Reading is one of the best things you can do all day.
At least that’s what I think, and apparently, so do a lot of other smart people.
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren [Buffett] reads — and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”
— Charlie Munger
Reading gives you access to information from some of the smartest, most experienced people who have ever lived. It’s like getting expert advice for any subject you’ve ever wanted to learn about.
I started reading intensely in my early 20s and haven’t stopped for a beat since then. I can attribute a lot of my own life growth and success to books I’ve read which showed me the way forward. And I can say the same for most people I’ve met who would be considered successful.
In this article, I’m going to share with you my 12 thoughts on reading books, and how to make sure you get a whole lot of value from them.
(1) Read what interests you
For some reason, this isn’t obvious for most people. They check online for what Tim Ferris or Ramit Sethi recommends them to read. But honestly, at the end of the day, you should read what really interests you. That’s the book you’re going to actually be able to finish and absorb the learnings from. It’s like the saying “the best workout is the one you want to do.” Do what you want to do, it’s a lot happier and better for your learning.
(2) Read what will benefit you too
At the same time, try to strike a balance and read what will benefit you as well. The real value is when you can take the knowledge you learn from books and apply them to improve your life. That comes from reading books for a specific benefit. For example, if you want to improve your people skills, you might go for How to Win Friends and Influence People. The fact that the book helps you will also keep you motivated and inspired as you see what you learn has a positive impact on your life.
(3) Speed reading is absolute bullshit
The people selling you this stuff are just trying to get you to read their blog posts and watch their YouTube videos. The benchmark for your reading should never be how many books you’ve read, but rather the valuable knowledge you gain from what you read. It’s true that the more you read the more potential value you can gain, but you’ll be getting much less out of every book by speed reading.
(4) Go for older books
Older books are usually more reliable than newer ones. There’s a reason that those old books like the Meditations and Plutarch’s Lives are still read today: they’re valuable. They’re time tested. People have read them, studied them, scrutinized their ideas, and they’ve still survived. That means they’re rock solid. Newer books unfortunately don’t have such a strong track record since time is not on their side. That doesn’t mean that they’re useless, but generally, you’ll get much more value out of older books, on average.
(5) Old problem, old solution
Most of the challenges you and I face in life are old. How to deal with people, how to start a business, how to find happiness and whatever else. They’ve been studied and written about. Thus, if you’re ever facing a problem that you think is really really tough, get into the habit of looking for a book on the subject right away. Chances are, you’ll find a book that explains the entire solution to your problem.
(6) Have a dedicated reading time
When you dedicate a slot in your schedule for something, just like you do with work and sleep, then it means you’re really taking it seriously. You’ve set that time aside to focus specifically on your chosen activity. If you want to make reading books a part of your life, take it seriously and set yourself a regular, dedicated reading time.
(7) Take notes of the books you read
You won’t remember everything from every page. Try to summarize the most important ideas from the books you read and save them somewhere. That way, you always have quick and easy access to your learnings and can apply that value right away. You’ll never lose what you’ve learned.
(8) Rereading is also powerful
Many people do a one-time read of a book and then are done with it. But there is great value in rereading books you’ve already read. You can look at it from a different perspective, having gained new life experience, and extract new value from it as a result. Every reread will give you new learnings.
(9) Broaden your mind
While you should definitely start by reading what interest and benefits you first, don’t be afraid to occasionally check out a different type of book. Often times, we don’t know what or where a solution to our problem is until we see it. I personally had no idea how books about Psychology and Philosophy would benefit me at first, but they’ve really changed my life in a foundational way. Keep yourself open to new ideas and you will totally learn more.
(10) Make it a point to apply what you read
Knowledge without application is a total waste. You have to apply it in the real world for it to become valuable. You need to make your learnings actionable. I recommend making an “action list.” That is, for each book you read, make a list of actions you can take in the real world that will be an application of the knowledge you learned.
(11) Share what you’ve learned
First of all, because teaching someone else what you’ve learned is a great way to reinforce the lessons in your brain for yourself. You’re practicing remembering the information you learned. And second, because one of the greatest joys of learning is that you get to nerd out and share it with others.
(12) Get some physical books
If you’ve read some of my other articles, you’ll know I’m a big fan of audiobooks. But there is a place in life for physical books too. They serve as a mental commitment to your reading, a physical representation that you are a lifelong learner who is willing to invest in this amazing lifestyle. If buying all physical books is too expensive, consider getting physical copies only for your favourite books that you know you’ll be re-reading.
(Bonus) Ask everyone for their best book recommendation
For every successful person you meet, ask them for their best book recommendation. This will definitely get you some solid battle-tested recommendations for your next read (hats off to Ryan Holiday for sharing this one).