I love reading books. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. I love the thought of reading. Reading, on the other hand, I find taxing.
I know many people who love reading. I’m not one of them. What I do love is learning. Since reading provides me the best and, perhaps, the most effective way to learn, I read. While I don’t necessarily find reading enjoyable, I read anyway.
Did you know over 300,000 books are published every year in the US? Yes, every year. That seems a tad excessive.
If it wasn’t for his amazing printing press, there would be fewer books in the world. I would also have far fewer books on my bookshelf and in my Kindle.
I suffer from a buying books addiction. I can’t stop! I buy book after book, but I don’t always read them. Every time I look at my bookshelf, or look at my Kindle library and see all the unread books, I feel guilty.
Last year I decided to alleviate my guilt. I would make more time for reading. My reading would be intentional and focused. I would have a plan!
My plan revolved around creating two lists; Books I want to read and books I have read. I would choose a book from the “want to read” list and read that book and only that. Instead of having multiple half-read books, I would focus on one book and read it from beginning to end.
I would also keep track of the books that I read. Tracking would help me stay motivated, give me a plan to address my unread books, and provide feedback on my progress.
I am happy to report that my plan worked!
I read more books! I read a lot more books. I started my plan in April and by October I had read 53 books. I estimate, if I would have tracked the whole year, I would have read somewhere around 70 or 80 books.
I would read anywhere from one to three books a week. I was tearing through my unread books with ease. It was great. I felt good about myself and was proud of my accomplishment.
And then I stopped.
I didn’t stop reading. I stopped following my plan. I stopped tracking. I didn’t stop because I got lazy, I stopped with intention and purpose.
Why stop tracking when my approach seemed so effective? Basically, there were two problems with my plan that I didn’t anticipate.
For one, I was after the wrong goal.
If you looked at my list, you would see the books A Curious Mind (9 days), New to 5 (1 day), and Emotional Agility (5 days). Were they good books? I think so. To be honest, I can’t remember too much about them. Did I read them? Well, I saw all the words. I underlined things that seemed important. I can go back to Kindle and look at my highlights. Yet, I’m not sure the experience of “reading” those books was really what I wanted.
My stated goal was to read more books, which I was. But my real goal was to learn, which I wasn’t doing. I’m not sure I learned too much from any of those books. The fault wasn’t with the author, the fault was with me!
The second problem with my plan was the books I was choosing to read.
While I was reading a lot of books, I found I was gravitating toward books that seemed easier to read. If a book covered a difficult topic or seemed like it might take a long time to read, I wouldn’t pick it from my “to read” list. I started looking at the “average reading time” that Kindle lists and used that to pick the next book on my hit list.
In October, I decided to stop keeping track. Instead, I would focus on learning and choose books that could take longer to read, but offered a deeper insight and understanding of the subject matter.
Here are some key takeaways from my new approach:
- Passive reading isn’t the same as active reading.
It’s okay to have unread books.
Interacting with the book means I need a physical copy.
I am also learning that I don’t really know how to read a book. Not for deep learning anyway. So, I brushed off my copy of How to Read a Book that, I, ironically, listened to on Audible a few years back, and so I might find a process that helps me learn.
I assume I will be reading fewer books, but I am convinced I will gain a deeper understanding of the subject, read more challenging books, and, who knows, might just enjoy reading!
I may write another post outlining the process that I land on for reading. Right now, my process is too new to share. I have to live with a process for a while tweaking it through trial and error.
If you have a process or technique you use to read, share in the comments!