5 tips to become a better reader

As a teenager I used to read a lot. Then smartphones came into existence and my annual number of books read plummeted to a couple while on holiday. I was always looking forward to my holidays because that meant I could read, which is kind of absurd. So I decided to start to read more often as of 2019. Here are some things about reading I picked up in the last few years. 
Robert Roose
Door Robert Roose

5 tips to become a better reader

1 Be picky

In 2020 I set a goal to read 52 books. I accomplished my goal but it didn’t feel good. I picked short books and finished books I hated just to hit my target. Achieving success was more important than why I was reading. 

So this year I haven't set a target but instead I made a shortlist of books that I really want to read in 2022. No matter how many pages and no matter how good or bad the reviews. The list is highly curated with must read books. I only have so much time to read so I don’t want to waste it by reading books I don’t like. Which brings me to my next tip.

2 Stop reading

Another thing I've learned, during my 52 books a year experiment, is that you sometimes have to stop reading when a book doesn't interest you as much as you thought it would. To reach my 52 book goal I finished every book I started no matter how much I hated it. Forcing myself to read became harder and harder. 

Like Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman describe this in 'The Daily Stoic':

"What if, when it came to your reading and learning, you prioritized quality over quantity? What if you read the few great books deeply instead of briefly skimming all the new books? Your shelves might be emptier, but your brain and your life would be fuller."

So now I've created a 'Did Not Finish' list. If I'm a few pages in a book and I still am not feeling it, I put it on the DNF list. No matter how many glowing reviews it has or how much money I spent on it. I just don't have the time and energy to read books that are not for me.

3 Use an e-reader

I prefer reading paper books. Nothing can replace the feeling of having a real book in your hand. That being said, I only read e-books. Using an e-reader has advantages which can't be beaten by paper:

  • It's lightweight. This is really pleasant especially when you're reading 500+ pages books 
  • It has a back-lit screen (always buy one with a light) so you can read in the dark
  • You can digitally highlight paragraphs which is essential for my next tip 

4 Memorize what you’ve read

I had a hard time remembering what I've read a few months after I finished a book. Trying to keep all this knowledge in your head is impossible. Luckily there are tools such as Readwise

You can import all your highlights into Readwise. Readwise will then send you a daily email containing a number of highlights for you to review. This makes you revisit paragraphs of books which you found interesting while reading. 

I've been using Readwise for over two years and can't recommend it enough. Daily revisiting my highlights is a moment I look forward to. Every series of highlights rehases an insight I've forgotten. 

An example of a Readwise highlight
An example of a Readwise highlight

5 Create a habit out of reading

Just start reading a few pages a day. You’ll notice you end up reading more because you’ve carefully picked this book which is interesting to you (see tip #1). 

I use a very simple (android) app called Habits which enables you to mark every day you've successfully completed a task, such as reading. The trick is to chain days together trying to make it as long as possible (also known as the 'Seindfeld Strategy'). 

Currently I've been reading every day for 762 days (probably since I started tracking it). Some days I've read only a few paragraphs and some days whole books (such as The Vanishing by Tim Krabbé). I would be gutted to break this chain now I've gotten this far.

Got tips?

Hopefully one or more tips were helpful to you. Do you have reading tips of your own? Please share them in the comments below.

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