Learn an Entirely Different Way of Reading Books (That Doubles the Number You Read)

Tim Denning

This is how you can learn more from books. And stop wasting time trying to find books worth your precious time.

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The “Naval Ravikant effect” can easily bleed into many areas of your life.

Naval is known for dropping wisdom bombs on Twitter. His truths were even published in a best-selling book with 6000+ positive reviews. Naval isn’t a genius, though — he’s the master of simplicity.

He can take a 300-page thought and unleash it in a single sentence. He applied this formula to reading. This is Naval’s approach to reading that I adopted. It doubled the number of books I read.

The most radical reading strategy

School ruined my life. All my English teachers jackhammered into my head that a book you start reading has to be completed. Naval completely changed my thinking.

It’s okay *not* to finish a book.

Wow. I’ve been practicing defective reading for decades. Treat a book like a series of blog posts. Read the ones that interest you and skip the rest. If you read one blog post from the book then you’ve done well. Books don’t owe you anything. One gem is better than no gem.

Don’t make reading a book a prison sentence.

Become a legendary skimmer

Naval is ruthless. He does the following:

  1. Skim through the book for interesting ideas.
  2. Skip boring chapters.
  3. Read only what is needed.

You wouldn’t let a drunk sleep on your couch every night and occupy all of your free time. No, you’d kick them out of your house if they proved to be evil. The same is true with books. Banish them from your bedroom or Kindle if they’re not serving your goals.

Start the book in the middle. Read the last chapter first.

The beginning of a lot of books is procrastination for the main event. Naval often starts reading books in different places. This unconventional approach helps him find a thread.

Once he has found a thread then he has a reason to keep searching for paragraph nuggets in the book. I followed Naval’s approach. I started reading final chapters first. I wanted to understand where the book ended up before deciding if I wanted to take the journey.

A book is like a teleportation device that takes you through time. You can land anywhere on the timeline of a book you like by simply flicking pages.

Buy the physical copy if you love it

I read books on Kindle. Bookshelves take up space and a minimalist brain like mine can’t handle book clutter. I’m changing. Why?

You want a good book in your line of sight. When you own a paperback book you love, you can place it in your physical space. The book becomes a reminder of the ideas you learned from it. The book is a reading prompt, tempting you to open her pages again and take another peek.

Books have an eerie way of finding you at the right time when they’re in your presence. Let the bizarre phenomenon happen to you.

Zoomified culture

Our culture is now Zoomified. Meetings and conversations happen more frequently via apps like Zoom. That means your Zoom background can become someone else’s inspiration when you place a bookshelf behind you full of books you love. Zoom backgrounds can also be a conversation starter when chatting to a new person for the first time.

Todd Brison is a great writer. I was on a call with him recently and noticed his Zoom background. The guy has amazing books behind him in every direction. The books behind him add to his character.

Lifehack: Make your favorite books your Zoom background.

Treat books like dating

At any given time I’m reading somewhere between ten and twenty books.
Naval

In my single days I used Tinder. I obviously didn’t date one person at a time in the beginning. Nope. I went on lots of coffee dates to qualify candidates. Books are the same.

Date multiple books at a time.

Unlike dating, you can honestly cheat on a book too and sleep with another one. One by one is too slow. Speed date books to find the ones you’re attracted to, faster, that you want to spend more alone time with.

Books put you in the top .00001%

“The reality is I don’t actually read that much compared to what people think. I probably read one to two hours a day. That puts me in the top .00001%.
I think that alone accounts for any material success that I’ve had in my life and any intelligence that I might have.”
Naval

I blame reading too for teaching me how to write.

I couldn’t write to save my life. The first real books I read outside of school were finance books from the likes of Peter Lynch, such as “One Up On Wall Street.” The investing advice was impossible for my grade five mathematics brain (that bizarrely got me many jobs in finance) to understand. Not many people read every day. Why? They believe they are too busy.

To be smarter than the average person you can simply read each day.

Develop a reading habit like this

You already know the power of tiny habits. I won’t bore you. This is how to develop a reading habit.

  • Read for a minuscule amount of time per day to start, like five minutes.
  • Repeat the reading habit for a week.
  • Up your reading time to ten minutes.
  • Repeat for another week.
  • Keep increasing your reading time slightly each week.
  • You’ll soon be reading multiple hours per day like it’s nothing.

To outperform in your reading habit, choose the book that most excites you to read at any given time.

Read the same books repeatedly like a groundhog

Wait, what? This looks like a mistake. It’s not.

If you’ve seen the movie Groundhog Day from the 90s, you’ll know that the main character played by Bill Murray lives the same day over and over. He gets used to it and learns a variety of lessons along the way, even though every day is the same. When the world looks the same every day he has to learn to see and hear different things so he doesn’t give up.

I’ve read “Think and Grow Rich” many times like a groundhog. Each time I read it, I learn a new insight. Why?

The same books speak to you differently at various moments in your life.

When I read Think and Grow Rich after I left a business I loved behind, it inspired me. When I read it after a bad breakup, it made me cry. When I read it at the high point of my career, it made me see everything I was taking for granted and all the people I was punishing with my ego. When I read it after a family member died, “growth” started to have a different meaning beyond success. This is the superpower of reading the same books over and over.

If a book is good, why not read it again to have it alter your life once more?

I would rather read the best 100 books over and over again until I absorb them rather than read all the books — Naval

Stop seeing a book as an expense

A book can either be an expense or an investment. Naval has taught me to see books as an investment. Books help you learn how to learn, giving you a meta-skill. A meta-skill can make you far more money than the measly dollars you spend on Amazon to acquire a book.

If you want to make more money, try reading more books.

The first chapter is a knockout (by design)

This is the secret of book publishing. The publishing industry has taught writers to make their strongest idea the first chapter. Why?

Money.

Book publishers know readers have the attention span of a drunk goldfish, thanks to blog posts and tweets. So, they instruct writers to grab a reader’s attention by luring them right at the start of the book with their best idea.

Once I learned this publishing hack I instantly saw it to be true a lot of the time. If I wanted to learn the best part of what a book offered, I simply read the first chapter to unlock the majority of the book’s sale price. Boom.

Read the first chapter to get the best idea.

It’s not all Harry Potter wands and hours of wisdom — the bad news about reading

There is a problem with reading. You can get trapped reading a book. You can feel obligated to finish the book even though know it’s bad for you. As you do your willpower depletes like a leaky bucket. What happens next? You give up reading altogether.

One bad book can kill your reading motivation and accidentally destroy your gorgeous reading habit.

Naval’s solution: Quit bad books. Pretend you’ll come back to them even though you know you won’t. That tiny lie can save your reading life.

Think of reading like this to permanently change how you read

On his podcast, Tim Ferriss spoke about the length of his life in relation to how many books he can roughly read before he dies. He cited the work of one of the most popular writers on the internet, Tim Urban.

He worked out he may only read another 300 books before he dies.

You don’t get to read many books in your lifetime. Make them count.

Takeaways

  • It’s okay *not* to finish a book.
  • Date multiple books at a time.
  • To be smarter than the average person you can simply read each day.
  • If you want to make more money, try reading more books.
  • If a book is good, why not read it again to have it alter your life once more?
  • Read the first chapter to get the best idea.
  • Measure the length of your life in the number of books you have left to read.
  • Start a lot of books. But only finish the good ones.

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Aussie Blogger with 100M+ views — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship www.timdenning.com

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