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Ways to Read More Books (hbr.org)
302 points by submeta on May 6, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 117 comments

This may be an unusual opinion, but I read a lot, and I've found non-fiction books to just not be efficient means of educating myself anymore. Most topics can be illustrated and described in far fewer words than a book takes. I get about a third of the way through a lot of books and say "ok I get it", as the author basically just continues to say the same thing in different ways. I'm sure this is incentivized by current publishing structure.

Not only that, but figures and plots provide far more information density than words, and books don't frequently include them in large quantity. I've found scientific literature and a number of very high quality bloggers to be a much more efficient source of reading material.

That's not to say this is always true - biographies in particular seem to have the most consistently large content / page count.

Reminds me of Naval Ravikant who suggested reading books more like blogs - you shouldn't feel some social pressure to "finish a book" but rather skip the parts you don't enjoy and drop it whenever you feel like you've gotten the main point. I've been doing this more recently and found that I don't get stuck on books anymore, no longer bottlenecked by certain parts which are boring and redundant.

This works for me too. I will regularly check a book out of the library, read three chapters, and then return it to get another. I realized that I wasn't finishing books because doing so was not a good use of my time.

Somewhat related is that I'll read chapters out of order. Many books follow an approach of "laying the foundation" before making the point. 40 pages of laying the foundation is a logical step but unfortunately is not done well in most cases.

TL;DR Treat non-fiction books more like textbooks (possibly without as extensive indexing).

I largely agree with you on efficiency. For topics you're familiar with, papers and high-quality blogs are more efficient. Still, I like nonfiction books for a few reasons: (1) Audiobooks. Sure, I definitely don't retain as much as reading a paper book. And many books are poorly suited for audio (books with lots of foreign proper nouns, books with tables and figures, etc). But I take time that would otherwise not be productive and turn it into learning time. Walking, working out at the gym, and cleaning house become a classroom. (2) Books provide context. Wikipedia works too, but a book is usually more detailed. I have a degree in economics, so it's usually more efficient for me to read papers than to read popular economic books. But when I want to learn about theoretical physics, I'll read The Universe in a Nutshell, not the most recent paper. (3) Books force you to meditate on a topic. Certainly, not everyone requires such concentration. For me, I remember more if I spend a few hours reading a book rather than < an hour reading a paper.

When you say non-fiction, do you mean pop science books? I'd be very surprised if you grokked a math, hard science or programming book after just reading the first third introducing the subject.

Pop science, business books, political books, that sort of thing - proper graduate-level math and science textbooks definitely have plenty of content. Sometimes those can even be on the opposite side of the spectrum, where the focus is too much on the equations and not enough on the conceptual.

I get that. Books that are written or edited with a view to maximizing sales rather than reader satisfaction are going to go for the lowest common denominator, and if you're a quick study then over time you'll find more and more books beneath your comprehensive capability and then your boredom threshold. Unfortunately the best books on a given may be too difficult for the general reader, and a bimodal distribution emerges in which the gap between the popular and the expert levels of understanding becomes increasingly difficult to traverse.

Depending on your subject of study, you might find older books written for a smaller but more discriminating historical audience worth your while. Of course you'll miss on innovation and critical thought since the date of original publication, but Sturgeon's law suggests that much of that may be dispensable depending on the historical scope of the subject. Dover Books specializes in affordable reproductions of obscure or neglected works on a wide variety of topics.

Do you have a list of favorite blogs? Need just to mention the top ones (great would be google+ blogs, so I can register them there, or how do you manage them, if more than a couple?)

Are you sure you addressed your question to the right person? I didn't mention blogs and do not read any consistently, they bore me more often than not. I prefer my social media feed.

> I get about a third of the way through a lot of books and say "ok I get it", as the author basically just continues to say the same thing in different ways.

With you here, I thought the same with "Quiet" and "Scarcity". It's not even about arrogance, more like time economy - I can move on and do other things, while those newly learnt principles stew away in the mind shed.

  >I've found scientific literature and a number of very high quality bloggers to be a much more efficient source of reading material.
I have same sentiment as well. For me most books are of very low information density, and simply are not interesting. Even books that meant to appeal to emotional side -- seem to be doing that very slowly ....

That's because you should get to fiction more. Education is not about acquiring more knowledge. It's also about acquiring experience, emotions, etc. Thus fiction have a lot to bring to you, and probably more than nonfiction ones.

