Imagine trying to build a house. I mean, years ago. When building a house was something you do. Not something others do for you. Surely you wouldn’t have built one and watched it collapse because you didn’t know what are the best practices. You’ll ask around. You’ll ask the experts and then start laying bricks.
That’s what books are. Timeless knowledge neatly placed between two covers.
- Want to know what you need to teach your children? There are books for parents about this.
- Want to know how to start an online business? There are particular books on starting a business online.
- Want to develop better mental models so you can think out of the box? There are great books on mental models.
- Want to know how to deal with the internal voices that are trying to bring you down? There are cognitive behavioral therapy books for this.
- Want to know what are the main principles of psychology? There are psychology books about this.
Hey, there is even a book on how to read a book.
Ever since the written word was invented. People began to document their inventions. Their feelings. Their stories.
Not just because it helped them better process what was happening to them. But also because it allowed them to convey how the world should be changed around them.
Everybody knows that reading books is a good habit. But can you easily label what are some good reading habits? Good reading habits for adults, for example? Or good reading habits for students?
The act of reading is merely just holding a book – at least if you want to get the most out of the book in front of you and the books available in general.
A good book can expand your intellectual horizons. Can help you deal with anxiety. It allows you to slow down, unwind, and learn from the experiences of people with bright ideas. The rare bread of folks who had enough patience to gently place everything they know on a piece of paper.
But it’s not about reading one book. Or reading 100 books.
It’s about implementing a daily reading habit into your life.
Well, in this post. We’ll discuss the importance of good reading habits along with what daily practices we should embed to read more books and become strong and fluent.
Let’s start with this…
Why Should We Develop a Reading Habit?
Before I grand you with a list of good reading habits to hold into your life, it helps to understand why it’s a good idea to add the habit of reading to your list of good habits.
First, why prioritize reading books over other written materials – social media posts, for example.
As technology advances faster than you can spell out the word innovation. Many believe that skimming through short-form texts is a tactical advantage.
There are so many great short snippets of text – think Twitter threads and Instagram posts.
Why invest time in reading books when I can have the gist of major titles in just a few minutes?
My answer: Because short-form content is not enough to convince you that the idea is important enough. For sure, there are people who transmit a great deal of information online in just a few sentences. But most of it is just surface information. You can see the what but you don’t properly understand the why nor the how.
Additionally, reading something in a short form does not give you enough incentives to act with this information.
We are a strange breed. We dismiss what’s free and give importance only to what costs us something. This tendency is based on an ancient principle that states: “Man only truly respects what he pays for.”
You might read thousands of short messages but pay little attention to them. Not only because your mind will be dazzled with so many different stories. But also because these are ultimately free. Conversely, if you pay for a book. You’ll be more willing to do something with the information inside – you invest both money and time.
Secondly, how do you develop good reading habits?
And more importantly, how do you develop good reading habits during times when there is so much other stuff to do?
Since the Internet became mainstream. Understandably, reading books is no longer a preferred activity. After all, reading a book is not only uneventful – you don’t get likes nor you can receive comments and prizes. But it also requires more effort. Unlike watching a show, you have to do the hard work of reading the words and digesting them. Can you imagine?
Reading is an active process, whereas listening to a podcast or watching a video is mostly a passive activity.
But let me tell you why more content is not the better alternative.
In addition to your job, your daily chores, every other bit of information demanding your attention… All of these, turn into a second job – notifications, emails, breaking news!, celebrity gossip. You get stretched in many directions when you choose to consume everything. In contrast, a book won’t disturb you with more notifications or more things to read. It will patiently unpack a single storyline and help you experience the true pleasure of less.
All in all, the benefits of reading are countless.
And if you are still not a relentless reader. The list of reading habits below will help you adore the realm of books.
List of Good Reading Habits for Both Active Readers And Wannabe Bookworms
Maintain a List of Books to Read
Keeping a reading list mitigates the risk of not knowing what to read next. Therefore, it keeps you engaged in the activity of devouring books.
But not just any list.
Create a list of books categorized by topics.
Firstly, this will require deciding what you want to learn. Answer: In which area do you want to become more proficient? And even, what type of field do you want to master?
You can start with a general approach by creating a topic labeled psychology books and start adding entries. But you can go a step further and create a subtopic labeled, for example, books on Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
This way, it will be significantly easier to keep progressing on a specific topic and become well-versed in it.
Block at Least an Hour
As we schedule time for going to the dentist or the more frequent: going to work. You can’t read more books if you don’t make time for reading.
But I don’t have an hour?
As noted, most people don’t read books, not because they don’t have time. But because they don’t think that reading books is an important-enough activity for them to implement.
The first objective becomes convincing yourself that reading is, in fact, important. If you don’t think that spending time with a book will significantly improve your life. Even if you happen to sit to read, you will quickly jump back to your phone.
How this can be done is something I covered in more length in my post on What Are the Benefits of Reading Books.
But in just one sentence: Do you know at least one relatively successful person who doesn’t read?
Read 20 Pages
Another good way to implement reading into your life as a habit is to set a specific number of pages to read per day.
Based on his views, 20 pages is enough to progress daily, and at the same time not that much to make you feel overwhelmed.
And if you happen to do this activity first thing in the morning, you’ll successfully avoid the insanities that will surely corrupt your attention as the day unfolds.
At first, it might seem that 20 pages is not enough. But let’s do the math. Reading 20 pages per day means 140 pages per week. On average, books are about 300 pages. This means that you can read around 2 books per month.
Skim and Quit
Life is just too short for bad books.
We are wrongly thought that we should understand every written word inside a book and that we should finish the book cover to cover.
