It was after work hours, in the office, the four of us talking about random stuff. In the middle of the casual conversation, a colleague asked –
How do you decide which books to read?
An interesting discussion ensued. This post is about it and more.
Firstly, you must read (learn) so as to compensate for the intelligence that’s unequally distributed among us. Eventually, to become a better version of yourself.
Secondly, we don’t have enough time to experience all that there’s by ourselves. Life is short, it is better you learn from others, their mistakes, their successes, and experiences.
Thirdly, a piece of information can potentially save your life. Does the name Bear Grylls, host of Man vs Wild, ring a bell?
This is not an exhaustive list, I am sure there are more and better reasons to read.
Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body — Joseph Addison
The challenge with reading
The two most common reasons people give as excuse for not reading are:
I retain only [ — — — ] this much.
Let’s see how you can tackle these:
You have to watch that series everyone keeps mentioning over water cooler chats in office.
You have to find time to watch the game over the weekend. Go out, travel, experience the world.
Between all that how do you find time for reading that rarely gives instant gratification?
For starters, you’ll have to start saying No to a lot of things including projects/requests/social media or anything that’s unimportant.
In the book, Anything You Want, Derek Sivers writes about ‘Hell Yeah’ or ‘No’, useful for people who’re over-committed or too scattered. It means if you’re not saying ‘Hell Yeah’ about something, say ‘No’. Simple.
In a popular blog post from 2010, titled The World’s Worst Boss, Seth Godin gives life-changing advice. Here’s an excerpt:
“If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you’d quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much of your time as you do, they’d fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.”
This Farnam Street blog post on productivity talks about breaking down 24 hours in a day into 96 blocks of 15 mins each. If you sleep for 8 hours, it takes out 32 blocks, leaving 64 at your disposal. Decide on top three priorities that you have right now and allocate the blocks in those three.
“While efficiency is about doing more with less, productivity is about doing more with the same. “— Source
Reading books is not about having a library to showcase to your friends or take a picture to post on Instagram to look intelligent. Too many people out there focus on the number of books they read each year, month. They would do themselves a favour if they focused on reading a few good books and applying them.
In cases where you don’t necessarily apply most of what you read you can always turn to writing or thinking deeply about it. It will help you internalise, retain, and absorb what you consumed.
How to decide which book to read next?
The ladder model:
Consider a ladder, each step on the ladder represents a stage in your career. Currently, you’re on one such step. Read the books that will take you to the next step in your career ladder. You can use this to determine the books you want to read based on your immediate goals or even long-term vision for yourself.
Speed Dating Books:
Read everything that you can put your hands on. You never know what you end up liking. Read excerpts from books until you find something worth your time. Don’t feel compelled to finish a book.
Most books should have been blog posts.
Most blog posts should have been tweets.
Most tweets should have been unexpressed thoughts.
— Johnny (@Johnny_Uzan) November 16, 2018
This tweet pretty much sums it up
Now this goes back to the writer, investor Nicholas Taleb and the VC Naval Ravikant. In a tweet about asymmetric risks (tremendous or unknown upsides, limited downsides) Naval mentioned Lindy Book:
Invest in startups
Start a company
Create a book, podcast, video
Create a (software) product
Go on many first dates
Go to a cocktail party
Read a Lindy book
Move to a big city
— Naval (@naval) October 24, 2018
In his books, Antifragile and The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote about Lindy Effect. Which is a concept that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age, so that every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy.
Implying that Lindy Books are the classic works that have stood the test of time and are going to stay relevant for the next period equivalent to its current age. For example, works of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius (Meditations) remain relevant after many centuries and are likely to stay relevant for more.
If you want to ______; read __.
If you want to learn about a subject; read a book on it.
If you want to keep up with what’s new; read the latest books from that domain.
If you want to explore first principles; read History.
If you want to learn more and more about less and less; read Philosophy.
If you want to learn less and less about more and more; read about Scientific Discoveries.
If you want to know struggles; read Biographies.
If you want to imagine what you haven’t yet; read Science Fiction.
If you want to seek answers to questions but still want to be left with more questions; read religious books.
If you want to tell your feelings and know others feelings; read Poetry.
If you want to understand your choices and how humans are wired; read Psychology.
If you want to, you’ll.