2015, the year I fell in love with reading (again)

In light of Ryan Hoover’s recent post “2015, the year I fell in love with music”, I decided to write about how I started reading more this year.

The Premise

I used to love reading as a child. Books were your door to learning about the vast knowledge present in the world - and all you needed to do was go to your local library. What happened along the way that made me stop? Maybe it was all those mundane prose fiction novels we were forced to read in high school. Or maybe because it doesn’t seem as appealing as loading up Netflix and binging on a TV show.

A few months ago, I listened to the Tim Ferriss Podcast episode with Naval Ravikant. During the podcast, Naval said something that opened my eyes:

I came up with this hack: I started treating books as throwaway blog posts or tweets, and I felt no obligation to finish any book. If at some point I find the book boring, I just delete it. And just like that books are back into my reading list.

This is fantastic advice for someone looking to incorporate reading back into their daily life. We’re taught from young age that books are meant to be cover by cover, and this thinking completely contradicts that. Why does this work? As humans, we have short attention spans. If we can learn more in a shorter amount of time, even if it sacrifices depth, we prefer it.

Starting Off

I realized that I loved reading and gaining new ideas, so I slowly started working reading into my schedule. In the morning before class, or right before bed (which is also good for you), I always tried to make time to read.

I took book suggestions from everyone between Lebron James to Sam Altman. I started reading books I found interesting, without beating myself up if I didn’t finish (or even start) a book.

To Infinity and Beyond

Realize that this process will take time (it certainly did for me). The best way to starting reading more is to slowly work it into your daily habits — listen to audiobooks on your commute to work (still counts as reading!), while you do chores, and before going to bed.

Here’s a few books I read this year and loved (don’t worry, I wont spoil any of them ;):

  • Zero to One, Peter Thiel

You probably predicted this was going to be on the list. Thiel, successful founder and investor, shares his non-conventional views on starting and operating startups. As he says, entrepreneurs should embrace monopoly and that “competition is for losers". Even if you don’t necessarily agree with his views, his incredible insight and vision is one worth reading about.

  • The Tao of Wu, The RZA

RZA, of the famous Wu-Tang Clan, details his philosophical analyses of his life’s journey to this point. RZA incorporates pieces from kung fu culture, hip hop, and comic books to show how his life has progressed over the years and the wisdom he’s picked up while doing it.

  • Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tzu

Any book that has survived 2000 years has been filtered through a lot of people. Think of it as the historic New York Times best sellers list. As Naval Ravikant says, it’s a pity that we don’t read older books, as there’s a lot of ancient wisdom in them. Lao-Tzu’s book, a short read, forms many simple life principles one should live by. The text is very open-ended, it is open to a lot of interpretation, which leaves the reader to form their own opinions from the text.

  • The Hard Thing about Hard Things, Ben Horowitz

I was fortunate enough to see Ben Horowitz speak in San Francisco last August, and learned a lot of insight he gained while running companies. He describes his journey of learning to manage two $1B+ companies, and going from the bare bottom with no money in the bank to IPO. His no-fluff advice will teach things you only learn when managing hundreds of employees. He even prefaces each chapter with a hip hop lyric that describes the chapter, which is even more awesome.

  • Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, Brad Feld + Jason Mendelson

2015 was also the same year I got more involved in the startup community. Learning about what the hell “deal flow” and “vesting pools” are is essential to your understanding of venture capital, the fuel that runs startups. Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, two seasoned VCs, break down distant venture capital terms, meaning everyone can understand what VCs are talking about.

My goal for next year: branch out from technology-focused books, and read from an even-broader selection of books.

Here’s to reading even more in 2016.

Special thanks to Stefan, Fisher, and Ritwik for reading early revisions of this piece.

Read something awesome recently? I’m @niraj on twitter.