Why Read More?
Many wealthy and successful people read a lot. Warren Buffett spends up to 80% of his day reading, consuming up to 1,000 pages. That’s about the same as Theodore Roosevelt, who read up to three books per day. Bill Gates reads about a book each week, spanning both fiction and nonfiction. Oprah credits much of her success to reading books. While in prison, Malcolm X devoured books, especially on history and philosophy. Elon Musk complemented his degrees in physics and economics by teaching himself aerospace and automotive engineering through reading. The founder of Nike, Phil Knight, “so reveres his library that in it, you have to take off your shoes and bow.” Winston Churchill won a Nobel prizein literature (okay, that’s writing, but he read a lot too).
If these leaders with their presumably very busy schedules can read scores of books each year, what’s holding you back? While you may not be as effective as Kim Peek (Kim could read a book in about an hour; his left eye would read the left page and his right eye would read the right page, and he could accurately recall the contents of about 12,000 books), I’m confident that you also can learn the skills to read and retain more.
I’ve compiled the advice, practices, and tips on how to read and retain more from history’s most voracious bibliophiles. In addition, I’ve brought modern insights from behavioral economics and psychology to provide strategies for dealing with barriers and promoting habit change. What’s more, each day will include a summary of key points and a tangible action to reinforce that day’s lesson. I encourage you to do these exercises—they will appear simple but will be powerful.
To start things off, we’re going to remember why reading more and retaining what you read are worthy goals.
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” —Ray Bradbury
The benefits of reading are largely mental. First and perhaps unsurprisingly, reading has been shown to increase one’s vocabulary and improve one’s knowledge and abstract reasoning skills—in other words, reading makes you smarter. In addition to improvements in intellect, there is evidence to suggest that reading may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and slow cognitive decline in old age.
As well as those intellectual benefits, reading improves your mental health. Studies show that reading fiction improves empathy, which has been correlated with social intelligence. Finally, reading has been shown to be better at reducing stress than listening to music, going for a walk, or even having a cup of tea.
Clearly, reading more is something to aspire to. Tomorrow, we will begin the practical applications by discussing the reading mindset, along with something perhaps a bit surprising: the mathematics of reading.
To finish things off for today, I invite you to complete the first daily exercise at the bottom. Again, it’s simple but that’s the point. So, only do this if you’re serious about wanting to read more and you’re keen to reap some of the benefits outlined above.
Reading is beneficial for intellectual and mental health. It is a great way to exercise your brain, but like all exercise, it’s important but not urgent. This means it is easy to put off. You and you alone are responsible for reading more—no one else will read for you.
Your first challenge exercise is a real doozy: I want you to grab a book that you’re currently reading or has been on your list for a long time, and read one sentence. You can read more if it was a good sentence that piqued your curiosity, but you only need to read one sentence. If you can do that, I see no reason why you won’t be able to read and retain more.
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