Try the Count of Monte Cristo for example :)

It kind of depends on what books you read and what the academic culture is. E.g. in mathematics, it seems books and lecture notes are the main way knowledge is transmitted, and articles are more of an afterthought.

I have the exact same feeling about Films. I wonder if there is a specific name for this? I always say I seen every film combination possible before I was 14. People will say of course I haven't, but they are talking about the fluff. I know what the film is going to be instantly, and if it doesn't turn out like I planned, it isn't enough of a difference to care.

Your aesthetic affiliation is Formalism. Try some Peter Greenaway to revive your jaded palate. Not fluffy; I've worked in film for >a decade and other branches of the arts for about as long, and wallow deeply in aesthetic theory. Greenaway trained as a painter before getting into film and it shows.

Much that is written on film theory is a doomed attempt to reconcile aesthetic practice to Marx, Freud or other critical thinkers, but you may enjoy the Lacanian musings of Slavoj Zizek or Joan Copjec, especially this anthology: https://www.amazon.com/Shades-Noir-Haymarket-Joan-Copjec/dp/...

I've read more in the past 12 months than in the past few years, purely because I discovered a company in the UK called the Folio Society[1]. They sell beautifully bound and illustrated editions of fantastic books, although at rather high prices (£30-40 on average).

Previously the majority of the books I read came in the form of cheap ebooks from the Kindle store. As a result, I often abandoned them (or even just forgot about them), only reading a few chapters. Now though, when I spend £30 on a single book, damn right am I going to finish it.

Plus, as a result of the curation, there isn't a single book on their site that isn't at least worth a glance. The same can't be said for many physical bookstores, let alone Amazon, etc.

And, the best part is, I don't really need these expensive books anymore. I've gotten into such a habit of reading because of them that I'm buying regular books again and I'm reading for at least an hour or two a night.

[1] http://foliosociety.com

> when I spend £30 on a single book, damn right am I going to finish it.

That's an interesting exploitation of the sunk cost fallacy. [1][2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_cost#Loss_aversion_and_th...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escalation_of_commitment

That's only works if

a) cost is high enough compared to your income

b) you are a reasonable person, and value your money enough to care

I tried to use this tactic many times, mostly to hone my programming skills - didn't work. Damn, I recently entered a postgraduate program at the university, for 2500$ cost - didn't help much, still can't force myself to spend more time learning things.

A similar phenomenon are the various ways people try to trick their procrastination habit, not with money (fake price) but with time (fake priorities).

However, as you correctly noticed, these techniques don't work well. That's normal, don't worry if these simple solutions don't work. Maybe you think they should work, because you often hear from people for whom "that one weird trick" worked. Or that one complicated technique. But usually these are the same people who try to sell you their book on that topic.

Instead, you need to the root of this issues, which may involve finding your true priorities, and may involve actively changing your habits. All this may be really hard, and you'll fail and retry many times - especially when trying to do this alone. Heck, there's a whole profession around helping people to fix these types of issues - some of them are highly qualified, others are charlatans. (The latter often call themselves "coaches" as that term doesn't require much qualification, so that they can't be sued if they do a bad job.)

How do you find the highly qualified? How are they called? How do you find the fitting one, without having tons of money to through out like a big manager would have (but probably enough, specially if the result is promising)


Since this is about treating human beings, of course the best qualified people are physicians. More precisely, medical psychotherapist and related professions. Among various treatments, behavior therapy is quite common, but there are others.

There is certainly some stigma around this, because most people think that going to a therapy means you have some serious mental illness. But that's nonsense. There's a huge variety of issues, small and lager, and all physicians are fully aware of this broad spectrum.

The defining criteria is always: Does the person suffer from that issue? (Sometimes also: Do the people around that person suffer from it?) And, of course: What's the best way to help them?

Moreover: If they can help people to get away and stay away from alcohol and other drugs, and are able to talk a violent to cooperation, which are both much harder tasks than anything discussed here, then they can help with "smaller" psychological issues as well.

And compared to people with some 3-months crash course, they know exactly what they do, and have all forms of therapy applied to themselves as well, that's a vital part of the training.

For reference, I'm talking about the situation here in Germany. But I think this should be very similar in other countries, too.

I've had a similar problem. My studies included a lot of econ and I'm very familiar with sunk costs. I was trained to not care about them, and now I don't.

