5 Ideas for Reading More Books

Hint - hang out with librarians.

April 30, 2014

When do you find the time and energy to read books?  

Neither (time or energy) is in particularly abundant supply in our lives.  

How many e-mails will you read and write today? How many meetings will you have? How much information will you need to absorb?  

We all want to read more books, but this goal is often more aspirational than feasible. In an overloaded information diet, books will often be left off the menu.

That is too bad, as books are better than everything else. Books are better than articles. Books are better than websites.  

And books beat the shit out of any type of social media that has ever been conjured.

Books are better because they stick with us. They add up to something. They are the building blocks of our understanding of the world.

It is a tragedy that e-mail and social media and meetings and who knows what else is crowding out our book reading.  

One good library is worth all of Twitter.   

The collected books in your personal library would make a fair trade for Facebook.   

If you have the secret to reading more books I’d love to know it.  

My own modest suggestions to make room for more book reading would include:

More Book Reading Idea 1 - Hang Out With Book Readers:   

We are ridiculously influenced by the behavior of others. (At least I am). If we want to adopt a certain behavior our best bet is often to seek out those folks who are already doing what we want to do. This goes at least double for reading books.  

I’m abundantly blessed on this score, as I work in a library and hang out (whenever they will let me) with librarians. Librarians read books.   

Academics in general seem to be inveterate and incorrigible book readers. Maybe the best reason that I know of to choose a career in and around academia is that you will spend your days with book readers.

More Book Reading Idea 2 - Stop Doing Other Stuff:

If you want to read more books you will need to do less of something else. My vote is that something else should be almost everything else.  

A choice to invest time in a book is a choice to invest lots of energy in a narrow range of subjects and ideas. Committing to a book is a commitment to follow someone else’s narrative. When we jump and skim around the Web and social media we are alighting on whatever snippets briefly catch our attention. The choice to string together lots of consecutive minutes with one book is a choice to forgo the opportunity to spend these same minutes at many different places.  

We can’t make more time in our days, we need to choose.  

Embracing a book reading approach to our time means also accepting that we will know less. We will not read the blogs, not scan the news articles, not make the connections with our Tweets. Even the most committed of book readers probably can’t read much more than a book a week.  

This is a tradeoff of information volume for (hopefully) information quality.   Embracing books over other information streams is a choice to put aside all that we could know for the possibility of a deeper understanding of a few things.

More Book Reading Idea 3 - Incorporate Book Reading Into Your Work:  

Learning requires action. What you get out of your book reading will be commensurate with what you put in. Find opportunities to talk to colleagues, kids, students, and strangers about what you have been reading.  

Shamelessly incorporate what you have been reading into what you are saying and writing. Find some way to turn our shared obsession with productivity into opportunities to read more books.   

More Book Reading Idea 4 - Audiobooks:

I’d be lost without audiobooks. Audiobooks are one of those few things in life that actually create more time in our days. Audiobooks allow us to read while doing something else.  

We have mis-learned the research on multitasking. Just because we can’t do some tasks simultaneously doesn’t mean that we can’t do all tasks simultaneously. We can walk and drive and garden and shovel snow and wash dishes and run and a million other things while we listen to audiobooks.

Have I stopped listening to podcasts, NPR, and even music?  Sure.  I’m an audiobook addict.   

More Book Reading Idea 5 - Book Diversity:

The best book readers embrace book diversity.  They are wildly promiscuous when it comes to books.

They have piles of books close at hand.  (The piles can be digital).

A different book for every mood and every level of energy.  No book and no genre is better than any other.  A mystery or thriller occupies equal status to a weighty nonfiction tome.  Popular and academic social science enjoy equal places of esteem. 

How do you think we can read more books?

What are you reading?

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Joshua Kim

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