How to read more books

Education | Brighten Youth Edu Centre 28 Jul 2020

Warren buffett is just one of many successful individuals who attribute their success to reading.

The American billionaire encourages the reading of more books, and making reading a habit.

But how can people achieve this goal (while also retaining what they have read)?

Reading at a faster pace is not the answer, and it rather bypasses many of the more joyful aspects of reading that help it become a habit. The average adult reads about 300 words per minute, while speed readers cover around 1,500, and global champions average 4,700. Impressive, perhaps, but research has linked speed reading to poor information retention.

Aspiring bookworms might also want to consider their motivations in wanting to read more. Given that most of us are long past the stage when we have to pile through textbooks as part of exam preparation, simply reading more words per minute is unhelpful.

A 2012 study by the Pew Research Center found that Americans read an average of 17 books per year. The study also stated that consumers who read e-books finished more books annually.

However, this was a rather loose average, as findings indicated that 19 percent claimed not to read any books, and 28 percent had not read a book in the last year. It was unclear why such individuals were turning away from the printed word.

Most people actually read a significant number of words each day (at the office, free newspapers, social media, online content, food packaging, etc).

What most people mean when they say they'd like to "read more" is that they'd like to have the time (and peace) to read in a more focused way.

Time to read usually has to be subtracted from other activities. However, this does not have to be a sacrifice. It might seem satisfying to get ahead on e-mails on the way to work, but is it really necessary - particularly as you are going to be there for at least the next eight hours? Does your boss own your commute as well? Do you really need to listen to that same song on Spotify again?

The average person watches 35 hours of TV a week. Could this time be better spent?

Time for reading also doesn't need to be reclaimed in large chunks. In his autobiography, author Stephen King argues that "the trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as long swallows."

There's Tim Ferriss' technique for reading more, as featured in The 4-Hour Workweek. There are programs like Spritz and Blinkist, which claim to help you increase your reading speed. There's Pierre Bayard's How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, where the aim is pretty self-explanatory.

Again, don't these approaches rather miss the point? Preserving a protected enclave of time, however small, seems the simplest route to success.

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