Writing

How To Read 100 Books In 242 Days

34 Practical Tips To Read More Books

In December last year I was reading Nassim Taleb when I discovered he reads 30 hours per week. Not long after I discovered Ryan Holiday reads over 150 books a year.

 

These are the writers I admire most. I want to write like them. But what was I doing?

 

I was reading at a rate of 50 books a year. That’s 100 fewer. Something had to change. So I set the goal of reading 150 books in 2018. As of the end of August, I’m on track. I’ve read 100 booksalready 100% more than I read last year.

 

Do I spend all my time reading? Anything but. I’ve been living in South America where I’ve visited the Amazon and swum with pink dolphins, surfed the longest left-hand wave in the world, and hiked the Andes.

 

You’re probably thinking I’m traveling so I have all the time in the world. Not quite. I’m working 40+ hours a week remotely, as well as writing for 15+ hours a week.

 

So how do I fit in all the reading? It hasn’t been easy. But the practical tips below are what have made it possible:

 

  1. Follow The ABR Rule

Always Be Reading. Eating lunch? Read. Sitting in a taxi? Read. Waiting for your kindle book to download? Read a physical book.

 

  1. Have A Goal

Goals give us motivation. It’s my goal to read 150 books this year. So I read every day to accomplish that goal.

 

  1. Read For 5 Hours Every Day

I have a daily goal: read for 5 hours every day. (I started with this number as I wanted to match Nassim Taleb reading 30 hours a week).

 

  1. Read Two Books At The Same Time

I could read Adam Smith for 3 hours a day. But not 5. Complimenting Adam Smith with an easier to read book, such as an autobiography, kept reading fun and allowed me to hit 5 hours each day.

 

  1. Live In A Developing Country

Reading lots of books isn’t expensive because you’re buying a new book every second day. It’s expensive because that time reading is time you aren’t making money. So what can you do? Live cheap. I lived in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Mexico. Accommodation and four course meals cost practically nothing.

 

  1. Get Lunch Made, Laundry Done, And Room Cleaned

Time spent doing chores is time you could be reading. Paying someone to do them is an investment in your reading.

 

  1. Avoid Meetings

Where possible, I avoid pointless work meetings. Unless I can contribute something that will make a real difference, I don’t attend. Being across an ocean from Australia helps.

 

  1. Stop Listening To Podcasts

Every second podcast is an author talking about the book they wrote. The book is always

better. Skip the podcast and read the book.

 

  1. Be Lazy Efficiently

Forget TV series. They take up too much time. My lazy entertainment time is watching Youtuber David Dobrik. He puts out three videos per week all 4 minutes 20 seconds long. 13 minutes of mindless entertainment a week. That’s efficient laziness.

 

  1. Meditate

Ever had to read over a paragraph because you read it, but didn’t really read it? It’s easy to daydream when you’re supposed to be reading. Meditation is the cure. Meditation is practising focusing your attentionexactly what you’re doing when reading. Meditation is the difference between daydreaming and living your dreams.

 

  1. Read While The Pope Is Speaking

When I was in a small town in Peru, the Pope came to visit. I went to see him speak in person, but I took my Kindle with me and read most of the time. Spend time doing what’s important to you, not what’s important to others.

 

  1. Lift Heavy

When you lift heavy, you get a great workout done in 45 minutes rather than 90 minutes. Instead of doing beach curls, deadlift. That gives you 45 extra minutes to read. But you don’t have to lift weights, you just need to workout with intensity. Instead of jogging; do sprints.

 

  1. Find A Hideout

Having a spot where no one can distract you is invaluable. I’ve read at lakes in the Andes, a cemetery in Sucre, and on a rooftop in Chile.

 

  1. Eat To Read

For breakfast I eat 10 eggs and a bowl of oats. Fat and protein give you sustained energy through your whole day.

 

  1. Take The Battery Out Of Your Phone

Phones are the kryptonite of reading. Our lazy side would rather waste time on the web. So use your laziness to your advantage. The more difficult you make it to use our phone, the easier it is to resist the temptation. Take the battery out of your phone.

 

  1. Share Your Goal

My Dad was an English teacher. He knows I want to read 150 books this year. He asks me how it’s going. Wanting to be able to tell him I’m on track gives me another reason to read.

 

  1. Don’t Make Friends

In 2018 I’ve been living in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. It’s impossible not to make friends. But as awesome as they can be, they can also be a distraction. So my rule is to let friendships happen naturally, but don’t go out of my way to make them. I still make lots of friends, but not so many that I don’t have time to read.

