Updated: Jul 4, 2021
Simple tips, tricks and hacks helped me read more books in 2020.
"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” - Charles W. Eliott
If you write a quote before the start of a post, people will think that your post will have a strong literary and intellectual value! :-)
Well, I am not sure if my blogs will have any of the above. Let me also mention that I have never completed 52 books in a year. The best I could do was 30 books in 2020. Additionally, If you are looking for scientific research-based advice, this is not it.
However, what I am trying here is to provide simple and practical tips which will help a beginner read and understand more books.
I have been a bookworm since I was a kid. However, as the work pressure increased and other commitments/priorities started to kick-in, my book reading habit slowly died.
I restarted reading in 2017, with the Harry Potter Series and later started non-fiction books. I read a few good books after that - Parva by SL Byrappa, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Into Thin air by Jon Krakauer, Walking the Himalayas by Levison Wood, Man's Search of Meaning by Viktor E Frankl to name a few.
In 2018, I finished 6 books. In 2019, I finished 15 books and finally in 2020, I could finish 30 books. To see all the books I have read, please visit my Goodreads Profile. My target for 2021, is to read 52 books - almost 1 book per week. (As on 28th Jan 2021 - I have completed 5 books).
Completing a book does not mean just finishing it without understanding. Completing a book also does not mean remembering everything. It means - Read, take notes and apply its lessons to our lives.
The following techniques have helped me to complete 30 books, last year.
1) Prioritise and create time: This is the most important and the toughest step. We are all busy with multiple assignments, meetings, family commitments and myriads of other such stuff. The first thing is to identify the "intent and objective". Do I want to read a book and why I want to read a book - should be very clear. The answers are very simple for both these questions. The quote at the start is one reason why we should read more. We have only 24 hours in a day and have lots of priorities. So, to read more, we need to re-prioritise and remove certain activities from our day.
How to create time for reading: Stop watching TV, stop scrolling through social media feed, stop watching the news. According to me all of the above are meaningless and does not add a lot of value to our lives. When I say stop, watching a very good movie or a short series once in a while is fine. Or reading headlines for 5/6 mins is fine. Or catching up with friends and connects on FB/Linkedin once in a week is fine. So once you stop the above, suddenly you have 3/4 hours available in a day for self-development (Reading).
Also, if you go for run/exercise in the morning, you have 1 more hour. Driving/travelling and getting stuck in traffic may give you an additional 1/2 hours each day. Waiting for someone, stuck in a meeting (where you are not required to pay attention), may give you another 30mins. Avoid unnecessary gossip and political discussions with colleagues at the office. Utilize this time to read audiobooks. More on audiobooks later - point 4.
So now, we have 4 to 7 hours available to us per day, which can be utilised to read more books.
2) Start with simpler, story-based books (e.g. popular fiction): Reading books can be mundane at times. If the book is a little complicated, one can get bored and may stop. One important tip is to start simple and slow. Start by reading simple, smaller books. If you are new to reading, start with Chetan Bhagat, Sidney Sheldon, Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi, Harry Potter Series, short stories, Jim Corbett books etc. Get quicker gains earlier. The faster and better you finish a book at the start, will keep your interest levels high and give you the motivation to read more books.
3) Read 2 or more books together - Once you start reading the books, try to read multiple books at the same time. E.g. I read 3 books at any given time:
On Kindle - at home - these are generally lite books - mainly on areas of my interest. I call them "fun" books.
Audio Books - While driving, running, at the gym or when waiting for someone. The books I listen are generally about history, self-development, health, simple business books. I call them "Knowledge" Books.
At work - Reading at work may sound like a taboo. If your manager or colleagues see you reading, they might attribute non-achievement of your KRAs to your book reading. However, the best time to read these books at the office is: At lunch, while waiting for someone, in a boring meeting - where you are not adding any value, 10 mins after completing a task (to take a break). These will give you time to read around 15/20 pages per day. The books I read at work are mostly little tougher business books - books which can help me professionally.
Reading multiple books will have following advantages - 1) you will not get bored with a single book, 2) you keep on completing books faster e.g. Audiobooks, 3) you are utilizing your time to the fullest.
4) Start listening to books (Audiobooks) - Use technology to your advantage. As mentioned earlier, Audiobooks are a great way to utilize your time when you are running, waiting or driving. Initially, it may be difficult to listen to an audiobook - as it is difficult to concentrate and you may keep on getting distracted. Also, at times - multi-tasking i.e. driving and listening may be difficult. But we always do multi-tasking e.g. while driving, listening to music or radio (which are songs in between advertisements) or talking on the phone (which is illegal by the way). However, if you are really conscious while driving, you can skip the listening while driving technique.
Audiobooks or digital books have another advantage - they are paperless. Hence are better for the environment.
There are a couple of tools for audiobooks. I use Audible (Amazon company) and Storytel. These two companies have their apps. You can download the apps and books in these apps. You can bookmark, rewind and forward these by 30 seconds - if you have missed any part. You can also get free audiobooks from the internet. Which you can play with your media player on the phone.
One of my friends - Naveen Mallesh - who was always interested in reading but found it extremely difficult to read started listening to audiobooks after I recommended it to him. He was easily able to complete 12 books in 2020. This was a great start and also helped him improve his diction and read more books which was an achievement for him, personally.
5) Socialise with people who read books - The best way to read more is to be surrounded by people who read a lot. You can share what you read to your friends, colleagues, spouse, kids or boss (this one is tricky). There are online socialising platforms as well. Goodreads (another Amazon company) is one such platform. Here you can browse books, read reviews, add your friends and see what they are reading. You can also post your reviews and browse book-lists based on your interest. Facebook also has few book pages/groups where people discuss, recommend and promote books. One such list can be found in our TrekNomads Blog.
6) Smart Reading - Once you start reading, you can work on increasing reading speed, improve comprehension and bring smart techniques.
Don't read the book aloud in your mind. It will slow you down. Also, don't read word by word. Try to read a few words, a sentence together. This will come with practice. There are good books/articles on how to improve your book reading speed and comprehension.
Skip unwanted or familiar parts - e.g. while reading a book, if you already know a certain paragraph or chapter, skip it. No point reading it again. The beauty is that, the more you read, the more you start getting familiar stuff. Once I was reading an investment book. The author had a big chapter on Abhimanyu's Chakravyuha story. He was trying to co-relate the story with a concept in the book. Since I knew about the particular episode, I just skimmed and skipped the entire chapter.
Use bookmarks, highlight options in Kindle reader. This way, once you finish a book, you can quickly go through the highlights and can recollect all the important points of the book.
Talk about books with everyone around you. This is the best way to remember books.
Read book summaries of books you have read. This is another way to remember what you read. DONT read summaries before reading a book. Also, don't read only summaries. Reading summaries is like watching the trailer of a movie. You will get the gist, but you won't get the depth.
Talk about books with everyone around you. This is the best way to remember books and spread knowledge.
7) Have fun - Skip boring, uninteresting books - Once in a while, even after reading a review, you will come across a few outright uninteresting books. It is perfectly fine to identify such books at the start and drop them. Hanging on to a boring book may be disastrous to your reading habit. There are lakhs and lakhs of books available. There is no point in getting stuck to one book.
The main purpose of reading a book is to learn directly from the experts and apply their learnings to improve our lives. Books according to me are the best friends. (Books and drinks don't go together BTW :-). I tried! For that you need human friends).
Please reach out to me if you want to understand more or just discuss a book.
So, just go out, make a huge list of books to read and start reading them. Have Fun!
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” ― Groucho Marx