Rules for reading books

Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love reading again

  1. Read books.
  2. 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.
  3. Give yourself permission to read non-linearly.
    Skip chapters, jump around.
  4. 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.
  5. Give yourself permission to read multiple books at a time.
  6. Don’t feel obligated to “speed read”.
    Linger on passages that strike you as interesting.
  7. 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.
  8. Reconsider books you didn’t enjoy in the past.
    See Rule #7. The cumulative sum of your life experiences is always changing.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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”
    • etc.
  12. When recommending a book, explain why you enjoyed it.
    See Rule #11.


A few ways to find books you might enjoy:

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.

July 2019