The backstory—just so we know how it all began.
Unfortunately, I did not grow up as someone who could spend hours and dedicatedly finish a book. I would only read occasionally.
It was only around the age of 20, I wanted to cultivate the habit of reading consistently.
So, in the last 6 years, I tried almost everything—every popular, best practice out there—to become a consistent reader.
I followed the ‘read what you love until you love to read’ advice and purchased fancy hardcovers. I even bought a Kindle and a subscription to Amazon’s Audible—all with the aim of inculcating the habit of reading (listening, w.r.t. Audible) consistently.
But, I failed.
With some books, I found myself not returning to them after 2 or 3 chapters. With some, I found myself never returning after completing 50% of them.
And, when I abandoned a book after reading only a part of it, I would completely stop reading for quite some time—months, in many instances.
The problem? The obligation to finish a book no matter how unexciting or redundant it was.
From a young age, we are taught to always finish our books. We are told it’s almost disrespectful to leave a book unfinished because books are sacred. We must read each and every word and chapter to fully do justice to that book.
I, too, fell for this.
Remember, when I talked about abandoning books after reading only a part of them?
What actually transpired was I did not want to return to a particular book because either it did not excite me enough or I already got the point by reading 50% of it.
But, because of the conditioning that I HAVE to finish the current book before moving on to the next one, I just got stuck.
Neither did I finish the ongoing book nor did I pick up a new one for a considerable time.
This was the period where I put reading completely on hold and felt utterly dissatisfied. And, I encountered many such periods in the last 6 years.
I was not reading and learning enough, which ended up affecting my confidence, both in life and at work.
We are trapped in a book because of our conditioned obligation towards completing it.
We are stuck with a book because we feel we must finish each and every chapter, no matter how redundant it is.
It does not have to be this way.
The solution? To not feel obligated to finish a book—read what truly excites you and satisfies your intellect.
Recently, I picked up a book called The Almanack of Naval Ravikant.
This book has a section named ‘Learn to Love to Read’ where the author talks about cultivating the habit of reading consistently.
This section talks about a simple approach that one can adopt to ensure they are never out of the habit of reading. And, this method is what has FINALLY gotten me into the routine of reading consistently.
Let’s talk about this simple, but life-changing method.
Note: This will most likely apply to non-fiction books that try to make one macro point through various micro chapters and countless examples.
One of the arguments Naval makes in this section is to not feel obligated to finish a book.
If you feel you have understood the central theme by reading 50 pages, and the rest of the book is just going on and on making the same point via countless examples, feel free to drop that book and move on to the next one.
Another argument that Naval makes is if you feel you can develop the same level of understanding by skimming through a book instead of sincerely reading each and every word, please do so.
Let me share a personal example of how I recently committed this mistake:
A few months ago, I picked up one of these international bestsellers—Ikigai. Even though I sincerely read all 200 pages (was pleasantly surprised with myself), I felt I got the point pretty soon and should have moved on faster.
Since the book had countless examples and interviews making the same point, I could have skimmed through at least 50% of the book and still developed the same level of understanding that I did by mindfully reading each and every word.
Remember, the key benefit of not feeling obligated to finish a not-so-good book is that you get to move on to something better.
Something that deserves more of your time as it has the potential to considerably improve your life or work.
Ditch the vanity metric—the number of books read. Focus more on learning new things.
Finishing 52 books a year (one per week) is pretty cool, right?
However, it makes more sense to ditch the vanity metric of finishing as many books as possible.
By focusing more on learning new things, you can actually explore numerous books that you will miss by being stuck on a not-so-worthy book. You might not finish every book you pick, but you will end up building vast knowledge on various things.
The way it practically works is by being into multiple concepts and books at the same time.
For instance, currently, I am reading:
- A chapter on engineering happiness in your life—in the book called The Almanack of Naval Ravikant.
- A chapter on why you should keep buying fundamentally sound stocks irrespective of the market conditions—in the book named Just Keep Buying.
- A chapter on what Rafael Nadal experienced in the locker room before his epic 2008 Wimbledon final with Roger Federer—in the book named Rafa: My Story.
All 3 topics are not related to each other so it helps me easily switch context.
Also, since these 3 topics/stories deeply interest me, I genuinely feel motivated to read and finish these chapters.
Letting go of the obligation to complete a book AND the vanity metric of finishing as many books as possible have truly transformed the way I read.
Now, I genuinely feel excited to pick any book I wish to read, fast forward to the chapter that piques my interest, or move to a different book that talks about another thing that truly excites me.
Read, skim, or fast-forward. But don’t let go of the habit of reading books.
We all know and understand the benefits of reading books. Yet, most of us do not consistently read and learn new things. The problem discussed in this post is one of the reasons that prevent us from reading consistently.
I hope the approach discussed in this post helps you kickstart or refine your reading journey.
Do let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Reading regularly will satisfy your intellect and curiosity in a way only a few things can.
Before we part ways Today, there are numerous options to consume information——tweets, LinkedIn posts, and blog posts——in addition to books. While they are certainly good ways to learn new things, they can take a toll on your attention span, concentration levels, and overall patience standards. I strongly believe reading books still holds the number one spot—especially when it comes to building fundamentals, improving concentration, and learning to be patient. “There’s ancient wisdom in books.”
Happy reading! Until next time,
If you wish to purchase the books mentioned in this post, consider buying through the following links: 1. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant 2. Just Keep Buying 3. Rafa: My Story Note: These are affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase the books, Amazon will offer me a small percentage in commission——at NO EXTRA COST TO YOU.