The Actual Way To Read More Books

I read an article over the weekend that I passionately disagree with and think needs addressing. The article was entitled “How Could I Read More Books?” and was part of BBC News Magazine. Now there are some fine points in the article – for example, a charity to help people who are unable to read at all. However, a majority of it is about speed-reading.

Speed-reading is a terrible idea. Skimming passages and chunking – grouping words together so they can be read as a single chunk – are awful strategies. In fact, the opposite is preferable. Read slowly. Take notes. Contemplate the subtleties of the text. This is how one learns and enjoys a book.

The article was trying to answer the question of the title: “How Could I Read More Books?” Unfortunately, the speed-reading answer is wrong. Yes, one can read more books that way, but it misses the point entirely. Speed-reading is a solution to reading more books just like steroids are a solution to becoming healthier. It may seem like you are getting results, but you’re actually making it worse.

So what is the real answer? How can we read more books?

The answer is simple but not easy – sacrifice something else. We all have 24 hours in a day. In order to do something more, one must give up something else. Considering we are still in the first few weeks of January, this applies to all New Year’s resolution as well. If your resolution was to add something to your life – 10 minutes of meditation, spending more time with family, learning a new language, etc, there is a second part to that goal that requires some consideration as well. You are going to have to give up something else.

The unavoidable truth is that if you want to read more you are going to have to sacrifice something else. Facebook, texting, and television are good choices, but it may be some social time with friends too depending on how far you want to take it. 

My last semester of college classes was in the fall of 2013. During the month of October I set a goal of reading one hour a day. I wouldn’t go to bed until I had read at least one hour. I sacrificed sleep and television mostly. (The former is not recommended.) I ended up reading 18 books that month. The takeaway was not “life-hack-and-productivity-trick your way to achieving your dreams” like some might have you believe. Rather, it was this: adding one hour of anything requires sacrificing one hour of something else. Speed-reading and multitasking are for frauds. If you want to get anything done it will require giving up something else.