 

  1. Keep A List Of Books You’ve Read

Reading over the list of books I’ve already read, gives me motivation to read more. If you have a library of physical books you can admire, even better.

 

  1. Keep A Commonplace Book

As Ryan Holiday wrote, a commonplace book is “A central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.

Gives purpose, more find it useful, more want to add to it.” Why is it so important? A commonplace book gives you another reason to read.

 

  1. Take A Break, Don’t Quit

Sometimes I’m over it. I don’t want to read another word. Instead of stopping for the day, I’ll take a break. I’ll do some work or go for a walk. After a break I’m ready to read again.

 

  1. Read To Solve A Problem

I had just started reading a book about negotiating written by a former FBI hostage negotiator. I’d just read the first chapter when I was crossing the border from Bolivia to Chile. The border agents were hustling me. I lost my cool and lost at least 150 bolivianos more than I needed too. Losing the money wasn’t a big deal, but the feeling of having been played made me angry. I never wanted that to happen again. When I got back on the bus, I read that book for 6 hours straight until it was finished.

 

  1. Accept Some Books take FOREVER To Finish

Atlas Shrugged. Wealth Of Nations. Anything by Ron Chernow. They’re going to take a looooong time to finish. Accept it and start reading.

 

  1. Test Ideas In The Real World

Testing the ideas you get from books in the real world makes them come alive. It makes reading 10 times more fun. For example, I’d sent a proposal to a bank in New York but hadn’t heard back from them. I took some advice from Never Split the Difference to email “Have you given up on this project?”. I heard back the next day.

 

  1. Hell Yeah Or No

Derek Sivers wrote, “If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.”

Got an invite to dinner? Thinking about a weekend away? Unless it’s a hell yeah, say no and spend your time reading. While traveling I skip 90% of what others do. I skip the ghost town, the walking tours, and Churches. But I say hell yeah to Machu Picchu, double-overhead surf, and the salt plains in Bolivia. I have time to read.

 

  1. Don’t Drink

Maybe you like reading with a glass of wine, but don’t get drunk. You won’t read hungover.

 

  1. Wear A Chronograph

I set the goal of reading 5 hours per day. If you use your phone to measure how much you’re reading, you’re going to get distracted. That’s why I bought a watch with a chronograph so I can ensure I get my 5 hours of reading done.

 

  1. Listen To Audiobooks

Unfortunately, I don’t have the talent to read my Kindle whilst walking down a busy street. I’ve tried. But I can listen to audiobooks. No doubt, reading text is better. It’s easier to take notes and forces you to give your undivided attention. But when you can’t read a physical book, you can keep reading by listening to an audiobook.

 

  1. Buy A Kindle If You’re On The Move

If you can’t get physical books sent easily, a Kindle is perfect. I’ve downloaded new books everywhere from airports to beaches.

 

  1. Use Background Noise

When you’re somewhere with distracting noise, drown it out with background noise. My favourite is listening to rain.

 

  1. Read Nassim Taleb

Taleb’s books are so interesting to read that I don’t have trouble reading for 5 hours. I have trouble finding time to brush my teeth because I don’t stop reading. Similar books are Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography and Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday.

 

  1. Buy A New Jacket

I bought a jacket with a pocket big enough for my Kindle so I’d ALWAYS have it with me. It’s my best purchase ever.

 

  1. Prioritise Your Reading

My day looks like this. First I write. Then I read. Then I work. I need to work. I need the money. My reading gets done so I can start working.

 

  1. Have Heroes

Thinking of people I admire who read all the time motivates me. Ben Franklin, Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett, Cal Newport, Nassim Taleb, Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss.  

 

  1. Follow Your Superpower

Curiosity is your reading superpower. When you want to know something, and a book might illuminate you, you’ll devour that book.

 

These are my practical tips that have helped me read 100 books in 8 months so far. Do you have any weird tips that help you to read more? If so, share them below and help us all read more.

 

P.S. You Don’t Have Time To Speed Read

You’ll notice not one of my suggestions has been to speed read. Speed reading is a bad idea. Sure, it’ll help you read more books, but you’ll be getting less out of them. Plus it kills the pleasure of readinglife’s too short to speed read.

