5 min read

#2 - How to read more books

Reading is a superpower. Reading enables time travel. Reading dissolves time and space. Whether it is immersing yourself in the thoughts of a long-deceased Roman emperor, learning about the Tao, or ancient Chinese battle tactics.

Hello. Reading is a superpower. And if you understood the previous words, you already possess this power. Reading enables time travel. Reading dissolves time and space. Whether it is immersing yourself in the thoughts of a long-deceased Roman emperor, learning about the Tao, or ancient Chinese battle tactics. And don't get me started on fiction, which allows you to enter someone else's mind. It's like a super-superpower. Or, like Xzibit would say: we heard you like superpowers, so we put a superpower in your superpower. Even so, people refuse to read. They continue to walk, oblivious to the fact that they can fly. In this week's blog, I will share some tips that will make it easier to start reading (more). Enjoy.

What I have been thinking.

Like everything in life, getting to read more is a process. Reading is a skill that requires patience and effort. That is probably why most people watch TV, TikTok, or Youtube. That was what I did until a couple of years ago. I remember thinking how strange it was that I used to eat books for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when I was young but could barely read 20 pages in one sit in my early adolescence. With this thought in mind, I tried to rebuild my reading habit. And which books do you buy when you want to build a reading habit? You guessed it: non-fiction self-help books. This brilliant strategy reaped the unsurprising result of not finishing a single book. It took me a long time to develop a couple of (obvious) tweaks that changed everything. Let's dive in. The tips are in order of importance.

Read fiction.

The most important tip on the list is to read more fiction books. This is an example of the 80/20 rule: it alone will get you 80% on your way to establishing a reading habit. Don't listen to all the productivity experts that want you to believe that non-fiction is the way to go and fiction is "wasting your time." Sure, I still read (and like) non-fiction books. It is my preferred way to learn about topics I find interesting. And while psychology, economics, and self-help books are fun, they don't stand a chance against interplanetary space travel, dragons, augmented humans, and stories that cover multiple centuries. It's just that simple. Finishing a good fiction book takes me around a week, while the same amount of pages in a non-fiction book will take me way longer.

Furthermore, authors of fiction books tend to infuse their stories with interesting scientific concepts or philosophical ideas. Most of the non-fiction books I read are to understand better the concepts I learned in fiction books. Because reading fiction makes it so much easier to establish the habit of reading (for long uninterrupted periods), you will find it much easier to start reading more non-fiction for extended periods. Reading is no different than other skills: you have to train. Fiction makes training fun and engaging. tl;dr read fiction; it is fun.

Buy an e-reader.

Buying stuff to establish a habit is stupid.

I need an Apple Watch to start working out. I need a Macbook to start programming.

As you might agree, this I need X to start performing Y is ineffective. It is a way our brain tricks us into waiting forever to do something scary, out of our comfort zone. But, that being said, technology can still play a significant role in establishing a new habit. I like my e-reader because it's stupid and smart at the same time. It's smart because it has storage for thousands of books, downloads books wirelessly, automatically syncs across devices, and sends my annotations to Notion.

On the other hand, it's stupid because it's slow, not responsive, and can't play TikTok. This is precisely why I love the device: there are no notifications, bells, or other disruptions. The e-ink screen has more advantages: you can read in direct sunlight, it doesn't fry your brain before bed, and the battery lasts for days (if not weeks). Because it is so light, I take it anywhere with me (which also leads to me reading more). tl;dr buy an e-reader because it is smart to be stupid.

Quit a book if you don't like it.

It took me quite a while to understand that it is OK to stop reading a book if I don't like it. The biggest eye-opener is that if you don't like a book, you will quit it anyway. Better to do it sooner rather than later. Sure, it is important to give a book a chance. I try to read 20% of the book before deciding. Reading is fun, so don't force yourself to struggle through a book. This doesn't mean you only have to read simple books that don't challenge you. Sometimes the book is not what you thought it would be. It's OK to abandon it and choose something else. tl;dr don't be afraid to abandon books you don't like.

Think about what you are reading.

A while after I started reading more often, I found myself unable to find quotes or ideas I knew I read somewhere. Even worse, all the thoughts that entered my mind while reading were long gone, like leaves carried away by the wind. The solution that I applied is to write things down. It just so happens that writing, like reading, is another superpower most people possess. My workflow is to annotate everything interesting (I also do this in fiction books). When I'm finished reading the book, I write a book report. For non-fiction books, this report consists of the most exciting ideas, quotes, and my thoughts on the main topics. For fiction, the report will include a small summary of the story and how the book made me feel. I also go for a long walk when I finish a book, just to let it sink in. tl;dr write a small book report when you complete a book.

Read multiple books at a time.

This sounds like a tip you might expect in a Youtube video:


Don't worry; this tip is not meant to become more productive. The reason I read multiple books at the same time is that sometimes I feel like reading fiction, and other times I like to read something else. This means that I often have two books (one fiction and one non-fiction) that I read simultaneously. tl;dr read a fiction and non-fiction book at the same time.

In summary

This is what works for me. By following these steps, I replaced watching TV with reading. I read on my commute, during breakfast, and in the evening before bed. My e-reader comes with me during long walks, which is a perfect combination. In summary:

• Read more fiction.

• Buy an e-reader.

• Think about what you've read.

• Abandon bad books.

• Read multiple books at the same time.

Maybe my tips will also help you in getting a reading habit going. Let me know what you think. Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter using the button below. Let's move on to the things that I noticed last week.

What I have been doing.

• I finished Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. While I don't think it was as good as the Three Body Problem trilogy, I liked it. I will try out the next book.

• I've been following the DEFI drama after the mixing service Tornado.Cash was put on the US Sanctions list. Multiple DEFI front-ends decided to comply with the sanction list, which begs the question of how decentralized the whole system is, to begin with.

• I have been looking at this tweet that shows how new NVIDIA software can make 3D environments out of photos.

This tweet uses Stable Diffusion to generate images telling our origin story. It would be cool to use AI like this to power Unreal Engine 5. We could make a good ending for Game of Thrones, for instance.

• Ghost (the software I use to publish this newsletter) enabled comments under posts. Please try it out because I'm curious to hear your thoughts.


That is it, folks. I hope you like it. Let me know if you have any tips that I missed. And don't forget to sign up for the newsletter. I write stuff like this every Tuesday.

Last week we had some problems with Gmail users, but that should be solved this week. See you next week.