Here’s why you should read more, and how

Whatever it is that you’d like to do (or do better), chances are that someone out there has already solved your problem.

Think about that for a moment. There are nearly seven billion people on this planet; what are the odds that someone else hasn’t already figured it out?

Maybe you want to lose weight, learn a new skill or just be happier. There are fit people, skilled people and happy people all over the world. Some of them can even teach you what they know.

However, genuine expertise is rare. Chances are you don’t live next door to a world class nutrition coach, guitar player or Buddhist monk.

Genuine expertise can also be expensive. Seminars, courses and tutoring can set you back hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

The good news is that, with few exceptions, the knowledge actually is available to you. An expert has written a book which can help you to overcome the challenge you face. Maybe even dozens of experts.

Now I’m not saying you’ll read Surgery for Dummies tonight and operate on my knee tomorrow. But in most instances, a great book can teach you what you need to know; in the very least, it can get you started. You can learn how to eat differently, build a website or improve your marriage with the help of a great book.

As Mark Cuban, billionaire and Shark Tank investor put it:

“I would continually search for new ideas. I would read every book or magazine I could … One good idea would lead to a customer or a solution, and these magazines and books paid for themselves many times over. Some of the ideas I read were good, some not. … Everything I learned was public. Anyone could buy the same books and magazines. The same information was available to anyone who wanted it. Turns out most people didn’t want it.” — Mark Cuban

It’s worth noting that Mark was referring to an earlier time in his life when he was Mark Cuban, a nobody sleeping on a shared apartment floor.

In the past year alone, I’ve read dozens of books. Some of them have literally changed my life. Many others were good and some were forgettable. I’m convinced that as investments go, $10 and a few hours of your time is really easy math.

Now you know why; here’s how

Suppose you agree that reading is a valuable way to grow, but you’re thinking I’m too damn busy to read that much.

Fair enough; I understand, completely. I also respectfully disagree.

I work full-time as a consultant, I’ve got two different side ventures and I also like to spend time with my wife, our kids and our family and friends. (I sleep too because I’m miserable if I don’t.) Chances are, you can make the time too. It’s a well-worn cliche that we all possess the same twenty-for hours in a day, but it’s also true. The key isn’t to do more; it’s to do less of what you don’t actually need to do and invest some of that time into becoming happier instead. And what is reading for, if not to become happier and lead more fulfilling lives?

I know a lot of people who spend hours watching TV, sometimes every single day. Busy people, even successful people with families and dreams, who are watching six different series in parallel. I’m calling out TV, but I just could as easily mention arguing about politics on Facebook, watching the news or whatever. I’m talking about stuff which may feel important or relaxing, but that you wouldn’t actually miss once it was gone.

But even if you’re unwilling to subtract anything from your daily life as is, I’ve got three suggestions for you; ways you can read more without removing anything else.

Read on a Kindle or via the Kindle app on your iPhone or iPad

It has never been easier to read a great book. Some people bemoan the demise of print; I get that. There is something wonderful about the smell and feel of a freshly minted paperback in your hands. Amazon will ship you one in less than forty-eight hours from the comfort of your chair, and you don’t even have to put on pants.

Having said that, e-books and particularly the Kindle has revolutionized my life. I’m an enthusiastic advocate of being able to download absolutely anything I want within seconds and then carry it with me wherever I go. Does it get any simpler than the Kindle app? I already carry my phone with me just about everywhere; you probably do too. Why not read on it as well? Next time you’re standing in line at Chipotle or waiting in a doctor’s office, just skip scrolling through Facebook and knock out half a chapter instead.

Another great thing about Kindle is that you can easily highlight passages, take notes, search for phrases and even share excerpts with others, all from within the app.

Although I read on my iPad and iPhone for months, I eventually decided that I was already tired of staring at an LED monitor for twelve hours a day. My eyes were burning by 5pm and spending another hour on an iPad that night made them burn more. So I broke down and splurged $125 on a Kindle Paperwhite. Its e-ink technology means no more eyestrain; it’s as easy to read in bed at night as it is in full daylight.

Again, some people prefer the tactile feel of a paperback, but I cannot overstate how much I love my Paperwhite. It just makes reading more as simple as possible.

Read while doing other mindless tasks

The key word is “mindless”, something you can do on autopilot like driving a car.

At various times in my career, my daily commute has been an hour or more, each way, not to mention other time spent in the car. Fortunately, Amazon also offers Audible, an easy way to download professionally narrated books to your phone or tablet.

I often ride a stationery bike or walk the track during evenings at the gym; it’s easy to bring my Paperwhite and read.

In each of these cases, I’m simply spending time I already had to spend — driving to work, burning calories — reading as well. Not only does the time pass quickly, but I’m actually learning something valuable too.

If a book doesn’t resonate with you, stop reading it

Sometimes, I buy a book that got rave reviews, even from people I trust. (Have you ever noticed that virtually all books are rated 4-stars or better on Amazon?) I’m forty pages into it and … wow, it sucks. It just isn’t clicking with me. That voice inside my head urges me to finish it, as if I’m back in sophomore English and I’ve been warned that there will be a test.

Fortunately, there will not be a test. Whether the book is objectively awful or it just isn’t doing anything for you, there’s no reason to waste any more time on finishing it. Put it down, already.

Speaking of reading … thanks for reading this post! You just knocked out 1,174 words. I knew you could do this.

Chris Aram

I'm one-half of Webster Park Digital. I'm a devoted family man, avid reader, coffee snob, fajita-eater and professional PlayStation4 dabbler.