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How to read 30+ books per year
A system to consistently read without cutting out hours on end.
Last year, I read 30 books.
Today, I want to teach you how you can do the same.
Let’s dive in.
The system consists of four components:
First things first: the most important thing to reading more is to have books to read in the first place.
I ensure availability by having an „anti-library“: a library of books that I haven’t read yet.
This anti-library is regularly expanded with more books by applying a simple personal finance rule: whenever I hear or read about a book that sounds even remotely interesting, I go ahead and buy it right away - sometimes a physical copy, sometimes as audiobook.
This ensures I never run out of stuff to read and allows for selection. I’m a big believer that the right book will find you at the right time, and by having them around you, you give the books the opportunity to find you.
Learn more about the anti-library here:
If you don’t know where to start, here are a few pointers:
Go to Amazon and browse their recommendations for the sector you’d like to read about
Check out Goodreads.com to find rating and recommendations
See the list of books I’ve read in 2022 below and see if any of them resonate with you
Simply ask your friends (like I did last year on LinkedIn):
Once you have a book to read, let’s get to actually reading it.
I’m not the type of guy that sits down and reads a book in one sitting. Usually, I read several books at the same time, and only in 10-30 minute chunks.
Here’s a breakdown of my reading time:
Audiobooks: I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I’m finding that a lot of things get much more exciting when listening to a good book. Retention isn’t fantastic, but you breeze through books quickly and retain the most important points. I usually listen when riding my bike (~1h per week), while doing chores (~1h per week) and in the gym (~4h per week).
Reading on the go: instead of mindlessly scrolling Instagram or Reddit, I read on my phone using the Kindle App. This is great when you’re going somewhere, waiting for a few minutes, or use the bathroom. My reading time on my phone is ~30mins per week.
Carrying a book everywhere: on top of my phone, I also typically carry a book with me. For longer commutes (like taking the train to go to practice), having a physical book is perfect, as it allows for distraction-free reading. Plus you’re not staring at a screen, which is nice. This amounts to ~30 mins per week as well.
Reading before bed: I usually read for ~10mins every night before turning off the lights. This reduces screen time before sleeping, and helps with information retention, as your brain can work through it right after. This adds up to ~1h per week.
Reading on vacation: when I’m on holiday, my reading time dramatically increases - there are few things I enjoy more than sitting at the beach / lake / rooftop terrace, having a coffee or a crisp, cold beer, and reading a good book. In a typical 2-week vacation, I usually breeze through 3-5 books.
At 8 hours per week (and 34.5h per month), this adds up to 414h of reading time per year. If we assume that the average book takes 10 hours to read or listen to, this allows me to read 41.5 books per year.
Now, a lot of my listening time is spent on podcasts instead of books (unfortunately I didn’t screenshot my year in review, I can’t tell you how much exactly). Still, this allows me to go through ~30 books per year.
A note on podcasts: I find that podcasts convey information more densely than books, as the author only has ~2h of time to speak about the main points. Many books are filled with fluff in order to actually turn them into a book; a podcast interview allows you to get the gist quickly.
Here are some of the tools I use to do all this reading:
Audible: the #1 platform for audiobooks. I strongly recommend getting a subscription to always keep the books coming.
Kindle-App: as mentioned above, installing the Kindle app on my phone was a game changer. Allows you to read anywhere.
Kindle Paperwhite: especially when traveling, this thing comes in clutch. I usually travel light on luggage (i.e. only hand luggage), so hauling 5+ books with me is kind of a hassle. It’s also easy to carry, fits into a jacket pocket and provides a neat reading experience.
Amazon: I order most of my books on Amazon, as the UX is just fantastic and I’m lazy. But I encourage you to support your local book dealer - bookstores are magical places.
You gotta give it to Amazon: they’ve built an incredible book empire. Every tool that powers my reading is made by them.
Think what you will about the company, but they really nailed this part.
Now, you’re reading a lot. Congrats! But - how do you retain all this information?
Truth be told: I only retain like 15% of the information in the books I read or listen to.
And that’s okay.
You’ll retain the main points, and if you want to dig deeper, you can always revisit the book.
That being said, here are a few things to improve retention:
Talk about it. Books are a conversation staple in my social circle, and I find that explaining concepts to other people really helps with retention.
Write it down. I have these neat A6 sized index cards where I write down insights from books that I read (so if you see me scrambling for a pen in the gym, you know that I just learned something new). The cards then become part of my Index Card System (an in-depth article on which will follow).
Write about it. Some of these learnings then become part of my newsletter, forcing me further to really understand the concepts.
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And that’s it - the availability, habits, tools and retention tricks you need to become an avid reader.
Not having time isn’t an excuse anymore. With the habits above, you really don’t need to dedicate any extra time to reading, but instead fit it into your day-to-day life.
Now go out and execute.
Still looking for inspiration? Here’s a list of books that I read in 2022:
The Elephant in the Brain - Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson
Courage is Calling - Ryan Holiday
Lights Out - Ted Koppel
Effortless - Greg Mc Keown
Bad Blood - John Carreyrou
Will - Will Smith & Mark Manson (Strongly recommended!)
The Infinite Machine - Camila Russo
Amp it up - Frank Slootman
The Psychology of Money - Morgan Housel
Working Backwards - Colin Bryar, Bill Carr (FANTASTIC book)
Talent - Tyler Cowen, Daniel Gross
Discipline is Destiny - Ryan Holiday
The Sovereign Individual - James D. Davidson, Peter Thiel
Indistractable - Nir Eyal, Julie Li
Way of the Wolf - Jordan Belfort
Breath - James Nestor
How to be a Power Connector - Judy Robinett
The Machine - Justin Roff-Marsh
The Great Mental Models I - Shane Parrish
Rebel Ideas - Matthew Syed
Exit Right - Mark Achler
Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage - Laura Huang
Algorithms to Live By - Brian Christian
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant - Eric Jorgensen
Risk: A User’s Guide - Stanly McChrystal
The Power Law - Sebastian Mallaby
Turning Pro - Steven Pressfield
The Qualified Sales Leader - John McMahon
High Output Management - Andy Grove (strong recommendation)