How I choose books
Most people would agree they should read more, but not many stop to think why they don’t. We do not need to encourage ourselves to watch more TV or listen to more music - it just sort of happens. Why is that?
I’ve found that the single biggest mistake I was making was focusing on what I should read, instead of just reading for enjoyment.
The fact that reading is sort of a status symbol doesn’t help. Many people pride themselves in reading dozens of books each year, and I was trying to play the numbers game myself. That takes a lot of discipline, and I can respect that, but collecting books like points in a game is a bit misguided. Contrary to popular belief, reading doesn’t elevate you to some hightened state of awareness, and it doesn’t make you a better human. A book is just a tool for entertainment and education. More isn’t always better.
Funny enough, once I’ve let go of these notions, the number of books I read in a year naturally went up - without any new habits or hacks.
So here’s how I choose my books these days.
The single most important rule - don’t read anything that bores you. It’s not your fault! Even if everyone says something is a work of genius, maybe it just isn’t for you. Don’t waste your time struggling. There are thousands of great books, so feel free to skip a few pages, a chapter, or even the entire book.
Related to previous point - there are no guilty pleasures. You like what you like and you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.
When considering a new book, look into the previous books by the same author. Is the new one coming on the heels of a recent best seller? Be suspicious - the new one might be a derivative cash grab.
These previous principles apply to both fiction and non-fiction. While I’m more lenient on fiction - it only has to entertain me - I have some additional rules of thumb that non-fiction has to jump through.
Skip the books that argue for something you already know and believe. There’s nothing new to learn, it will only tell you what you want to hear.
Avoid books that try to put a spin on common sense concepts. We don’t need to look much further than many modern flavors of stoicism: minimalism, essentialism, Marie Kondo stuff, grit. Many writers have made their careers hyping, repackaging, and reselling age-old ideas. It’s no accident that the worst offenders come from the self-help genre, which you’d be wise to avoid altogether. Now, don’t feel offended if you enjoy the genre - I’m just saying that signal-to-noise ratio is pretty bad, so read it for entertainment and don’t expect much more.
Try these simple principles when selecting your next book - you might be surprised at their effectiveness. Soon enough you will forget ever dreading to read and start looking forward to it.
P.S. bonus tip: try to make reading as convenient as possible. For me that meant buying a Kindle. Even though I love paper books, they are heavy and inconvenient. Now whenever I go, I always have multiple books with me in a single compact device. This subtle change allowed me to increase reading time without any real effort.