A few books I have in hardcover
In school, you grow up reading mostly fiction books. Most are considered classics and a few have struck a chord with me: The Catcher in the Rye (9th grade), Lord of the Flies (10th grade) and some have not: Jane Eyre (10th grade), Beloved (12th grade) are the few that come to mind. While I can certainly appreciate the artistic beauty of works like Beloved, I have not grown to be patient enough with the work. (I consider 1984 to be my favorite book which I actually read on my own in 8th grade). College has offered creative curations of books and at times ventured into the non-fiction world.
I have never loved reading. I don't think that is unusual for a young and hungry young man ready to take on the world. It just seems slow, nerdy, and frankly boring- especially in the fast-paced world we live in today. The books I have enjoyed the most, in retrospect are pretty predictable. 1984 deals with power and intimate human emotions, while Lord of the Flies and Catcher in The Rye are practically written for growing teenage boys. Reading into the cryptic intricacies of what it's it like to be an African American in the 1800s in Beloved really doesn't compute. That may be ignorant, but it is true of myself and probably many others.
The most significant benefit I think I have gotten from college is a greater appreciation for academic curiosity. Now I crave knowledge. I crave how to be a better me and realized that despite any accomplishments thus far I do not have all the answers. Many answers I have found are in non-fiction books; whether it is on a specific topic (like business and investing for my interests) or just general self-help.
Naval Ravikant on his podcast on entitled " Reading, Happiness, Systems for Decision Making, Habits, Honesty and More" on Farnam Street talked about how most people simply don't read--even if they say they do. That made me feel pretty good. He also talked about he buys tons and tons of books on his Kindle, something I had started to do which also made me feel like I wasn't wasting my money. Better yet he says he only reads about 15% of the content. Win again for my lazy self, trying to emulate smart people.
However, you can reconcile this perceived inefficiency this way: a good book is $15 and can change your life Naval says. I would quickly invest $200 in the stock market, why not invest in myself with a good book. Just like every investment some may not work out, that seems to be the same case for books as well.
Many of the people I trust the most in the Business world including Naval have a singular complaint about non-fiction books: they are too long. Morgan Housel, another great thinker, and reader endorsed a service called Blinkist, which for $80/year is a basically Sparknotes for Non-fiction books. But unlike SparkNotes in high school, I am not trying to just get past my reading quiz. I am trying to digest the main points of books in easy to understand fashion.
Reading a book takes a lot of time. Patrick O'Shaughnessy, CEO of O'Shaughnessy Asset Managment would say he loves to read as much as anyone, yet would also say the effort and time (for some) it takes to read certain books isn't worth the reward. (here is a tweetstrom my Patrick on the topic) So this is not a product of either effort or ability. Finding what to read and how to take it in is the conclusion I draw.
Considering my poor deposition to reading here is my framework for reading more:
1. Think hard about which books to read, and which books to read in entirety.
Follow the advice of people you trust. Try to read books in different subject areas.
2. Reading is hard.
It is hard to focus, not get distracted. Even though we are reading how much are we taking in? To compensate maybe spend more time on some books taking notes, and for others try incorporating audiobooks, podcasts from the author, or Blinkist summaries to get the most bang for your time
3. Only buy physical copies of the most influential books.
Physical books take up a lot of space. These are books that I may glance at my bookshelf and be inspired to re-read and review. They are also books that are close to my self-identity that I want them to remind myself of the lessons I learned from them constantly. They are also books that will lead others to get a sense of who I am when they glance through.
4. Use Audiobooks
I love to run and listen to music why not do that with books? I have found that when I drive or when I run I am in a greater state of focus and tend to remember information even better if I was in a nice comfortable chair. Morgan Housel attested to that in in this podcast "Walking And Thinking." Perhaps it limits distractions; I cant simply pick up my phone when I'm running or driving.
5. Kindle Books are great.
They tend to be a little cheaper, you can highlight well, and you can also use the collaborative features to find out what matters most. You can even utilize the search function to go to topics you are most interested in.
6. Mix in some Fiction
Fiction works are harder to write and tend to be more consistent. Some of the smartest people ever wrote fiction. i.e. Shakespeare. They can teach you life lessons you cant get from non-fiction, even if you have to be a little more patient.
There are some books where I have the hardcopy, audiobook, AND the kindle edition. Sure that may be a little more expensive, but if the book is worth it, it is worth your time.
I have put together a reading list I have drawn from multiple sources and people I trust. You can see it under my "DIY-MBA" section on Rendezvousinvesting.com.
Ben Carlson, a financial blogger, wrote on his journey getting into reading after college
"You could probably put together your own MBA much in this same way by simply reading on a wide range of topics. I’ve always wondered why more business schools don’t assign actual books in lieu of textbooks."
I am trying to read more; I hope you will too.