Rules for reading books
Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love reading again
- Read books.
- Don’t continue reading books you don’t enjoy.
In fact, getting “stuck” in a book you don’t enjoy may cause you to break Rule #1.
- Give yourself permission to read non-linearly.
Skip chapters, jump around.
- Don’t read every word of a book just to say you “read the book”.
People may ask if you read the book. They won’t care that your eyes beheld every word.
- Give yourself permission to read multiple books at a time.
- Don’t feel obligated to “speed read”.
Linger on passages that strike you as interesting.
- Understand that no book can please everyone.
Whether you enjoy a book is a function of the book’s content and the cumulative sum of your life experiences. The latter is different for everyone.
- Reconsider books you didn’t enjoy in the past.
See Rule #7. The cumulative sum of your life experiences is always changing.
- Give yourself permission to re-read books you enjoyed in the past.
You’ll probably remember things you had forgotten or notice things you hadn’t before.
- Don’t worship the number of books you read.
It’s OK to record and count your books. But worshipping that number may cause you to break Rule #9.
- Understand that reasons for enjoying a book can vary.
Enjoyment can be unpacked to mean:
- “I agreed with the author’s view”
- “I disagreed with the author’s view, but think the book is valuable to read”
- “I think this book is entertaining”
- “I think this book is interesting (i.e. surprising)”
- “I think this book is sometimes interesting, sometimes uninteresting”
- “This book changed my outlook on life”
- When recommending a book, explain why you enjoyed it.
See Rule #11.
A few ways to find books you might enjoy:
- Think of an interesting subject and look up related books that others recommend
- Look up books by authors you previously enjoyed
- Look up books mentioned in books you previously enjoyed
- Ask a friend, but see Rules #11 and #12
By the way, if you feel bad about spending money on books you might not enjoy, consider my friend Satyajeet’s philosophy: the tremendous value you’ll reap from reading the occasionally great book may well exceed the cost of purchasing all the other books you won’t enjoy.