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Do you want to read more books?

<Breaking Tsundoku - Part 1>

If you've ever said "I wish I could read more." then here's a reality check -

Everyone has the capacity to read more books.

Yep. Even you.

When discussing this with people, it often leads to the follow up statement "but I just don't have time".

At the risk of sounding a little flippant, you do. You just haven't figured it out. Yet.

The most common reasons are; not having an established reading habit and; not knowing your preferred method of reading (yes there is more than 1). I'm sure there are others too, but to get you one small step closer to reducing your backlog of books we first need to smash through some existing preconceptions you have about HOW to read.

The way you were taught to read at school was probably excellent. For a 5 year old. But as the content, maturity and intellectual depth of the books we consume has changed dramatically, the way we read is basically the same method we learnt as children i.e. start at the beginning of a book and work your way through word by word, line by line sounding out the words in your head as you go.

This, along with the ease of access to books, and the increase in amazing content being produced, are key contributors to Tsundoku - the piling up of unread books.

If you find yourself regularly purchasing books and your stack growing at a rate faster than you can get through them - welcome to the Tsundoku club!

Personally I see unread books as a river of potential knowledge, insights and idea, blocked

behind a damn, waiting to be released. So, how do we start to open the flood gates?

By letting go of the idea that you need to read every word in a book in order to get what you seek from it.

Before even picking up a book it's important to determine what your goal of reading it is. This can typically be broken down into:

  1. Entertainment

  2. Information

  3. Understanding

The amount of effort required to complete a book increases with each of these.

"Oh. So you're saying that if I want to understand a book it's going to take ages, when I've already told you I don't have enough time as it is?"

The answer is - it depends, because there's more than 1 way to read a book. According to Adler & Van Doren 1972, there's actually 4 levels of reading:

  • Level 1 - Elementary, the rudimental skills of being able to read

  • Level 2 - Inspectional, characterised by an emphasis on time, or getting the most out of a book within a given time box

  • Level 3 - Analytical, thorough, complete reading given unlimited time

  • Level 4 - Syntopical, reading multiple books on a related topic and constructing an analysis of the subject that might not be in any of the books

Knowing and understanding these levels, and specifically developing level 2 inspectional reading skills is the key that will unlock your backlog.

Imagine being able to pick up a non-fiction book and digest its key points, arguments and concepts in under an hour.

This doesn't need to be a dream any more.

As a sufferer of Tsundoku myself, I’ve done a bunch of research and been testing ideas of how to solve this over the last 2 years. It’s reached a place where I can comfortably read 90+ books a year and I want to share these practical and tangible tips with as many people as possible.

This is not about speed reading. This is about changing the way you think about reading. It's about breaking old habits and forming new ones, and I'd love to be your guide.

Over this series of articles, released once per week, you'll discover these tips for yourself and start to develop the ninja reading skills that your friends and colleagues will envy!

But for now, the next time you go to pick up a book, reflect on what your goal is, and start to look at the book a little differently than before. We'll jump into the first set of tips for inspectional reading next week.

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