My Philosophy on Reading Books

I read a lot of books. For the past 3 years, I’ve averaged finishing a book every 2-3 weeks (thanks to this post inspiring me). Through all this reading, I’ve learned a tremendous amount thanks to a specific philosophy I’ve had on what I choose to read.  Since I just published the organized list of all the books I’ve read and recommend, I wanted to explain how I arrived at this list. These are my strategies when choosing how and what I read:

  1. Only read for purpose – I read books on subjects I want to learn about (i.e.: non-fiction only), so reading is about education not relaxation or escape for me.
  2. Stick to highly recommended books – I ask trusted friends, mentors and observe leaders in tech for books to read. I hate wasting time on a bad book, so I work hard to ensure anything I read isn’t a waste. This is why I include a section in my books list on books not to read.
  3. Read to solve current problems or satisfy current interests – This helps me quickly apply whatever I read to challenges I’m facing in my work and/or personal life.
  4. Write in the margins – If I don’t write down the ideas sparked in reading, I won’t remember nor apply them. It also makes it easier to revisit concepts I found interesting in any book I’ve read.
  5. Read in small bites – I read when I’m on public transportation, which generally means 15-30 minute bursts. This ensures I have plenty of time to think about each concept I read about and absorb as much as I can. Credit to Leo of Buffer for expanding on this subject here.
  6. Share – When I learn interesting concepts or a great book, I share it. The subsequent discussion with others leads to even more learning.

How do you decide what books to read? What motivates you to read?

4 thoughts on “My Philosophy on Reading Books

  1. Nice, I’ll have to explore your book list more over the holidays. To add, I think it’s important to re-emphasize reading what’s important for you NOW. My ‘to-read’ list is several dozen books long, plus many lengthy web articles. Prioritizing reading has been so crucial to my productivity. Although, futuristic topics always make for a nice hybrid: educational-escape.
    Lastly, it’s probably more of a personal preference, but I like to read books from front to back in one or two sittings. Immersing yourself can help with understanding and applying the concepts, but I admit intermittent reading could be better for serendipitous connections back to your work.

    • Colin,

      Glad to hear it! My reading list is massively long too. I can’t think of a better way than what you feel you can best use to learn *right now* to pick off the list.

      I think reading mode is all about personal fit; some people would rather set time aside 1-2 weekends a month to read, while others, myself included, prefer a steady routine of reading.


  2. Wow, thanks so much for sharing your reading list. I also practice the short-burst-on-commutes style of reading. Never thought about that it actually helps to absorb more of the concepts but actually makes a lot of sense :)

    I’m currently reading “The Score takes care of itself” and I love it. Heard a lot about “How to win Friends”. I guess that will be my next one over the holidays. Awesome list.

  3. Love your list and your blog – we seem to have lots of interests in common! Anyway – back to topic: being a big non-fiction reader myself, I have to say that the occasional fiction book does more than “relaxation or escape”. It often helps me see a different perspective on how to solve a problem or think of a new business opportunity. Also think of a better way to use storytelling for business,
    Do consider it. A suggestion to get you started: “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures” by Anne Fadiman – combines some history, some anthropology and a great storytelling skill.

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