I like to read. I’m a sucker for page-turning novels, self-improvement books, and fantasy comics.
Given that, it surprises people when I say I never read a book from start to finish until my sophomore year of college.
Up until that point, I had used Sparknotes or had bullshitted my way through book reports and assignments. I’m a role model to kids across the nation.
Cut to: today, where I read practically every day—morning and evening. I fly through audiobooks. I take pages of digital notes while making my way through nonfiction tomes.
Why the decline? Because I realized toward the end of the year that my goal was kind of stupid.
Maybe stupid is too harsh a word. We’ll say the result I was aiming for was misguided.
Why did I want to read 80 books? To beat my previous record? To commit even more to my discipline and habits?
It was just to say I read 80 books.
It feels good to log what I read on GoodReads. And that’s the problem. I’ve been craving some sort of status. Deep down, I want to be seen as an intellectual who’s well-read. You know, the kind of guy who reads 80 books in a year.
But I can’t tell you what I got from 75% of the books I finished last year.
Finishing a book and understanding its insights are two separate things. I was just going for notches on my literary bedpost.
Sprinting through audiobooks at 3x speed. Whizzing through nonfiction without taking notes or stopping for any reflection. These are great ways to absorb nothing.
There’s an awful high school superlative: “Talks the most; says the least.” Well these past few years, I’ve been going for, “Reads the most; learns the least.”
I’ve obviously learned a lot. But only from a small amount of the things I’ve actually read. So it begs the question…
Would you rather read 50 books this year that give you little to nothing, or read 2 books this year that deeply impact your life?
I’m making some changes so I can lean into the latter option. From now on, I…
- must take digital notes for each nonfiction book I read
- have to keep a list of insights or changes I’ll make with each read (i.e. a ‘How Will I Use This’ list)
- lowered my goal to only read 52 books this year
A book a week. Still quite a lot for some people I imagine. The average for American men is 8.5 books read in a year (yes ladies, I’m single).
It’s time to slow down and focus on depth, not breadth.
If you want to learn how to read more books, check out my previous blog.
If you want to follow me on GoodReads, then go do so you silly, silly goose.