8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year

Posted on: February 15th, 2017 by bobmorris

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Neil Pasricha for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.

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How much do you read?

For most of my adult life I read maybe five books a year — if I was lucky. I’d read a couple on vacation and I’d always have a few slow burners hanging around the bedside table for months.

And then last year I surprised myself by reading 50 books. This year I’m on pace for 100. I’ve never felt more creatively alive in all areas of my life. I feel more interesting, I feel like a better father, and my writing output has dramatically increased. Amplifying my reading rate has been the domino that’s tipped over a slew of others.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t do it sooner.

Why did I wait 20 years?

Well, our world today is designed for shallow skimming rather than deep diving, so it took me some time to identify the specific changes that skyrocketed my reading rate. None of them had to do with how fast I read. I’m actually a pretty slow reader.

Here’s my advice for fitting more reading into your own life, based on the behaviors that I changed:

[Here are three of Pastiche’s eight recommendations to help you read more books of greater interest and value to you.]

Centralize reading in your home. Back in 1998, psychologist Roy Baumeister and his colleagues performed their famous “chocolate chip cookie and radish” experiment. They split test subjects into three groups and asked them not to eat anything for three hours before the experiment. Group 1 was given chocolate chip cookies and radishes, and were told they could eat only the radishes. Group 2 was given chocolate chip cookies and radishes, and were told they could eat anything they liked. Group 3 was given no food at all. Afterward, the researchers had all three groups attempt to solve an impossible puzzle, to see how long they would last. It’s not surprising that group 1, those who had spent all their willpower staying away from the cookies, caved the soonest.

What does this have to do with reading? I think of having a TV in your main living area as a plate of chocolate chip cookies. So many delicious TV shows tempt us, reducing our willpower to tackle the books. What does this have to do with reading? I think of having a TV in your main living area as a plate of chocolate chip cookies. So many delicious TV shows tempt us, reducing our willpower to tackle the books.

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.”

Last year my wife and I moved our sole TV into our dark, unfinished basement and got a bookshelf installed on the wall beside our front door. Now we see it, walk by it, and touch it dozens of times a day. And the TV sits dormant unless the Toronto Blue Jays are in the playoffs or Netflix drops a new season of House of Cards.

Make a public commitment.
In his seminal book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini shares a psychology study showing that once people place their bets at the racetrack, they are much more confident about their horse’s chances than they were just before laying down the bet. He goes on to explain how commitment is one of the big six weapons of social influence. So why can’t we think of ourselves as the racehorses? Make the bet on reading by opening an account at Goodreads or Reco, befriending a few coworkers or friends, and then updating your profile every time you read a book. Or put together an email list to send out short reviews of the books you read. I do exactly that each month, with my Monthly Book Club Email. I stole the idea from bestselling author Ryan Holiday, who has a great reading list.

Find a few trusted, curated lists. Related to the above, the publishing industry puts out more than 50,000 books a year. Do you have time to sift through 1,000 new books a week? Nobody does, so we use proxies like Amazon reviews. But should we get our reading lists from retailers? If you’re like me, and you love the “staff picks” wall in independent bookstores, there’s nothing as nice as getting one person’s favorite books. Finding a few trusted, curated lists can be as simple as the email lists I mentioned, but with a bit of digging you can likely find the one that totally aligns with your tastes. Some of the lists that I personally like are: Bill Gates’s reading list; Derek Sivers’s reading list; and Tim Ferriss’s list, where he has collected the recommendations of many of his podcast guests.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Neil Pastiche is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Equation and The Book of Awesome. His TED Talk is ranked one of the most inspiring of all time with over 2.5 million views. He spent a decade in leadership development at Walmart and now works as Director of The Institute for Global Happiness with the mission of increasing happiness levels in organizations.

TAGs: 8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year, Neil Pastiche, Harvard Business Review blog, HBR email alerts, Ronald Dahl’s poem “Television”, 8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year, Harvard Business Review blog, HBR email alerts

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