As the founder of SpareSquare, I’m a big fan of the written word. Long form writing in particular has the ability to take us to a different world, to radically change the way we think, to motivate us, to challenge us, to enlighten us.
Authors put thousands of laborious hours and immeasurable passion into 200 pages that we can purchase for the price of popcorn at the movie theatre. Even though it has been centuries since the printing press was invented, we have never ceased from marveling at the power of a truly exceptional book.
Personally, I consider myself a moderate bibliophile, because I know that knowledge is power. One of the common threads amongst Andrew’s guests on the Knowledge For Men Podcast is that they all read an array of books.
Every time you read a book, you look inside the window of an author’s insights, experience, and wisdom. A book is a dense concentration of an individual’s grasp on this world, and each page can be immensely powerful.
As an entrepreneur obsessed with personal development, I take my book reading seriously. A good read can rapidly accelerate my learning curve for both family and business matters. For the last 4 years, every time a book has been recommended to me, I’ve recorded it in Evernote.
However, books were added to my list faster than I could read them. Much, much faster. As I amassed a list of 356 books, I had only read about 75 in that time. How would I ever manage this relentless expansion?
I devised a system that helps me extract the most value out of the books on my lengthy list. Here we go:
There existed a spectrum on which all of my books could be placed. One book could be considered the most worthwhile to read, and another less fortunate piece could go the bottom of the list. All books on my list are not equal, and some should be read ASAP, while others afford indifference.
Before I implemented this rule, I spent 20 hours listening to The Smartest Guys in The Room before I read such life changers as Abundance, The 50th Law, & Eat That Frog. The Smartest Guys In The Room was a decent read with an undoubtedly captivating plot, but in retrospect, I don’t consider it as a worthwhile investment of my time.
The aforementioned 3 books in aggregate required a similar time investment, however, they have had monumental impacts on my life. Conveniently, reading Eat that Frog will help you prioritize better and consequently obey this rule.
What books are at the top of your list? Tell me here in the comments below.
2. The Asterisk System
I seemed to hear certain books referred to over and over, while others slipped into the shadows. In a laissez-faire book economy, it is safe to accept that popular books are simply better. Good word spreads virally. This is by no means conclusive, but it is a solid way to lend credibility to some books over others.
When I hear about a book for the first time, I add it to my list. When I hear it mentioned again, I add an asterisk. A third mention gets another asterisk, and so on. Certain books pull away as leaders, and I read those first. Generally, a book will plateau at about 5 stars before I buckle down and read it.
3. Reader Ratings
Amazon, Audible, iBooks, and other marketplaces offer reader reviews of books. This can be an incredibly transparent way to see if a book is worth reading. I rarely open the cover to a book below 4.2 stars, and like to shoot for 4.4 rating. If you are on the fence, I suggest reading some reviews and employing the use of some subjectivity, as opposed to the objective data of the star rating system.
4. Speed Reading
I had always considered myself a fast reader, but knew I was still leaving some speed on the table. I took a speed reading course and bested my speed by about 10-15%. This may seem trivial, but it adds up to an extra few books per year.
Speed reading is a skill that takes time and hard work to develop. For a faster approach, take a look at the much anticipated Spritz app, which uses software to present the words to you in you in a fashion that drastically increases speed. My average reading is around 300 words per minute. With Spritz, I pegged out at 500.
I’m willing to bet you can squeeze hours of listening in per month, no matter how little idle time you think you have. Consider how often you can pop in earbuds and soak up some scribe. Washing dishes, walking, taking my dogs out, going to the gym, cooking, and cleaning are all moments I capitalize on to tune in. Most books are around 10 hours in length, and I’m able to listen to a couple books per month.
Tony Robbins refers to this time that you can take advantage of as NET time: No Extra Time. Personally, I choose books that are mainly narrative. Most people absorb less with vocal stimuli, so you’ll want to choose books that aren’t highly detailed or technical. My most memorable ones were The Miracle Morning, The Icarus Deception, and How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Want to listen to your first book for free? Check out the Knowledge For Men promotion.
6. Quality, Not Quantity
This is an extension on rule #1. While practicing these rules will help you read more, don’t cross books off the list just for the sake of it. Remember to let it soak in – take notes, highlight, underline, and reflect. It’s still better to read 10 books diligently than 100 books with no recollection.
7. Summarize The Rest
There are a seemingly endless amount of titles out there. A good friend of mine once told me to shoot for 2 books per week – 1 listened to and 1 read. Imagine how much you can learn if you read 1,000 books in the next decade. Tell me how many you plan to read this year.
Get to it!
This piece was written by @gregmuender and edited by the lovely folks at SpareSquare.