5 Ways to Read More Books This Year
By NEIL PASRICHA
How much time a day do you spend reading texts and alerts and notifications and emails and headline skims and flyby tickers and blog feeds and Twitter spews and Instagram comments? A lot? Me too. And that is truly garbage reading. Because what do you remember from it the next month or next year of your life?
We have to read more books. After all, books are still the greatest form of deep compressed knowledge on the planet.
So how do you get more into your life?
Well, for the past two years I have shared three ways to read more books: centralize your books in your home, make a public commitment to read more and reapply the 10,000 steps rule. So, today I come back to you with five more! Because we all should read a little bit more. Let’s break it down:
5. Live inside a world of books. This involves a mindset change. Like most people, I have a bookshelf “over there.” That’s where the books live. Then, one day last year, my wife dumped a pile of about 10 picture books in the middle of our coffee table. What happened? Our kids started flipping through them all the time. So now we leave them there and just rotate the books. Path-of-least-resistance principle! Just like how Google leaves kale chips on the counter for employees while hiding the cookies in the cookie jars. We’ve put the TV in the basement, installed a bookshelf near our front door, slipped books into car seat pouches and, of course, placed one within reach of every toilet. Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges says: “I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books.”
4. Find a few trusted, curated lists. The publishing industry puts out around 1,000 new books a day. Do you have time to sift through all those? No, nobody does, so we use proxies like Amazon reviews. But should we get our reading lists from retailers? If you’re like me, and you love the “staff picks” wall in independent bookstores, there’s nothing as nice as getting one person’s favourite books. Finding a few trusted, curated lists can be as simple as opening an account at Goodreads or Reco or subscribing to Ryan Holiday’s email list, but with a bit of digging you can likely find the one that totally aligns with your tastes. Maybe you’ll like Bill Gates’s reading list or Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club or Ariel Bissett’s YouTube channel. I also run an online book club where I send out my recommendations once a month, and host a podcast called 3 Books where I interview inspiring individuals and uncover their three most formative books in order to find the 1,000 most formative books in the world.
3. Change your mindset about quitting. It’s one thing to quit reading a book and feel bad about it. It’s another to quit a book and feel proud of it. All you have to do is change your mindset. Just say, “Phew! Now I’ve finally ditched this brick to make room for that gem I’m about to read next.” An article that can help enable this mindset is “The Tail End,” by Tim Urban, which paints a striking picture of how many books you have left to read in your lifetime. Once you fully digest that number, you’ll want to hack the vines away to reveal the oases ahead. I quit three or four books for every book I read to the end because I don’t see the point in reading a book you dislike. I do the “first five pages test” before I buy any book (checking for tone, pace and language) and then let myself off the hook if I need to stop halfway through.
2. Go red in bed. Yes, I’m talking about lighting up your bedroom like a bordello. Just go to MEC for a red-light camping headlight and strap it to your forehead like you’re in the jungles looking for the Predator. My wife, Leslie, generally falls asleep before I do and that’s when I strap my red reading light on my forehead and get my reading on. Why red? Michael Breus, PhD and author of The Power of When says “the theory is that red light aids melatonin production.” Melatonin is the hormone that regulates wakefulness. And bright lights have the opposite effect by decreasing our quality of sleep according to the Sleep Health Foundation of Australia.
1. Make your phone disgusting. The most popular articles I wrote for the Star last year were about cellphone addiction. It’s hurting us all. So what’s the solution? Make it disgusting. Put your phone in black and white. Move all the apps off the main screen so it’s blank when you open it. Leave your cracked screen cracked. Move your charger to the basement so it’s an extra step in your low resilience nighttime and morning moments. Enable Night Mode to automatically block calls and texts after 7 p.m. Slowly, slowly, slowly pry that cellphone out of your fingers.
So are you raring to go?
Or do you need some rock-solid science to give you a final push? Well, how about a 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology that shows reading triggers our mirror neurons and opens up the parts of our brain responsible for developing empathy, compassion and understanding. This will make you a better leader, teacher, parent and sibling. Or another study from Science Magazine in 2013 that shows reading literary fiction helps improve empathy and social functioning. And, finally, a 2013 study at Emory University which shows MRIs taken the morning after test subjects were asked to read sections of a novel showed an increase in connectivity in the left temporal cortex. What’s that? The area of the brain associated with receptivity for language. The MRIs were done the next day. Just imagine the long-term benefits of cracking open a book every day.
Most of us want to read more books. And we can. Use these five ways to get started down the path. Let’s have a happy reading year together.
Neil Pasricha is the #1 bestselling author of six books including The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation. His research and writing focus on living intentionally.