 

P.P.S. Stare At Things Far Away

This doesn’t help you read more, but it helps protect your eyes so you can still be reading 150 books a year in ten years time. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away from your book and look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Write To Rise

Nations. God. Capitalism. These ideas rule the world, yet they have no concrete existence. The ideas exist, only, when they exist in our minds. They’re abstract. Sure, we see the Stars & Stripes, a painting of Christ and Elon Musk launching a car into space. But they are only symbols. Yuval Noah Harari writes, “You can never convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana by promising him that after he dies, he will get limitless bananas in chimpanzee Heaven. Only Sapiens can believe such stories. This is why we rule the world.”

 

Indeed, we rule the world. We rule fire, we rule lions, we rule the sky. We rule each other. A toddler has a mother. A student a teacher. An employee a boss. Those above, rule those below. We live in dominance hierarchies. Dominance hierarchies are not abstract. They are real, like the law of motion – they exist with or without our belief or conscious realisation.

 

Dominance hierarchies are our reality. Where do you want to sit in it? At the bottom? Where your shelter, if you have one, is dirty. Where your desire for education is suppressed by your need to eat. Where your daily stress breeds ulcers and disease. Will you be satisfied in the middle class? You can have a white picket fence, roast chicken on Sunday and a degree on your cubicle wall. Do you need to be in the top 1%? Probably not, but if a flood or bushfire is descending on your home you’ll be wishing there’s a helicopter on your roof for your three kids. The higher in life’s dominance hierarchy you sit, the more problems you escape.

 

Humanity’s dominance hierarchies exist within humanity’s abstract ideas. Our nation has a head of state at the top, you the tax paying citizen in the middle and a welfare recipient on the bottom. A Christian God has themself at the top, you & I in the middle and Satan at the bottom. Capitalism has a billionaire at the top, a worker paying off his mortgage in the middle and a beggar at the bottom.

 

There are no stupid doctors. The better you mentally understand abstract ideas, the higher you will rise in your distinct dominance hierarchy, from medicine, to law, to business, to art. George Soros is an investor who has accumulated over $25 billion. That’s more than the GDP of Afghanistan and a hundred other countries. Soros credits part of his success to his understanding of Karl Popper’s General Theory of Reflexivity and applying it to capital markets (applying a complex abstract idea to another complex abstract idea).

 

Writing is a superpower for understanding and organising abstract ideas. Seeing ideas written on a screen lets us tinker with then. We analyse them. Order them. Question them. Invert them. Writing helps us identify ideas that will help us rise within dominance hierarchies and those that will hurt us. Democracy from dictatorship, diplomacy before destruction.

 

The more minds an abstract idea exists in, the more powerful it is. If Catholicism had only 700 followers the Pope would be a cult leader. If Seal Team 6 weren’t American they’d be the world’s most elite group of terrorists. Hell hath no fury for an atheist. Believing in abstract ideas gives those ideas power, and in turn, those abstract ideas gives their promoters power.

 

Presidents don’t stutter. Clearly communicating abstract ideas helps us convince others of their value. Richard Branson has made more than $5 billion. While that’s only more than the GDP of Sierra Leone and 50 other countries, he’s also at the top of the business hierarchy. Branson says, “[Communication] is the most important skill any entrepreneur can possess.” It has seen him convince investors and the public of new ideas, from a gay nightclub to a hyperloop.

 

Writing then helps us communicate those superior abstract ideas so other people believe in the same abstract ideas as us – giving the idea and us power. We write a constitution. We tell stories about Jesus. We write annual reports. We write, and those who do it best – dominate.

From Words To Culture: The Levels Of Resolution In Writing

When we want to master a specific domainwe need to understand every level of resolution. A mechanic needs to know far more than how to drive. It is the same for writing. A writer should know more than the mechanics of writing. So let’s embrace the nuancethe multiple levels of resolution that writing exists in. We’ll begin at the most literal level and rise in levels of abstraction.

 

Level 1: Words

Professor Jordan Peterson said wrote, “Each word should be precisely the right word.” What’s the right word? It’s concise. It’s never two when one will do. It keeps the beat. It’s never the 17-letter synonym that you think makes you sound intelligent. The right word is like a star in the night sky. Alone, it seems insignificant. But when it’s surrounded by hundreds of other right words, your writing shines bright. Lao Tzu said, “Great acts are made up of small deeds.” Similarly, great writing is made of the right words. Every word matters. Just as every pebble mattered to the crow in Aesop’s fable…

 

The Crow and the Pitcher

A Crow, half-dead with thirst, came upon a Pitcher which had once been full of water; but when the Crow put its beak into the mouth of the Pitcher he found that only very little water was left in it, and that he could not reach far enough down to get at it. He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair. Then a thought came to him, and he took a pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher.  

