Reading is important. It is said that in 5 years, the person you become will be influenced by the people you know and the book you read. Books allow readers to learn from experts, adventurers, and others that we would most likely never come into contact with. We learn from the successes, the failures, and the creativity of the writing in such a variety of subjects. According to Wikipedia, in 2009, there were over 280,000 books published in the United States alone. With such a huge amount of information in books, if you can’t find something you are interested in reading, you might need to check your pulse.
When you find something you are interested in reading, it is always a good idea to occasionally add in a little variety. You should have variety in life, whether it is food choices, social interactions, or sources of information. I personally prefer reading to learn. Most of the time, that preference takes the form of business books, entrepreneurial books, and a wide variety of other subjects chosen to increase knowledge. I keep a list of books I am interested in reading. Normally, that list is over 75 books and more often than not, over 100. I don’t always pick a book from that list, but I am usually making progress through the ones I really want to read. Some of my most recent books includes a book on game theory (Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life), ancient strategy (The Book of Five Rings), and how to interact better with your physicians (How Doctors Think). That should not imply that type of reading is not for pleasure; I enjoy reading immensely and feel that it helps me mentally and emotionally to have that quiet time to myself. I do read fiction, but not very often, and usually in the form of audiobooks (typically after 2 or 3 non-fiction books I will listen to a fiction audiobook).
Audiobooks give additional reading time to drivers and riders
Audiobooks are a great way to start out or supplement your reading. There are many times you can listen to audiobooks, but most often, I do so when driving or riding in an automobile.
(Pause for a second: What do you listen do while driving (or riding)? Music is great for entertainment, talk radio will let you listen in on the opinions of others and keep up-to-date on world events, but does either really help you increase knowledge? Do you talk on the phone, surf the web, or text? These are good ways to get killed; by talking on the phone, you are distracted to the point where your reaction times rank you as legally intoxicated, according to several studies, one of which was completed at the University of Utah. Just because you haven’t gotten into a wreck or talk on your phone and drive all the time makes no difference. Please, please don’t talk on your cell phone, text, or surf the web while driving; it is not worth the risk)…. Now, off my soapbox.
The portability of audiobooks make them great for “reading” when you can’t read, but they have their drawbacks; they are nearly impossible to use while taking notes. For that reason, I most often listen to books where I don’t plan on taking notes. The book I am listening to now is Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs by Muhammad Yunus. There are many interesting and important concepts and ideas in the book, but mostly it is about large concepts, not specific steps I am planning to take in the near future. I also like to listen to fiction; one of my personal favorites is Stephen King. Even if it seems that there is little if anything you can learn from Stephen King, remember he is a very prolific writer with a distinct style; something all aspiring writers can benefit from.
Regardless of how or if you use audiobooks, especially if you are not much of a reader now, pick a few book or audiobooks that you are interested in. If you have always read fiction, you may want to pick a non-fiction book that teaches you a subject you are interested in such as writing, drawing, or computer programming. If you are a non-fiction person like me, try reading books by Stephen King, Kathy Reichs, or Sebastian Junger (not really fiction, but great stories about real events – read his book Fire to get some great information about forest fires and smoke jumpers, plus other great stories). If you pick a book you want to learn from, especially business books or books with quotes you would like to remember, taking notes is vital.
Public libraries – the best source of books?
Many of the books I read come from the public library for three main reasons; they have a great selection, I don’t have to store the books, and the price (free) can’t be beat. These are your tax dollars at work, please take advantage of the service if at all possible. Contrary to what you may see on movies and TV shows, librarians are very nice and helpful people. Since I am borrowing the books, it would be irresponsible to write in them since I don’t have permission and to keep the books in the best shape possible for future borrowers. To keep from writing in books (since I am not keeping them anyway), I take notes and refer back to the notes whenever I need to at a later time.
There are many different ways to take notes. When I started, I would write notes in a pocket notebook while I read. That took time and was a distraction from the book. Now, I use flags. When I am reading and I come across an important concept or passage, I use little colored flags to mark the spot. Using the flags takes little time and does not distract much from reading. I have the flags stuck to my bookmark so they are always at hand. Quick, simple, easy.
After I finish a book, I flip through it looking for the flags. When the flags are found, I will transcribe the passage or information into a text document. These documents are typically Google Doc documents. I prefer this setup since the information is stored on the web and I have access to it regardless of where I am as long as I have internet access. I make note of the page numbers the information is from (a new trick I started doing about a year ago) as well as any thoughts I may have. I also try to utilize symbols to provide additional information about the text; square brackets are my own thoughts, three periods means I have left out information in the middle, etc.
The system works great for me. I am sure this method is not unique, but it is effective. I always try to learn from others and have found a few people that take similar notes. One of those people is Tim Ferriss. I am a big Tim Ferriss fan. I get some great information from his blog and books. In this post, he describes how he takes notes and creates indices in the front of the books to help find the wanted information quickly. Another place I have found similar notes is the site of Derek Sivers (this link containing the notes from Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin, a GREAT book).
Reading is important, did I mention that before? It can’t be said enough. According to MSNBC, 1 in 4 adults did not read a book in 2005. Of those who did read, the usual number is 7 that year. This data is now about 6 years old. Do you think the numbers have improved? When was the last time you read a book? If ask that question in 2005 (right around the time I started to read more), I would have been that 1 in 4. Since then, I am up to well over 500 audiobooks and not quite that many books. For several years, I would often have 3 books in-process at the same time; listening to an audiobook, reading a book at work during lunch, and one at home. Now, I most often have an audiobook and a book going at the same time in the hopes I will go through the books a little quicker.
So, when was the last time you read a book? If you were like me and found yourself that 1 of 4, don’t worry, go read a book. It may change your life
If you would like to purchase any books mentioned in this post, please click on the links below:
- Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life by Len Fisher
- The Book of Five Rings by Musashi Miyamoto
- How Doctors Think by Jerome E. Groopman, M.D.
- Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs by Muhammad Yunus
- Fire by Sebastian Junger
- Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin
- Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by Guy Kawasaki