Buy a month's worth of gym visits as a commitment mechanism, quit after the first one without regrets. Sunk costs are sunk.

Tens of thousands of people join gyms for the same reason and stop after a few weeks.

Nice physical books could be indeed a pleasure to read; here is an interesting approach of printing books on bible type paper (haven't tried it yet; but does look appealing): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2008089/Time-reading...

Thank you for this! What a fantastic resource. This is going to hurt my wallet.

There seems to something of a cargo-cult mentality underlined in this article. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Stephen King and Mark Zuckerberg all read loads of books (that's how they made their money!)

Unless you have some set goal to know a certain body of knowledge (as I presume the four above have), reading should be done leisurely -- not a race to read, and half-understand, as many books as possible.

I also found the survivorship-biasy part of the article to be a bit goofy, but I found other parts to be pretty spot on. I have fallen out of the habit of reading this past year (I think in part due to stress over political news) and I've been looking for ways to bring it back into my life. These things hit home:

* While I don't think reading will make me successful, I do find the habitual focus/relaxation aspects of reading to be beneficial

* Regarding paper books vs e-readers, as much as I like the idea of carrying a book in my pocket everywhere, I somehow allow myself to get distracted even on a Paperwhite (I'll start browsing the library and/or shopping for other books), and so I've been thinking of going back to regular old paper books

* Decision fatigue! I spend way more time fretting over what to read next than I do reading

Regarding audiobooks, I enjoy "reading" books in that format, but I have wondered lately about the downside of constantly being plugged in; it's a great way to pass the time doing dishes, but I imagine it's also good to give your brain time to sit quietly without input. It's also a struggle to resist the temptation lose myself in escapist fiction all the time; there's a thin line (for me, anyway) between the type of reading that exercises your ability to focus and the type of reading that acts as a palliative.

On second look, it appears the link was changed from a summary of a Harvard Business Review article on Quartz.com to the actual Harvard Business Review article. The summary had lots of survivorship bias, and the HBR version does not. Thought I had lost my mind for a minute there.

I think the "survivorship bias" argument for reading is a bit overplayed.

There's practically _zero_ of these mega-successful people (Gates, Buffett, Zuckerburg, Musk, etc.) who don't read. Astonishingly, I can't think of a single one. While that doesn't prove causation, it definitely points at it! Do you want to try to be the first successful person who didn't read?

It's not that reading was this one magical trick that caused them to be successful, but rather that reading was a prerequisite. At least, that's my take.

> There's practically _zero_ of these mega-successful people (Gates, Buffett, Zuckerburg, Musk, etc.) who don't read

Citation needed, as well as a definition of "don't read".

For example, for several years now I have been reading a lot less books than ever before in my life, almost zero. However, I took several dozens of courses on edX and Coursera and read a lot of documents on the Internet. Just no books, and a lot less newspaper and magazine articles.

Donald Trump?

Not much...except Hitler speechs : https://www.quora.com/Does-Donald-Trump-read-books

Not successful. He just inherited Daddy's money and grew that money at a slower rate than the market.

If you define success solely by the amount of money, sure.

I don't know that con men who inherited their wealth count as successful.

not everybody who reads a lot is widely successful. also replies below about Trump, are really distasteful.

Agreed. I'd rather read books in my couch at my own pace than feel stressed about finishing the latest non fiction self help book.

The best way to read more books is to make time for it and read books you enjoy.

Read hardbacks in the bath tub. That's the secret.

Oh, btw. you can slip ipad, kindle, android tablet into a regular ziplock bag, zip it in and read it in the bathtub. Trust me - it's completely waterproof.

Heh, I do this all the time. I love a nice hot bath, and I love reading, so there ya go. It really is a nice combination.

I've come to realize this. I've always been a reader, but after college and after getting into audio-books, I took to it in earnest. I peaked at reading 75 books in 2012 (and BIG ones too, History of Third Reich, Thinking: Fast and Slow, Ulysses, Godel-Escher-Bach etc...).

And after that I was like 'wew. Okay, I enjoyed that and learned a lot and have, but my life isn't THAT much better because of it.' I've definitely traded investing in relationships or other hobbies for it.

So I've since to slowed down to about 27 a year, and have found that's a good pace for me.

I'd rather re-read books that I've loved, and still have a lot to gain from, this year

You can always gain something new from Pratchett books. I usually reread the diskworld every other year.

