Bob’s Reading Hacks

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I read approximately 180 books a year and so I get asked regularly, “how do you read so much?” Here are some of the “hacks” that help me read. I don’t necessarily think it is a virtue to read a lot of books. I do it in part because I just love reading and in part because I get the opportunity to review a number of new books. Sometimes, I defend myself by pointing out that President Theodore Roosevelt read a book a day. I only read one every two days! But the things I suggest here will help you no matter how few or many books you read.

Hack #1. Unless you “read” via audiobooks, pay attention to your eyes! One of the gifts my eye doc gave me because I read a lot is reading glasses. I wear glasses all the time, with progressive lenses. The reading part is small and at the bottom. How nice it is to use the whole lens to read! Our eyes change over time and if you struggle to focus on the text, a trip to the eye doctor is well worth it!

Hack #2. Stow the phone when you really want to read. It’s just too much of a temptation and a quick check of the phone often means 15 minutes of reading time lost to scrolling. Put it in another room where you can’t hear it.

Hack #3. Read demanding material when you are most alert. For me, that’s early morning after I dress and exercise. At the end of the day, I’m just not able to absorb it.

Hack #4. If you are falling asleep when you try to read, go with it. Set an alarm, take a 20 minute power nap, and you’ll come back fresh. I find I read more in 40 minutes than during an hour when I’m struggling to stay awake.

Hack #5. Create a comfortable reading spot (or several). A comfortable, supportive chair, perhaps a side table for a beverage, and good light are essentials. Optional extras: a pet, as long as he/she doesn’t constantly vie for your attention, a comforter in cold weather.

Hack #6. Suit the book to the setting, time of day. I read fiction or lighter material later in the day. Memoirs or short essays make good bathroom reads–anything where the chapters are just a few pages so you are not tempted to take up residency. [There are two kinds of readers in the world–those who read in the bathroom and those grossed out by it and neither understand the other.]

Hack #7. If you read more than one book at a time, only take on one long book at a time. If you are in the middle of several long books at the same time, you can get to feeling bogged down.

Hack #8. Don’t try to multi-task. Don’t read and have the TV on. I do listen to music with lighter reading, but not music with vocals. Actually good books and good music each deserve our full attention.

Hack #9. Step back from time to time. I learned this when painting. Sometimes you get too close to the canvas. Likewise with books. Step back to review the plot or the arguments so you don’t miss the forest for the trees.

Hack #10. Whatever you do, read as you can and not as you can’t. Don’t worry about what others say you should read. Read what interests you and read when you can. It is said that if you can find 15 minutes a day to read, you can read 15 average size books.

Famous reader, Mortimer Adler, commented, “It’s not how many books you get through, it’s how many books get through you.” No matter how few or many books we read, the object is to read well, not fast. Hopefully, these hacks will help.