Top insights I've learned about reading books
Be picky about what you read
It took me until recently to realize that when it comes to reading books, it’s not about how many books you’ve read but what books you’ve read. It seems common sense. Well, common sense is not that common...
Life is too short to waste it on books that have not proven themselves. Yes, you can occasionally stumble upon gold, by reading random books, but when you go for the ones that have solid backing, you most likely will stumble upon gold - over and over and over again.
From now on, I try to go for the books that are recommended by someone who knows what they’re talking about, preferably by someone who’s in that exact same field as the recommended book. Or - I know I can trust the author, as I’ve read him or her before.
What I have also realized is that many successful people don’t read tons of books (except Tai Lopez), they read the best ones over and over again. Many have their top 10 lists, and they turn back to these after every once in a while.
Of course, it doesn’t mean you have to re-read it entirely - going through notes and scanning through the most interesting parts is enough.
So, don’t worry about reading as many books as possible, but rather focus on finding the ones that really matter.
Be very selective when choosing a new book to read. Make sure the topic interests you, and you feel a certain pull towards the book. Also - as said earlier - make sure it’s recommended by someone who knows what they are talking about. “But my friend told me, this a great book” is not something you should pay serious attention to. More research will be needed as your time is too precious to spend it on something you later discover is not worth it.
I’ll give you my top 10 books here. If you’ve been following this blog, then there should be no real surprises. I’ve been talking about most of these quite a bit. And for a good reason.
These are the books that have - if not changed my life - then definitely changed my thinking:
- Deep Work by Cal Newport;
- Linchpin by Seth Godin;
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield;
- Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon;
- The One Thing by Gary Keller;
- The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson;
- Mastery by Robert Greene;
- Antifragile by Nassim N. Taleb;
- Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday;
- The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.
Of course, there are some more I could easily put on this list or replace one title with another. Also, it’s not carved into stone - it might - and probably will - change in the future.
Now, understand that this is my list. Yours will probably be different as different people relate to different things. That’s absolutely okay and the way it should be.
Don’t get caught up in the theory
Books are great, but they only get you to think and/or put you in a better mindset. Reading books without applying the knowledge in it is a waste of time. It’s only theory.
E.g., some people like to read Nietsche or Rimbaud and quote Alan Watts just to show how intellectual they are. Again, if you are not internalizing the ideas to your own thinking (making them your own), then it’s just acquiring knowledge for the sake of it.
Obviously, this applies more to non-fiction books than fiction. And, I’m not bashing fiction either - fiction is great for entertainment and enjoyment. Much like theater or great restaurants are.
But reading a lot just to debate over what one philosopher or poet really meant, is in my honest opinion, just mental masturbation. It doesn’t change anything. Essentially, its a waste of time. You may have a different opinion regarding this - that’s also cool.
I once met a girl who said she likes to read poetry, philosophy, and classic literature and that self-help don’t even qualify as literature for her. At the time, I was reading the Elon Musk biography and mentioned that to her. She said that she doesn’t like Elon Musk at all - that he’s an asshole and this and that. Obviously, she hadn’t read the book. Needless to say, I didn’t expect her to.
Now, biographies and autobiographies are not self-help, but the point is that people who bash self-help are usually the people who’ve never read a single self-help book. Or they’ve read a really bad one and make their assumptions based on a tiny sample.
The irony of all this is that I was one of those people — 100 %.
I still remember my friend talking about Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and my reaction to this. I may have not explicitly showed my emotion, but I remember how I felt internally. I’m pretty sure I scoffed, sneered, or ridiculed this idea of anyone wanting to read these kinds of books. This was around ten years ago.
“Look at those silly people reading these silly books. Anthony Robbins? What a joke. That’s dumb!” is something many people are saying or thinking.
Here’s the thing: many people who read Tony Robbins are absolutely crushing it in life. And the people bashing him - are usually the ones that are not crushing. At all. E.g., my friend who read Rich Dad, Poor Dad is definitely not struggling with his finances. As far as I know - he’s quite wealthy.
Audiobooks & apps
Let’s get a bit more technical.
Audiobooks are one of the best inventions of all time. However, the catch is that audiobooks are basically as old as human speech. Let me explain.
It amazes me that some people think that audiobooks aren’t as good as real physical books. They think that they’re somewhat inferior.
E.g., I once heard a story of a woman who was part (maybe she still is) of a book club. When she revealed that she listened to the book, others basically told her that it doesn’t count as it was cheating.
Still, listening to a book is actually more natural to us than reading. Let me ask you, how long have people passing on knowledge and stories and how long has written text been around?
I personally like both: to read and to listen. They are a bit different and have their pros and cons. So why not get the best of both worlds?
Another thing is that audiobooks absolutely eliminate any excuses you may have regarding not reading books. A typical excuse is “I don’t have time”. With audiobooks, this is not an excuse. It’s a lie. You have time; you just don’t want to read. Which is fine, of course - I have no problem with that - but stop lying to yourself. We all know it’s bullshit.
Even if you don’t have any money, you can listen to audiobooks via LibriVox. They have an amazing collection of classic books that have fallen under the public domain.
If you do have money, Amazon’s Audible is a great investment as well. With its monthly subscription fee, you set yourself accountable to read (read: listen) books as otherwise, you’re paying for nothing.
Speaking of apps - there an amazing app called Blinkist that offers book summaries of popular non-fiction books. They have thousands in the database, and they’re continuously adding more.
Listening to book summaries is a great way to familiarize yourself with a book before you read it or remind yourself of the key ideas of a book you’ve already read.
It’s also helpful to help you decide whether to read a particular book or not, or just get the main idea of a book but not spend a lot of time to read it in its entirety.
read books! :)