 

Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher.  

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher.  

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher.  

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher.  

Then he took another pebble and dropped that into the Pitcher.  

 

At last, at last, he saw the water mount up near him, and after casting in a few more pebbles he was able to quench his thirst and save his life. Little by little does the trick.

 

Level 2: Sentences

Write good sentences by obeying these 3 laws:

 

  1. Put the words in the right order so the sentence is grammatically correct.

 

  1. Make them clear and easy to read.

 

  1. Express only one thought per sentence.

 

Level 3: Paragraphs

Like a sentence should express one thought, a paragraph should express one idea. Those sentences, or thoughts, should be ordered logically to communicate the overarching idea. Here’s a rule to follow when writing a paragraph: Each paragraph must be at least 10 sentences or 100 words. If you can’t write 100 words on an idea, you don’t need a thesaurus, you need a better idea. Regardless of any reasoning, the 10 sentence/ 100 word rule exists because it works. Nassim Taleb wrote, “Not everything that happens happens for a reason, but everything that survives survives for a reason.” You don’t need to know why the rule works, but you need to follow it.

 

Level 4: Structure / Sequence Of Paragraphs

“You must map out the path if you ever plan to make it to your destination alive.”Ryan Holiday

Your paragraphs should follow a logical progression. Each paragraph builds upon the previous paragraph. Paragraph by paragraph, you build towards your ultimate conclusion.  

You lead, they read.

 

Level 5: Your Piece Of Writing As A Whole

All the previous levels of resolution can be correct, yet the writing can suck. It’s not what’s written that makes it weak, it’s what’s lacking; originality, creativity, insight. Consider the inverse: writing filled with originality, creativity, and insight. But it’s also filled with grammatical errors, a disorganised structure, and uses the wrong words. It can still be brilliant. The previous steps are more technical. This step is not. It’s a poorly translated Dostoevsky; the grammar is wrong, yet it is still brilliant.

 

Level 6: Reader’s Interpretation

Before America dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima they gave a warning: The Potsdam Declaration. It demanded complete surrender, or promised complete destruction. The Japanese Premier, Kantaro Suzuki, responded via a news conference saying “No comment. We’re still thinking about it.” However, the Japanese word for ‘no comment’ is ‘mokusatsu’, which also means “We’re ignoring in contempt.” It’s not what you say that matters, it’s what your reader hears.

 

Level 7: Our Culture

People are not blank slates with completely open minds. They have developed a way of looking at the world. Their perception is a product of their culture, and biology. You may mean one thing, but a reader can interpret it as something else. 7 billion people view the world 7 billion different ways. Different people can read the same work differently. There have been more than a few disagreements over the interpretation of the bible.

 

It is not enough to simply want to write well. We must also understand how—and follow that process. Otherwise we will never reach our potential. However, as we are analysing our own writing, we must not overanalyze. We must keep writing, not writing a piece that’s perfect at each level of resolution, but is moving towards perfection. We learn to write by putting these ideas in practice. As Amelia Earhart said, “Always think with your stick forward.”

Are You Feeding Your Readers Adderall Or Ambien?

Millions of people read books to help them fall asleep at night. This is unacceptable. Authors write to stimulate the reader. They want to be an Adderall tablet, but they’re an Ambien tablet. Something is wrong. But what?

 

1. Your kids are boring

There was a kid who was so obsessed with bodybuilders that he put pictures of them on his walls. That’s not that weird for an American kid in 2018, but this kid was in Europe in the 1960s. His mother called the doctor to the house, fearing her son was a homosexual. Admittedly, that’s kind of an interesting anecdote. But it becomes much more interesting when we learn that kid was Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Children only become interesting after they’ve achieved great successes as an adult. Just because you find your kid the most fascinating creature, doesn’t mean anyone else will.

Just because a topic is interesting to you, doesn’t mean it’s interesting to your reader.

 

2. Goliath was a sucker

If I were to retell the cliche story of David and Goliath you’d be bored. But if I added some details not everyone knows, it’s a thrill.

Goliath was indeed a giant, probably due to a hormonal issue. He was big, but that hormonal issue had affected his sight. Not that it would matter, David would have won even if Goliath had the eyes of a hawk.

