'll enjoy. What might seem like a "duh" is actually a big reason why, I think, people don't enjoy reading: the books they've read aren't enjoyable to them. Maybe your high school teacher wouldn't let up on Shakespeare and you just abhorred it, so you have this nervous twitch that kicks in whenever you see any book because you're afraid of "to be or not to be." Reading isn't supposed to feel like a homework assignment, it's something that's meant to be enjoyed. Leave the wounds from your high school English teacher in the past and find a book YOU want to read because YOU'RE choosing to read it.

- Think correctly about reading
. Reading is not a mere leisure activity. For some reading is actually part of their work's training/development. Obviously you shouldn't read for the whole day, and equally important, you should have your boss' approval. But to take a short block of time each day or a couple times a week should actually be expected and shouldn't bring a false sense of guilt that you are wasting time. It's called sharpening your skills. If you're in ministry, read books about ministry; if you're a teacher, read books about teaching; and so on.

- Make time for it
. If you want to read more then you have to establish some type of rhythm in your week for when you are going to read. If I'm not having lunch with anyone then I read while I'm eating, I also read later at night when the rest of the family goes to bed. For you it might be cutting out a TV show, early in the morning, or an hour at a coffeeshop in the evening. But if it takes time to read then you have to make the time.

- Carry a book with you all the time
. How often do you wait in line? How often do you wait period? I hate wasting time, and awhile back I figured out that it was my choice whether waiting time became wasted time. I started carrying a paperback around with me wherever I went. A few pages can be read while waiting in line at the grocery story and probably a whole chapter sitting in the doctor's office. If you ride the train a lot in Chicago then you're being handed blocks of time to read - so why not have a book with you? Don't waste time staring at walls or the back of peoples' heads when you could get through some pages.

- Listen to Audio books. How often you wait in line is one thing, but think about how much time you spend in the car, especially if you commute. To not get stressed out in gridlock I began listening to unabridged audiobooks. Unabridged means that someone is reading a novel word for word as it is in the hardcopy of the book. If I'm alone in the car I have an audiobook on, and I probably listen to two a month on average. A lot of libraries have unabridged books on CD that you can check out. I get mine through a subscription to

- Read a variety of things. Read fiction and read non-fiction, read older authors and read newer authors, read authors whose ideas you agree with and also those whose you don't. Book options shouldn't be treated like the same old menu item you resort to - books are like a buffet: the options change all the time and you can take whatever you want. I'm going to blog about this another time, but I don't think it's beneficial to only read one particular type of book. Balance is the key. At any given time I have a non-fiction book (normally what I read during the day) and a fiction book (read at night) that I'm reading (plus my audio book).

- Connect and discuss with others. When you run into someone who is or has read the same book you've read it can bring about an amazing conversation. Shared observations, insights, and meaninful reflections make it more than just a a good book you've read - it becomes a deeper connection with another person. Plus, if you are stuck as to what to read the best place to start is to ask someone what good books they've read. Just seeing them on the shelf I probably would have never read any books by Orson Scott Card. But, a friend of mine who knows I like fantasy highly recommended him to me and explained why he liked his books so much. Since that conversation a few years ago I've probably read over 15 books by Card and he's now one of my favorite authors.

Other than the above, the only other really big thing I could say is that you need to make reading your own thing. Don't compare your reading preferences and speed to others. I read on average 50 books a year and from a wide variety of topics and authors. I know of some people who read more than me and some who read less. Regardless, none of that should matter to you. If you only read 1 book a month that is AWESOME! Connect with others because of books, but don't think you have to become others. Just read, and enjoy it.

So go buy a good book and find some time to enjoy it. If you need ideas, the books I'm reading, have recently read, and my favorites are on the left side of the blog a little ways down.

1 comment: said...

Your right... I should start looking at books like a menu from a restaurant. I think I read one fictional book about two years ago, 'The Kite Runner'. I actually enjoyed it. I used to read so much as a kid, now...I dunno.

Good blog, bro. I need to get back into it. OH! The thing is that I love to collect them!

Weird, huh? =)