Updated: Feb 11, 2020
Are you a reader? I have never been much of a reader. I am slow, I don't know what to read, and I used to think that I can consume the same amount of new and interesting information and insights from magazines, websites or social media in a much shorter period of time.
And I still think that's not completely wrong. But here I am, reading and listening to books every day for a few hours trying to form a new habit. Because you know what? Reading good books is different from magazines, news, social media... It really is... I am still not reading as much as I'd like to but whenever I dive into a book for more than 30 minutes I realize how much more valuable it can be compared to an article in a magazine or a summary on Blinkist (yes, I use Blinkist a lot, mostly as inspiration for new books).
But there is still this underlying feeling that I need to "invest" a lot into reading a book to gain something in return. "You could do something more product" is what I keep telling me. For me, reading takes up a lot of time and I usually make very little progress. It feels like reading five to ten pages is nothing compared to being able to consume a couple of interesting articles or go through a few news posts in the same amount of time. Although, the progress I make and the information I get out of a few pages can be extremely satisfying and helpful.
So why not do both? Scheduling a specific time for reading and a specific time for consuming other sources of information and dropping some other bad habits instead doesn't sound so bad, does it?
I have recently started to form new habits and change my environment in a way that helps me pick up a book more often. One example: after I make the bed every morning (a new habit since moving to Shanghai) I place the book I want to read in the evening on my pillow. This means I automatically have to pick it up when I want to lay down. And while being at it, why not read a few pages? The other thing I've done is that I have reserved a specific time of my day in the morning to read the top 5 articles of the Financial Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Why these three? Why not... With these two habits I'm making sure that I read a good book and also stay up to date on most of the important news happening in the world.
So, what is so compelling about a good book in general? I truly enjoy reading books based on peoples lives and experiences. I feel that I am learning most from well told stories. And I don't care if the story is 100% true or not. Someone once taught me: never let a good story interfere with the truth. Of course, I look up some background information on the author to understand whether or not there is at least a fraction of truth and authenticity behind his publications.
Besides having a good story the author's style of telling the story is important. If a book is really good, I usually read out every word of the book in my head and try to imagine how the author is emphasizing certain passages, working with different styles of intonation and other characteristics. This is what makes me a slow reader, but the words stick better and I tend to remember more of what I read afterwards. I imagine that most of the authors put a sh*tload of thought into making it interesting and worth while - and I'm talking non-fiction here since I usually do not read fiction aside from Tolkien and some classics - so I try to appreciate every page and be open-minded about what the author has to say.
Lately I have been reading books about psychology, habit building, work and life principles, entrepreneurship, investing, storytelling and diets. I'm stuck with three titles right now that I really enjoy reading and listening to (Amazon Affiliate links in brackets):
Principles by Ray Dalio (https://amzn.to/386eFSb)
Atomic Habits by James Clear (https://amzn.to/373TheX)
The subtle Art of not giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (https://amzn.to/2ueTuPf)
I will extend this list and describe in more detail why I like these books in Part II.