The last one is called sunk cost fallacy – something I cover in my post about mental models in business.
What’s sunk cost in relation to reading books?
Basically, since we’ve already invested time in reading half of the book. Plus, also spent money on the book. It seems natural to want to finish the book. You can’t recover the money and the time you’ve allocated. You might as well finish the book. That’s what we think.
But is this really the best decision?
If the current book is not what you imagined. If you haven’t learned anything new. A much better idea is to abandon it and start reading another book.
As Pierre Bayard, the author of the title with the interesting title How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read states: “Reading is first and foremost non-reading. Even in the case of the most passionate lifelong readers, the act of picking up and opening a book masks the countergesture that occurs at the same time: the involuntary act of not picking up and not opening all the other books in the universe.”
When you choose to read one book, you choose not to read a lot of other books. That’s why it’s of great importance to ditch the books you don’t enjoy so you can open up space for the better ones that surely exist in the universe.
Reading Summaries and Reviews
What other people say about books is the best way to figure out if the book you are thinking of reading is going to delight you.
I’m not only mentioning this because I’m actively summarizing books and because I’m buildings a curated library of ideas from these books. But because it does help.
A summary of a book does not only provides the main concepts in a synthesized way. But it also includes the personal observations of the author of the summary.
Thanks to these, you can decide whether or not you should invest money and time in reading a particular book.
Personally, I go through reviews of the books I’m considering and I check other book summary sites to determine whether I should read the book I’m thinking about or go with another one.
Taking Notes While Reading
I can’t stress enough on the importance of taking notes while you read. If you happen to embed only one habit in relation to reading books, please, make sure it’s this one.
After we finish a book. We think that we know everything there is to know about the book. We mark it as “done” inside our reading journal, and we go on with our lives.
But how does this serve the purpose of the material mentioned in the book?
Do you think that you know and remember everything?
If you answered yes to the last question. Let me share something that will diminish this belief.
It’s called the forgetting curve. Basically, we forget pretty much everything in less than a few days.
When we talk about the books we’ve completed. We are only talking about the recollection of ideas left in our brains. The small bread crumbs that remain stuck between the brain cells.
More precisely, the information in the book and what you recall from the book are two quite different things. You remember only broken fragments that are not that useful.
If you consider yourself a practical person, taking notes, adding annotations, and collecting these inside some sort of personal library should definitely be part of your reading habit.
Engaging With The Book
On a piece of paper. Virtually anything is possible.
While reading a book, you can fully agree with the author. Frantically highlight every passage you fall in love with. Enthusiastically share bits from the text on your social media profile. But is this the best way to use the text?
Sure, taking notes as I just explained above is good. But it’s not the ultimate way to engage with the book.
While you’re reading, pause. Engage in serious constructive thinking on the subject. Ask questions. Answer them. Create a strategy about how you can implement the information from the book in your life within the next day, within the next month.
For example, after reading Thinking in Systems. I sat down to consider how I can use systems thinking right now. This led to writing a post about systems thinking in blogging. Within the next month, I considered how I can further implement this concept into my life.
Here are three other things to consider as habits while you read books:
- Make connections: How the current text related to everything else you know? Making connections with previous experiences allows you to better comprehend the text and also build stronger connections in your brain.
- Determine the important: What’s the most valuable piece of information in the book? Occasionally stopping and noting down the major points offered by the author helps you draw conclusions.
- What’s next? What you can do with the information? How does what you’ve just read relate to the information you already know about the subject? What you can do now with the material? As mentioned, creating a plan about how you can use the text is the best way to ensure that the book won’t be just another book on the shelf. But a piece you’ve used to improve both your personal and professional life.
Reading Several Books
Something I tend to do these days is to pick up a random book from my shelf, open it somewhere in the middle, and just read several paragraphs.
But a better idea from the masterpiece How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler, is taking a couple of books on the same subject. Locking yourself in your own private space and reading them all at once. You read 10 pages of book 1. Then, another 10 from book 2 and so on.
According to Adler, becoming a Jedi reader is about syntopical reading.
At this stage, by reading various books on the same topic. You broaden and deepen your knowledge on the subject you’ve chosen. By doing this, you grow the mind.
Read With Others
People who want to lose weight go to gyms. People who want to become writers sign up for writing classes. And they do it not only because the gym is packed with equipment or of what the instructor will say during the writing class. But also for accountability.
What if you want to make reading a habit?
Read with others.
You can visit the library and read there.
And to make it even easier, you can schedule a reading night.
For example, instead of watching TV or just scrolling through the hazardous social media. You can schedule every Wednesday night to be a reading night.
As a father of a child that is full of energy, the only way I can read more than two sentences while my son is awake is by making him interested in a book. While he’s looking (still not reading) at a book, or a comic. I can read my book. Or even better, we can read together.
The point is to make this a rule in your household. This way, everyone benefits and you support each other.
Some Closing Thoughts
We have so many bad habits in relation to consuming information that I’m not entirely sure how you managed to finish reading this post.
Now, let me be honest:
You are not reading books because you don’t think that reading is important enough. Thus, you don’t prioritize it.
There is no excuse why not to read. We, ourselves, create excuses.
Every reader knows that reading books is by far the best way one can spend his time. But you first need to become a reader to realize this.
A helpful way to reframe your (probably) deteriorated reading life. A way to conquer your bad reading habits, is: Ask, “After 10 years, would I regret not reading the current ‘sensational’ news or would I regret not reading some of the best books that exist in the world?”
I bet it’s the latter you’ll regret more.
“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” Mortimer J. Adler
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