What are you reading right now?
Do you know what you’ll be reading next?
If so, good. Please teach me how.
I’ve got too many books going at any one time. I’ve been trying to improve on this. Which means mostly not doing anything to improve on this and just feeling bad every time I realize I’ve mindlessly switched to another book.
Anyway I came across a couple passages this week about book selection. Here’s the first, from Dan Meredith’s How to Be F-cking Awesome:
Next, I read. Now I have three books on the go at all times. As I mentioned earlier, I used to beat myself up over having all the books and not reading them. Now? I pick the most suitable three and read one–two chapters of each of them every day. For me, a combination of an autobiography, a business/marketing/mindset book and some easy, fun-to-read fiction works well.
I subscribe to that idea that if you’re thinking about buying a book then you should just go ahead and buy it. So I buy a lot of books. Well, ebooks. Which is great. I’ve read a good number of books since buying a Kindle in 2010. A lot of which I probably wouldn’t have read if I stuck to hard copies.
(Here comes the…) But now I’m seeing that having hundreds of books with you at all times can be distracting.
I usually am bouncing 3 Kindle books around along with 3 Audible books and then I have a hard copy. To illustrate this, here’s what the current rotation looks like.
- Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
- The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
- Pomodoro Technique Illustrated by Staffan Noteberg
- The Audience of One by Srinivas Rao
- American Kingpin by Nick Bilton
- Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam
- Maverick by Ricardo Semler
(I have The Wise Man’s Fear as an audiobook and hardcover so I’ll jump into those once in a while as well.)
Just going to quote myself on this. From a post titled “Journal 18: The Duel”:
Ravikant says he treats books like they’re blogs. I like his comparison to blog archives. You wouldn’t just read an archive from start to finish. You would look and try to find the most interesting posts. In the same way, he goes through books and reads the most interesting sections.
Which is referring to Naval Ravikant’s appearance on The Knowledge Project. Actually sort of a life changing episode. In that I definitely changed how I read books immediately after listening to that episode. I may have gone too far to where I’m not retaining anything at all.
Anyway here’s another thing I wrote about being more deliberate about what I’m reading, “The second diet”:
This blog acts as a bit of the best things from my mental diet. Hopefully I’m sharing meals that taste good and are good for you. Of course, it’s a highlight reel. I read and listen to a lot of stuff that isn’t as good.
A lot of it isn’t varied enough. I started stepping out of the echo chamber of tech startup, design think piece, growth hacker, productivity type of things.
For that post, I was referring to Shannon Briggs’s appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast.
I’m approaching two years (originally posted Dec 2016) since writing that post and… I think I’m pretty close to being entirely back in that echo chamber. That’s a sign that it’s what I’m interested in. But I still think it’s worth deliberately reading outside of those topics at least half the time and I’d like to be beyond half the time outside of those things.
Oh yeah, at the top of the post I said there were two passages that I came across—the second one is from something in Laura Vanderkam’s book “Off the Clock” about how she picks the books she’ll read. I found something similar on her blog in her post “My year of making time to read (plus a most memorable books list)”:
I get a lot of recommendations from Modern Mrs. Darcy/What Should I Read Next? and from write-ups in O magazine and the Wall Street Journal. People send me a fair number of non-fiction titles. I will read through other works by writers I like.
Which reminds me that a month ago (while reading In the beginning was the command line) I decided I’d read all of Neal Stephenson’s novels. So Anathem might be next after The Wise Man’s Fear.
Okay so here are the two things that should be helpful:
- Have a strategy for picking books: This takes some of the fun out but I think something general like 1 non-fiction, 1 fiction, 1 narrative non-fiction could be good. I’ll keep trying different rotations out.
- Write about what you’re reading: Just to help with retention. I’m aiming to write 1000 words a day. (Re-inspired by Srinivas Rao: “Shortly after that conversation I started writing 1000 words a day and it’s something I’ve been doing ever since. To say that the habit changed my life would be an understatement.”) A lot of what I write (~10 days into this hopefully-new habit) has been about what I read that day. I suspect that will continue. I’ll try to share the good parts.