One problem is Dopamine. I have learned to get constant Dopamine hits from Netflix/Youtube/Video Games. When I goto reading a book, it bores the shit out of me. Its unfortunate really. So for last month or so, I cut down all of the aforementioned things. I am now able to read much more than I did before, before feeling sleepy or caving into the aforementioned things.

Why cut down on Dopamine? Relating to Digtal Signal processing, think of your brain like an Envelope detector. When you keep supplying large peaks of Dopamine levels, the 'mundane' is considered noise. Reducing peaks the said peaks will allow you to tune the envelope detector and also consider 'noise'. Eliminating all the peaks would be ideal but likely un-realistic. Shitty analogy, but thats how I taught it to my self; relating an idea to a concept I already somewhat understand.

Happy reading.

Edited: Rephrase.

Books can really vary in their excitement/engagement dimension. I'm currently reading a history of Europe since WW2 and it's quite a bit of work, on the other hand there's other non-fiction like John Krakauer that I've found pretty easy to burn through.

The game changer for me was actually learning how to read a book. I no longer approach books the same way after having read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler [1]. Once you have a method down, you can go through books rather quickly and retain knowledge. My biggest epiphany is that you don't need to read a book in its entirety to know all that it has to say.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Book-Intelligent-Touchstone/...

Yes! How to Read a Book is amazing. We spend so much of our lives reading, yet very rarely view it as a skill which we can develop, nor do we have goals for our reading other than to absorb as much information as possible.

One of my favorite ideas from the book is the idea of reading for "enlightenment":

"It is true, of course, that you should be able to remember what the author said as well as know what he meant. Being informed is prerequisite to being enlightened. The point, however, is not to stop at being informed."

You don't just want to memorize what an author said, you want to elevate your level of "understanding" to a point where you understand the topic nearly as well as the author does! With that as a goal, your focus quickly shifts from reading 100 books in a year to properly educating yourself.

Could you give a summary of what you learnt from it?

There is a good summary on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Read_a_Book.

My biggest aids to reading more books have been technical:

1) Goodreads to track books, maintain a to-read queue, share reviews, etc. Plus the "reading challenge" feature, which shows if you're on-track or not (2016: 52 originally, then 68. 2017 goal: 78, but possibly 104.)

2) Kindle -- not having to physically deal with books while traveling, and having access to my entire collection.

3) Audible -- when driving, flying, trying to fall asleep, etc., audiobooks are preferable to text (at least for me). Certain books work very well as audiobooks (better than text, even), and some are worse.

4) Synced audio/kindle -- being able to switch back and forth on a single book between the two formats on demand

I've made the mistakes of reading more scientifically inclined books on Audible, but I've recently realized there are three strong categories (1) history books, (2) history-of-science/scientist type books, and (3) self-help/philosophy books.

Listening to Marcus Aurelius before bed while brushing my teeth turns out to be a good meditation.

I really like fiction in audiobook format, too. I have been disappointed by the short story collections I've found, but it seems like there could be a great marketplace for short fiction in audio form.

I was skeptical of audio books until I discovered WhisperSync with Kindle and Audible. This has definitely improved my reading pace and motivation.

This article is geared towards reading more books like its a race. It would seem better to reread a few books to really grasp them. I think there is something to be said for rereading versus reading more new books.

How many times were we discussing something we read and all we can really say is "I read a book on it. something to do about blah blah. I forget the details." No real insight or grasping of the material in one read.

Maybe a book club that focuses more on grasping fewer books very intimately over constantly reading new ones. Just a thought.

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

When you get comfortable reading a lot, you don't need to re-read books. Certainly, a rare few books benefit from multiple readings but not all. I retain a surprising amount of details and can describe passages from Dickens and the main argument of David Cay Johnson's "Perfectly Legal" or the amazing survival story of "Mawson's Will" or an amusing passage in Ernest Hemingway's journalism story "A Free Shave" or the images of the amputation tent in Tolstoy's "The Sebaastopol Sketches--to name a tiny few.

Once your reading is not going "put-put-put" and your unbroken attention span reaches an hour, you may feel like you need to re-read. Certainly, it's a nice experience but it's really a waste of time re-reading everything.

