“If you haven't read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent because your personal experiences alone aren't broad enough to sustain you.”
― General Jim Mattis, USMC
This is one of my favorite quotes because a) it’s the truth and b) General Mattis has a way with words that cut right to it.
A few years back I realized that I had succumbed to that oft-repeated excuse as to why I hadn’t picked up a book in years. “I’d love to read, but I’m too busy.”
What I should have said was, “I’m prioritizing other things.”
Look, sometimes that’s the right answer. Sometimes you’re going to want to do some Netflixing with your soul mate. Sometimes the right answer is just turning the light off and maximizing your hours in bed.
However, General Mattis has a point. Reading often and widely supplements your personal experience to provide a wider dataset to approach life with. Building a strong and sustainable reading practice will make you smarter, more interesting, and more prepared to deal with the world around you.
Convinced? Amazing. Time to get started.
Here are 10 tactics I’ve used to start and improve my reading practice
- Set a realistic goal: Determine how many books you would like to read this year and set a realistic goal. This can motivate you to stay on track and continue reading throughout the year. I initially said 6 and ended up reading 12. Last year I read 30. Momentum is a real thing.
- Join a book club: Joining a book club can provide accountability, as well as opportunities to discuss and share your thoughts on books with others. Pro tip: do it with friends who you want to stay in touch with. Two birds, one stone.
- Ask for recommendations: Reach out to friends, family, and colleagues for book recommendations. You can also ask for recommendations on social media or join online book clubs to get ideas for new books to read. Nothing worse than finding yourself 25% into a book you hate. Your friends can help you avoid this outcome.
- Utilize book review sites or apps: There are heaps of book review sites and apps that can help you find books you'll like. Goodreads, for example, is a popular book review site where users can rate and review books, create reading lists, and get recommendations based on their reading preferences.
- Reduce distractions: Try to minimize distractions while you read. This can help you focus and get through books more quickly. Consider turning off your phone and putting it in a drawer far, far away.
- Make a reading list: Make a list of books that you want to read and keep it somewhere visible. This can serve as a reminder of the books you want to read and motivate you to start reading them. Additionally, open up the notes app in your iPhone and start a book list note to catch ideas as soon as you have them.
- Schedule time for reading: Set aside a specific time each day or week for reading. This can help you build a reading habit and ensure that you are consistently making time for reading. If you want to be asleep by 11 pm, be reading by 10 pm. Whatever works for you, schedule it.
- Explore different genres: Experimenting with different genres can help you discover new authors and books that you might not have considered before. Don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. You might be surprised by what you enjoy – I loved Dune after swearing up and down that I’d never read science fiction.
- Read in short bursts: If you find it hard to set aside large chunks of time for reading, try reading in short bursts throughout the day. You can read during your commute, during your lunch break, or before bed.
- Bring your book with you: How much time do you waste every day looking at your phone? Instead, build a habit of pulling out your book. Waiting in line at the DMV or on your next appointment just got productive.