5 Ways to Read a 33 Hour Book

880 pages.

May 31, 2016

I don’t like long books. They take too long to read.

The opportunity cost of one long book, in terms of books not read, is high.

I like concise books. A short book forces the author and the editor to consider each word.

So what does one do when a book that you really want to read is also really long?

The book that I just started reading is one of those long books. This book is Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First by Frank Trentmann.

This book is 880 dense pages. The audiobook is 33 hours and 12 minutes long. (Most of the audiobooks that I read are between 8 and 10 hours).

Here is my plan for reading this long book:

1 - Interest:

A 33 hour book will consume the same amount of time to read as 3 or 4 books. Any book this length must be about something that you are passionate to learn about (assuming the book is nonfiction). I love economic history, and my interest in how and why we consume has grown as my consumption has moved from physical to digital goods.

Grounding the story of our current material consumption patterns within a global historical context (from the 15th century through the 21st) will take time to do well - hence a 33 hour book makes sense.

2 - Quality:

Before committing to a long book I will spend considerable time reading reviews. 

Empire of Things has been extraordinarily well reviewed in The Guardian, NPR, The Financial Times, and many others.

3 - Format:

We sometimes here that digital books encourage shorter books.

It is true that the Amazon Kindle Single series has been a driver of concise digital books. Digital books, however, can be a wonderful enabler of long books.

For Empire of Things, I purchased both the Audible audiobook, and the Kindle digital book. I have trouble understanding why Amazon did not release this book as a Whispersync for Voice book, as it is a pain to manually keep the two versions synced.

Still, I highly recommend this approach.  The cost was $12.99 for the Kindle book and $9.56 for the Audible book. (As I am an Audible Platinum subscriber). $22.50 is a lot of money to pay for a digital book - but for 33 hours of reading the cost per-hour seems reasonable.

If you have never tried going back and forth between reading with your eyes and reading with your ears for a single book then I highly recommend the experience. You will be amazed how quickly the book goes - how good your retention is - and how much you are encouraged to spend time reading.

4 - Public Commitment:

The best way to ensure that you will finish a long book is to publicly talk about reading the long book. In writing this blog post I know that I am giving myself extra motivation to read the book.

I’m also telling everyone I know about how good the book is so far. Go ahead and Tweet about that big book you picked up. Write a comment in this space. Publicly declare your intention to tackle that big book.

5 - Review:

My plan is to review Empire of Things once I finish reading the book. Committing to writing a book review is a great method to ensure that the book gets read.

Do you write reviews for the books that you read?

What is the last long book that you read?



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