Stop tracking (and bragging about) the number of books you read

Stop tracking (and bragging about) the number of books you read

Reading is the foundation of learning therefore one of the best investments you can make with your time. Nevertheless, setting goals to read a certain number of books is a vanity metric. Don’t optimize for quantity, but for quality, and by quality I mean how many new ideas you have learned and how you can apply them to your life.

I would suggest having a more thoughtful approach to reading in order to get the most out of it. 

First of all, it’s OK to not finish every book you start. You can skim many books and dive deep only into those that really interest you. It will help you avoid situations when you stop reading because you are “stuck” on a book and will improve the discovery process for books that you enjoy.

Second of all, try to choose older books when possible. They have stood the test of time (Lindy effect) and are likely to provide more knowledge than the most recent bestseller which is popular because of good marketing and social signaling. There are of course exceptions, but unfortunately many popular books have only one good idea that could have been easily summarized in an article or a Ted talk (which is usually the case).

Last but not least, (non-fiction) reading should be about learning and growing as a person. It’s better to read one page and spend the next hour reflecting on its meaning than it is to speed-read 100 pages in one hour without taking the time to absorb and understand. Moreover, don’t be afraid to re-read great books instead of always starting new ones, especially when they have wisdom that you have not been able to fully grasp yet.

Tracking – and bragging about – the number of books you read won’t make you a clearer thinker. Reflecting on what you read might do the job.

Happy reading!

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