“It usually helps me write by reading — somehow the reading gear in your head turns the writing gear.” — Steven Wright
Lately several people have been asking me how I’ve been able to read so many books in the last couple of years.
While I’ve enjoyed reading I only became serious about my reading habit in 2012. Before that I only read for amusement or because something caught my eye, not because I was being purposeful about it.
Before I get into that, let’s start by looking at what I see as the pros and cons of different book formats.
Physical Book Cons: You have to deal with a thing that takes up space in your shelf or in storage. Your reading speed dictates how fast you’ll go through it.
Physical Book Pros: You have the physical thing. You can skim & skip easily. You can easily mark where you left off and pick it back up. You can more easily look stuff up from the references and index.
Ebook Cons: You’re stuck looking at a screen of some form. You don’t really have a physical copy per se. You need an application to read it, depending on the application some features may or may not be present.
Ebook Pros: Searching for text, highlighting, and dehighlighting is usually really simple if they’re available in the application.
Audiobook Cons: You don’t have the physical thing. It’s harder to remember where you heard something and look up references. Try remembering exactly where you were in the book 6 months later, yeah. The person narrating might not have a voice you enjoy.
Audiobook Pros: You can listen to it while having your hands free to do other things. You can increase the speed at which you read.
What works for me is having a combo of an audiobook and ebook (preferably a PDF). I simply listen to the audiobook at between 1.25–1.75 times the original speed while taking notes on my phone or making bookmarks (in the Audible app) and then highlighting them in the PDF. Also, I sometimes send the pages or passages to my email just to save the most important ones.
If it’s a book I want to have in my library I make sure to buy a physical copy too. In some cases the books aren’t available in audio or ebook form so I’m “stuck” reading the physical one.
They all have their pros and cons, figure out what works best for you and go with that.
So, the reason I’ve been able to read so many books these past couple of years is that I’m very lucky.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to set my life up so that I can make room for reading. On average I’ve read a little over an hour a day for the past 4 years. Some days I don’t read at all while some days I can dedicate to starting and finishing 2 books.
This isn’t always practical or possible for people.
You may be working 10 hours a day with a 3 hour commute. You might have a household that needs taking care of. You might have other activities that take up your time. When will you have the time to read?
When I started in 2012 I was in that situation. The only time I had to dedicate to reading was during my commutes. That year I finished 11 books simply by reading on the train and bus.
Those were physical copies and ebooks. In 2013 I wanted to up my game and I realized I could save a lot more time and energy by listening to audiobooks.
The problem I noticed there was that I couldn’t highlight the things that were really interesting so I started combining my audiobooks with ebooks that enabled me to do so. That’s how I managed to squeeze in 81 books in 2013.
In 2014 the number rose to 103, and in 2015 the total was 136.
Now, this means that I read an average of almost 1 hour 30 minutes per day in 2015.
This made me realize that while reading is great my reading to writing ratio had become too big. I don’t want to be spending an hour of my day reading.
Also, I noticed that I’m getting to a point in some fields where I’m getting diminishing returns. A lot of the books repeat the same old themes and principles.
While I’m grateful for the reminders, it’s not necessarily where the biggest upside will be for me.
That’s why I chose the quote by Steven Wright that’s at the top. My biggest upside will be to spend those hours putting the knowledge I’ve gained to use in the real world.
I’ll probably still be reading 50+ books per year for the foreseeable future since my commuting (and video gaming) time is spent listening to them and they just add up to 5+ hours per week. This makes sense because the average audiobook takes about 4 hours, plus I’m also speeding it up.
However, the less time I’ll spend on traveling and video games, the less I’ll be spending on books as well.
Identify times where you could be able to do a bit of reading while doing other stuff. Also, figure out which format would give you the best opportunity to do so.
Please, don’t compare yourself by the standards of others. While some people don’t read any books, some read 10 books, and others read 500 books, you’re only bettering yourself. It isn’t a competition.
If you only read one book this year, and it allows you to change your life for the better, that book will have been worth more than reading 1000 that didn’t.
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Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!