In ancient warfare there were three types of soldiers. Cavalry, infantry, and slingers. Slingers were similar to archers, but instead of bows and arrows, they used a sling to fire rocks. Slingers weren’t expected to beat cavalry because the horses move too quickly, but they were always expected to beat infantry.

David was a slinger and Goliath was an infantryman. David should beat Goliath every time. Indeed, while Goliath was waiting with his sword, David slung a rock at him, knocked him out, ran over, picked up Goliath’s sword and killed him. That was to be expected.

Then why was it a surprise that David beat Goliath?

It was a surprise because David and Goliath were fighting one versus one, so their corresponding armies would not have to fight. In this situation, it was custom that an infantry member would fight another infantry member. It was a matter of honour. So why would David, the slinger, fight?

David had no concern for honour. He was a shepherd and they were considered the lowest of professions. He had no reputation to lose. So he felt free to break the tradition. And as a slinger he fought an infantryman.

It was not a surprise that David beat Goliath. It was a surprise he chose to fight him.

Details transform a boring cliche into an interesting anecdote.

 

3. Gangster Warfare better deliver

I recently read a book called Gangster Warfare. It didn’t disappoint. It was filled with bodies dissolved in acid, kingpins more powerful than their state, and a civilian uprising. The title delivered.

In comparison, there’s a best-selling book that was almost named Drug Dealing For Fun & Profit. From the title I would have expected a similar narco story to Gangster Warfare, if a little less dramatic. But the book wasn’t about drug dealing at all. It was about someone who built a business selling pre-workout stimulants (the drug dealing and profit part), and then outsourced his tasks so he had more free time to surf, dance, and travel (the fun part).

Luckily, Drug Dealing For Fun & Profit wasn’t the title that was used. Instead it became the uber-successful 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, which in fact, did go into minute detail about constructing a business where you only work four hours a week. It delivered on the title.

If people go in expecting a rollercoaster and get a train ride, they’ll fall asleep. Don’t oversell with the title.

 

4. Jesus was a badass

Jesus Christ was a badass. No wonder the Romans had such a problem with him. By saying he was the son of God, that he was God’s mouthpiece, he bought the authority of the Roman state into question. He looked up and said he followed a higher authority. He rebelled against the state. He gained followers, he turned water into wine, and was crucified. What an adventure.

If he had simply been a scholar who told us what to do, who would’ve cared? It’s because he took risks and had an enemy that he was interesting. He was a rebel, not a religious scholar. That’s why the Bible became the world’s bestseller. It’s a book filled with wild stories of seas parting and hellfire. Steven Spielberg couldn’t have done a better job.

If it’s boring to write, it’ll be boring to read. There’s a reason students skip their lecture to watch Game Of Thrones. Don’t lecture. Take us on an adventure.

 

If authors want their readers to stay awake until the early morning, they have two options. The first is for every new book to come with a free bottle of Adderall. The second is to cut out everything boring and take the reader on an adventure.

What Is An Essay? (Yoda & Montaigne Disagree)

The Meeting Of Minds

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… the wise Jedi Master from Star Wars, Yoda, is sitting with the wise writer and philosopher from the 16th century, Montaigne.

Montaigne begins writing an essay. At the top of his blank sheet of paper he writes, “What is an essay?”

He thinks. But cannot find the answer. Yoda is watching him struggle. His lip curls into a smirk. Their gaze meets. Montaigne says, “Ok, you tell me, what is an essay?”

Yoda pauses for a moment. Finally, he responds, “Two answers, I have for you… writing on a particular topic, a short piece of, I would say.”

Montaigne says to Yoda, “You said you have two answers, what is the other?”

Yoda responds, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Montaigne begins writing. He finishes his essay and looks up at Yoda. He smirks.

 

An Attempt To Answer “What Is An Essay?”

Open the Oxford dictionary to the word essay and you read; a short piece of writing on a particular topic. Yoda is correct. But why did Montaigne smirk?

The word itself – essay – originally had a different meaning. It has today’s dictionary meaning thanks to Montaigne. Montaigne earned his place in history books, not only because of what he wrote, but how he wrote. For Montaigne, writing was an act of exploration into the unknown. He was searching for truth. Posing questions and trying to answer them.That’s Montaigne’s secret: Trying. ‘To try’ is the essence of an essay. And ‘to try’ was the literal translation of ‘essay’ in the 1600s.

Sure, the body of an essay is indeed a short piece of writing on a particular topic. But the heart of an essay is trying to answer a question or explore a topic.