I agree wholeheartedly for fiction, where reading for enjoyment is concerned. But even good fiction deserves multiple reads. Where rereading is more of an essential is with non-fiction. Especially non-fiction that is read for the purpose of obtaining and using the information. A few examples would be The Selfish Gene, How To Win Friends And Influence People, Better Angels of Our Nature, and of course The Art of the Deal. Ok maybe not that last one.

I found out that for many books on amazon when you buy kindle version that for, usually, 3-5$ you can add audible narration of the same book! Audio books enable me to read more books in mindless situations where reading paper or kindle is not easy or not possible (example when running, in store..). Just a note, I tried (and paid) for blinklist.com before, but I am not using it anymore, I feel like I miss much out of the books that way.

THIS! Subscribing to audible has been a game changer for me. And once you get used to it, listening on fast forward has made the experience more pleasurable and you go through the books faster.

On a side note, I wish audible would make downloading the accompanying figure PDFs less cumbersome. Currently,it seems to be impossible​ to get them through the mobile app and one needs to use the website to download them.

1. Add “ news.ycombinator.com” to /etc/hosts

2. Get your tax dollars’ worth out of your library card

> 2. Get your tax dollars’ worth out of your library card

To add to this, shoutout to the Overdrive app/site which makes borrowing ebooks/audiobooks from libraries extremely easy.


Reading this article makes me really question the quality of the reading the author is doing. Reading is its own justification. Stop strategizing and just do it.

How to read more books: Speed listen to your books with adobe reader 9.5 plugin called texthelp PDFaloud 3.0 and high quality SAPI5 voices from acapela infovox, nuance realspeak, or neospeech.

Is this satire?

Upgrading to creators update Windows 10 got me started with text -to-speech.

Edge browser has a button to read eBooks (EPUB files) aloud. The voices resemble human speech but that's not why I use it.

Edge does something that make me prefer speech-to-text over audio books. I've got many unread Audio books because it's a passive activity. My body just itches to do something.

On Edge, the words are highlighted as they are being read. Thus I actively read as I listen. And most importantly, distraction is no biggie - just spot the flashing words. Also, it's easy to spot and make up when the voice mispronounces words.


I upgraded my phone to the Creators update hoping to use Edge to read on the go. However, the result was disappointing. They are definitely different browsers sharing the same name.

Luckily an eBook reader called Freda+ reads aloud pretty well. It only highlights paragraphs rather word-by-word like edge - better than no highlight.


My eyes tire easily when reading on computer - eye issues, glare, sleep deprivation... Without speech recognition, I'll read far less books.

Note: Edge works only on EPUB files which is pretty disappointing as EPUB files are html docs.

I do this will FBreader on Android using Google TTS.

I would thoroughly recommend trying some modern Audiobooks if you have not tried them yet. It may remind you of your grandmother but seriously, they have replaced most of my entertainment. I even got a waterproof speaker to listen in the shower! The full cast audiobooks are especially awesome. I have "read" just over 500 books since 2009 so no idea how many hours I have lost in total!

I wonder how this was not on the list as it is the most obvious solution. I spend most of the reading time while commuting. In winter by reading in summer on my bike listening.

It took some time to get used to it but it works!

Can you recommend a speaker? I thought about that too but never took it really serious.

I got an Eco Pebble https://ecoxgear.com/shop/ecopebble/

It does the job, I dunno if I would recommend it but I got it for 20 notes. The only annoyance is after charging, your device won't see the speaker unless you "Forget Device" and re-pair.

> Roald Dahl’s poem “Television” says it all: “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray / go throw your TV set away / and in its place, you can install / a lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

There's a house 2 blocks from me where an old Volvo is always in the driveway, with a bumper sticker that says:


I always walk by that place and think, those people must be cool. I've never put a TV set in any place I've lived.

But I've noticed lately when I walk by there at night... they have a big TV on. I wonder if it has a sticker on it that says


This article touches on, in my opinion, the 2 great problems with non-fiction reading nowadays:

* Deciding which book to read next out of the seemingly infinite decision space (which book is optimal?)

* Reading books "well", such that you truly elevate your level of understanding of a topic to that of the author, and then remember what you've learned.

Notably, I think "Read More Books", the title of the article, is more of a symptom. If people could choose the _right_ books and then read them satisfyingly enough to truly become smarter and wiser, reading would be such a great deal that no one would have the problem of needing to read "more".

What's craziest is that these problems are the same ones readers faced centuries ago. Reading hasn't evolved at all! People still prefer reading physical books in the world of the internet and data science. And how do readers choose books? One-off recommendations from people that they may or may not trust.

