I’ve stopped trying to read a lot of books. I used to read a book a week. I read a book a week outside of my assigned reading in college and all the way through law school. I read hundreds and hundreds of books, and I am happy I invested my time doing so (there are few investments with so great a return). But now I have different outcomes, so I read differently.
I read to apply what I am learning to my life. That means slowing down and going over the same ground a few times.
- Read Through: First I read a book from cover to cover. I highlight passages I find interesting or useful, but I don’t spend any real time thinking about their value or how I intend to use them in the future. I read the book just as I would have in the past.
- Listen to the Audio Book: This isn’t always possible, because some books aren’t available in this format. But when they are this is my second pass. I listen to the book I just read on audio while I am running, showering, and driving. It’s amazing how different the book and the experience are when you listen to it being read to you. It’s passive, but for me it seems to multiply my comprehension and retention.
- Second Reading: After I have listened to the book, I read the book a second time. It’s a very different experience the second time through, especially having listened to it. Sometimes you can hear the author’s voice. This time I read with one single purpose that I have managed to capture in a single sentence: Now that you know this what are you going to do different?
It’s one thing to read for pleasure and another altogether to read with intention of using what you read to improve your life. There isn’t any reason to pick up the next book if you haven’t implemented and executed what you learned from the book you just finished. It takes time to digest a valuable work and the ideas therein.
Slow is fast, and fast is slow in all things worth doing well.
Books are magic.
Note: This isn’t worth doing unless you pick really powerful books. I just finished the audio book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I’m on to my second read. After that, I am back to Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.