How to actually read more books

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5 years from now you’ll be the same person except for the books you read and the people you meet.

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

I love to read. It’s been a solid source for skill building and idea generation in my career. Because I often pull out stories and idea from books, I had asked often about how I read so many books.

I don’t speed read. And I have a decently busy life. Yet I’ve been able to read over 150 books in the past decade and do so through getting an MBA, working in fast-paced startups (LinkedIn/Degreed), starting businesses (Sprintwell, Groove), partnering with my wife to homeschool our 5 kids, and moving 12 times (yes, we have moved A LOT).

Finding time to read comes down to 10-minute chunks of reading.


How do I find 10 minutes to read?

2 habits help me regularly find 10 minutes to read.

1. Keep books nearby

I have a shelf of books next to my desk. I keep books I’m currently reading near me and move them to where I’m going (desk, bed, computer bag). The act of carrying the book around helps me take moments to open and read.

Having books around increasing the chance you’ll pick one up. I have them on my bookshelf, on my desk, on my bedside table, on my bed, and in my computer bag.

2. Listen to books when traveling

Business travel, family road trips, and commutes are a joy when you’re listening to an interesting book. I’ve actually volunteered at times to pick my kids up from somewhere, or head to the store, just to get an extra 20 minutes of listening when I’m really into a book.

I’ve had Siri read me kindle books in the past, which works decently well, and I’ve fallen in love with Audible over the past year. I’ve gotten comfortable listening at 2.5x speed, which has an added bonus of letting me learn from more books.

If you can find just 10 minutes a day, you could read a book a month.


How do I get books to read?

Goodreads offers a great way to see what your friends are reading and ask for advice about if someone thinks you should read the book as well. Many amazon reviews offer great insights as well if you read through a few.

There was a time when I thought books were hard to come by. I was raised to be very frugal and it was hard for me to just buy a book. A few things have helped me still get lots of books, even with that tendency.

Ask for books at work

The last 3 companies I’ve worked for bought me books. At Degreed we have FlexEd, a $100 monthly stipend to spend on anything learning related. It’s awesome. Small amount of money that feels like a massive perk. Every company should do this.

Before Degreed, there wasn’t anything like FlexEd at LinkedIn or at LDS Philanthropies. So I pitched some ideas to my bosses about books I would like to read that would help me be better at my job. Both times, even when it wasn’t the norm, I was given books that I wanted to read. And what manager doesn’t want to hear an employee talk about how they are working to be better?

Buy books for cheaper

Check out the price difference between hardback, paperback, and kindle editions. Used books on Amazon are awesome. Many books you can find for $4.

I also love the Audible Platinum membership, which let me pay for 24 credits up front for $229.50 ($9.56 a book). I also get 30% off books purchased without credits.

Ask for recommendations and borrow books

Use the social network of your choice and ask for recommendations. Goodreads also lets you see books as your friends finish them. Asking a friend if you can borrow a book they just finished has a number of benefits. Goodreads helps you do that. Your friend will feel good for being generous. You will feel more accountability to finish the book. When finished you both learn more from discussion. It builds a stronger relationship between you and your friend.

Libraries are amazing.


Why does this work?

Getting Started

The act of getting started is the hardest part – remembering what you want to do and overcoming inertia to do it. That’s why just having a book around is powerful. I believe it’s one reason kids who grow up with books in their home earn more money. There are times picking up a book leads to an hour of reading.

Track What you Learn

The difference between “I’ve read a few books – can’t remember which ones” and “Here’s the 25 books I read last year” is amazing when it comes to feeling accomplishment.

I track everything I read on Goodreads (which then integrates with Degreed to track everything I learn).

I love tracking what I read. It feels amazing to see a full list of what I’ve read each year. Seeing what I’m learned brings a sense of accomplishment. It also makes for one of my most engaging Facebook posts. I love setting a goal and seeing progress. I love that my friends see what I read and ask me about it. I love seeing what my friends read and getting book suggestions.

See what you’ve read year by year

Goodreads has a great yearly challenge that keeps getting better, but it’s a little inconsistent as you go back through the years. If you’re on Goodreads, go to your booklist (https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/), which will add your id to the end, then add “?read_at=2010&view=covers” to the end of that. For instance, this is a link to my books last year. You can just change the year in that URL to see what you’ve read, year by year.

What I’ve read in the past decade

2010: 10 books

2011: 12 books

2012: 19 books

2013: 14 books

2014: 20 books

2015: 10 books

2016: 26 books

2017: 16 books

2018: 15 books

2019: 10 books

Ironically, I didn’t read that much while I was getting my undergraduate (unless you count forced partial reading of dry textbooks). That to me is an indicator of some of the issues we have with schooling today. Formal schooling tends to kill our curiosity.

Who do you want to be?

You can check out all of the books I’ve read which gives you a sense of the books I recommend.

These books represent a substantive chunk of my learning over the past few years. Reading more takes some small habits and will help you answer the question “who do I want to be in 5 years?” Go read some.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ryan Seamons writes about more human approaches to modern management.

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