I think with technology we can do a lot better. Specifically, I've been hacking on solving the two aforementioned problems with books such that we can read and learn like it's really 2017. Would love advice/conversation with any reading-inclined HNers! I'm tristan@rekindled.io

I think finding the topic is the harder issue. Or picking a topic among those you are interested in.

If you are interested in a specific topic, then usually you can find discussions of "game changing" books in that topic. Or trace the "tree" of current books to earlier books in the topic.

If you want to know what influenced an author, take a look at the sources the book cites. A quick Google search revealed a bunch of sites which offer search for book / pub citation info. Maybe that's a good place to start.

An interesting service might be to take this a step further and add some sort of visualization for a given topic.

Interesting! For myself, I tend to already know what topics I care about, e.g Entrepreneurship, History of Computing, Stoicism, etc. These topics usually become quite apparent when I look at my goals in life. Can you explain more about how you decide on topics?

As for the "game changing" books, I definitely agree! It seems that most areas seem to have those "seminal" books that most of the other books in the genre reference non-stop. One example that jumps out at me is Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which seems to be referenced by every book I can get my hands on.

The visualization of a tree is definitely interesting: I suppose the goal of it would to be able to find the roots.

I love reading technical books slowly, and digesting all content.

Relocating around Europe made it quite tough to carry all my book hardcopies with me: SICP, CTM, TAOP...

Finally, it seems 13 inch eink readers with support for arbitrary formats (thanks to them running Android, or even capable to process input HDMI video) will become mainstream. To me that's the way to read more books. Thousands of technical books in an eye-friendly tablet. I wonder why it took so long.

Are you referring to this? https://www.amazon.com/Onyx-Max-13-3-Flexible-Handwriting/dp...

Have you tried it? I personally can't stand reading technicle books on my 6"kindle. If the 13" is a better experience I'm upgrading.

Yes, I am referring to Onyx and others. Onyx is probably the best one, and they will be shortly upgrading to Android 4.4, providing a lower consumption CPU and more importantly HDMI input.

This last feature is a game changer.

I have tried Onyx 13 inch readers, and its a very good experience on technical ebooks, which I get on djvu and pdf formats.

> an eye-friendly tablet…

By this, I suppose you mean e-ink paper vs. a backlit LCD?

There is ample research[1] to suggest that electronic paper (e-ink) screens don't offer any advantage over a backlit screen (say an iPad), except may be for reading under the Sun.

People do spend more time devouring content over computer monitors and mobiles phone (both are backlit) than on any other device. Have you tried reading normally over an iPad/standard Android tablet instead?

[1] http://lifehacker.com/5934993/is-e-ink-really-better-for-my-...

A lot of people waste their time reading the latest NY Times best sellers when they could be learning. Who cares how many trash novels you read? You might as well watch TV. Read for quality not quantity and pursue other avenues of learning. Kahn Academy has tons of excellent and free courses on YouTube. Or actually do things. Build something, plant a garden, fix your car, learn a language, write. Passive consumption is overrated.

Didn't you hear though? All successful people read. It's obvious that reading made them successful, not their upbringing or environment. As long as you read as much as possible, does it matter what you read? Be like Bill. Be successful!

I was being sarcastic, obviously.

Read more--Yes!

1) It's a habit.

2) Cultivate the garden of your interests.

- Find resources for reading recommendations (NY Review of Books, NYT Book Review, POD casts, NPR radio);

- Devise a system to collect reading recommendations and to revisit (ie. 3x5 cards, *.txt files you can grep);

3) Get books. Find a convenient and impulsive source for books.

- Visit your public library!

- Reduce the stress of putting down a book that's boring (unless you're wealthy, then Amazon to you heart's content).

- Most public libraries let you search online, reserve, call you when your book is ready, then just go pick it up.

4) Develop better reading habits (mostly for non-fiction):

- Can't get into a book? Start at the index (in the most xtreme cases I list my interests reading the index, then tally which chapters have the most points of interest and read those first!)

- Learn the vocabulary.

- Pencil marginalia. Limited set of what I call "sign-posts". A small check-mark to flag an important passage or line is sufficient. (Underlining is awful; don't do it. If everything is important, than nothing is most important).

- Keep a piece of scrap paper and write down a great idea you had while reading--this will clear your mind of your great idea, and let you get back to reading. And it also keeps your interest, because who doesn't like having great ideas?

5) Write a brief book review for every book you read for the rest of you life. Save this as a simple text file. MLA bibliographic entry. Few paragraphs about the book. Done.

I've been trying to read more books in 2017, and it's been going well so far and I've read 24 books since January.

The two things that have made the difference for me are:

* use the library! I only paid for 1 of those 24 books. Of the others 1 was a physical book from the library and the other 22 were library ebooks. I rarely find things I want to read that they don't have in ebook format (although often you need to 'request a hold' and wait as they can only loan out each copy to so many people at once). For context, I'm in Austin, TX

* make reading a deliberate evening activity. I used to only read when I was in bed and then be frustrated with my progress. I've started reading on my lunch break at work, and also in place of other evening activities (TV, internet, guitar etc). If I do 30 mins at lunch, an hour in the evening and then some in bed I can finish a reasonable length book per week.

I think it also comes down to attitude. I remember when we didn't have internet at home and I was in middle school through high-school, I'd always have about 20 floppy disks with me so that I could go to an internet café, download pages so I could read them home.

During sophomore year (college, Engineering), I spent a lot of time commuting (could stack up to 6 hours in a day) so I was reading philosophy, economics, neuro linguistic programming, psychology, etc. during this time. I live in a country where I can't just buy any book (low availability) and electronic payment wasn't introduced until recently and I didn't have a laptop 10 years ago, so I'd print 4 book pages per A4 sheet, then they'd get folded an make a small book I'd pierce in the center and sort of bind. 500 sheets were about $5 that time.

I also read everywhere, especially in the toilet, which I think is a habit I picked up from home (I grew up with a book shelf in the toilet and we used to call the bathroom the "National Library"). As a matter of fact, I'm writing these very lines sitting on the throne.

I've never read as much as during my unemployment (I could read like 20 hours per day, but it's not for everyone).

On my way to work and after work, I reach for my laptop and get stuff done if I'm fortunate to have a seat. I work on features, do refactoring, etc. If I'm standing, I get my phone and read an ebook.

By the way, I recently found Aaron Swartz' blog posts in epub format. https://github.com/joshleitzel/rawthought

The takeaway from this is the following:

- Making the most out of time that would otherwise be wasted: amortizing commute time, waiting time, etc.

- Exposing myself to a variety of topics opened up a graph of interest that sent me to different directions and topics. I've learned a lot of things.

I go back and forth on if its helpful to set a goal on the number of books. Sometimes its a good motivation for me. Other times its a distraction to the goals of why I read: to learn and to enjoy.

The year my son was born I spent hours everyday pushing him in a stroller to help him stop crying and give his mom a break. I read / listened to 105 books that year, which ended up being too much. I couldn't remember most of what I read / listened to. The next year I had to re-read many of the books.

The sweet spot for me is between 40 and 50, although I've adjusted my goal from number of books to subject mastery. Focusing on a subject I care about and studying books, articles, etc. on the subject has ended up being more rewarding. In addition, I have a handful of books I read simply for the joy of reading.

One downside of tracking the books I read is that I have a subtle resistance to starting super long books, because I know for that month I'll only end up reading 2 books instead of 5. It's really stupid but a side effect of tracking / counting.

It means I unnecessarily postponed reading excellent books such as "Titan" by Chernow.

I've gotten around this (at least a little) by tracking pages read instead of books read.

That's actually a really good idea. Might also make me prioritize articles more if they contribute to a "page count".

[Off topic] You can purchase this article for $8.95? https://hbr.org/product/8-ways-to-read-a-lot-more-books-this...

Indeed; in what possible world would anyone consider that worth the price of a paperback book?

Last year I read over 100 books as part of my Goodreads challenge. This year I set the target way down at 50 books and my new challenge is to finish all the books I've bought but not finished. So my rule is I have to finish 2 books from the unfinished list before I can buy a new book.

My kindle has 470 books on it with 86 of them not complete or that I have only skimmed.

Audible account is up to 70 with 26 unfinished.

And I have about a dozen paper books to finish too which is from the point about reading physical books. I find for technical topics I do way better retaining and studying from paper books than kindle ones so I've started buying paper again.

I've started "reading" lots of books now that I have Audible. I listen while mowing the lawn, while doing chores, etc. Can easily to a book a week this way.

I love audio books. They have changed my life. Though I find it hard to proselytize friends and family over to the audio side. They all give the same reason, "i tried it and it didn't work" or "i have not tried it and i know it wont work". IMHO, I think more people should give it a shot, a real honest attempt. My first audio book was Ender's Game, so maybe starting off with a bang is the way to go.

What I do is to suggest that they try listening while doing chores that require no hard thinking. Your brain will be happy to have something to engage in. Today while spreading dirt and grass seed, I listened to "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry". Was nice in that it was a one-work-session listen.

How do you feel with zoning out?

As an aside, the research on ego depletion that he quotes in uncritical terms has been completely discredited. The phenomenon does not exist. Of course, to know that you need to read science blogs, not books. But there are books about ego depletion, several, filled with lies. When the container is more important than the content, I suppose truthfulness is a secondary concern.

Interesting. HBR has a recent article on the topic, so they don't think its dead:


And by the way, I couldn't care less about this post, it's just that I can't stand seeing ego depletion theory repeated forever and the fine minds of HN readers contaminated by it.

I've been digging through Hacker News posts, hackernewsbooks, etc. It was a non-ficton book, about the loss of power/money/wealth in New York? I believe. It was like 1000+ pages, and only around $15, and I can't for the life of me remember what the hell it was. Had a picture of the guy on the cover, that's about all I can remember. But I know I wanted it!

"The Power Broker" by Robert Caro?

Will you marry me? This is why I love Hacker News.

Was it by any chance Titan about Rockefeller?


For me, I started reading a lot more when I moved to New York and started taking the subway everywhere.

Public transit makes a good excuse to read, since I find it a rather difficult place to do "real" work, but there's also a lot of downtime.

Also, despite what this article says, I found that purchasing a Kindle really made reading a lot less of a chore.

I use Pocket, and one of the things I wish I could do is to break books down into chapters and feed the individual chapters into Pocket. If I ever want it bad enough, I'll hack together some kind of solution. But getting text out of an Kindle ebook seems like it'd be tricky.

It's actually quite easy. Simply strip it of drm (software is easily googleable )

From there you can unzip it and the chapters exist as basically html files.

Thanks! I'll keep that in mind.

What worked for me was setting smarter goals. Instead of a X-books-in-a-year, I switched to 3-books-in-a-month, which is far more easier to track because I need to finish a book once every 10 days.

I track everything on Goodreads, and it has been working out great.

I'd add joining a reading circle. Forces a monthly/bimonthly book on me I'd likely not have picked up by myself, discussions afterwards are usually quite insightful, plus you can frequent and support your local bookstore.

Ancient Kindle (I use the keyboard edition) text-to-speech. Not as good as Audible but much more affordable. Also weird using the same narration for all books!

Humble Bundle sometimes has audio book bundle deals, usually Dr Who.

Lots of people writing good comments about audiobooks. Anyone knows if it's benefits are the same of reading? Instead of listening someone narrating?

From personal as well as shared experience from several avid "audiobookers", retention is dramatically decreased with audiobooks.

Many folks will use audiobooks while multi-tasking (driving, cleaning) where the brain is partially distracted from absorbing, reflecting on, and internalizing the book contents.

I reserve audiobooks for fiction, autobiographies, and other light materials where I'm not learning so much as consuming content.

Do you guys use any tool to keep track of your books? to find new books to read?

I use goodreads for tracking and the recommended books section of the kindle store which I think gives better recommendations than goodreads.

the deal breaker for me is actually picking up a new book to read, often I stop at the "searching a good book to read". when you start often is inertia.

It sounds like maybe you need a better network of strong recommendations that you would personally find interesting. For me, my interests lie in non-fiction literature, and I have many colleagues who share those interests, and so I often find myself with more interesting literature on my list than I have the free time to read and digest. However, I think that I have a much better problem than you do.

I'm certain that there are quality book clubs, social or even recommendation engines that might help you get started finding more literature that's personally interesting to you. Maybe the HN crowd knows of some quality sources for personally interesting literature?

Also, the classics, lists of great books, influences of the authors of your favorite books...

Stop reading. Start acting.

Start reading a long series by a prolific author - like Bernard Cornwell or Patrick O'Brian on Kindle. Watch your bank account dwindle.

We changed the URL from https://qz.com/963692/how-to-read-more-books-this-year-accor..., which points to this.

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