Stop Feeling Guilty About Having So Many Unread Books
Is your bookshelf teeming with more books than you have time to read? Or do your unread books induce feelings of guilt?
If so, you may be practicing the ancient Japanese art of tsundoku, that is, buying more books than you’ll ever read.
You could curtail your out-of-control shopping habits and put a plan in place to focus on your reading list like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates.
Recognize Reading As A Source Of Learning
There’s nothing wrong with reading a cheap or trashy thriller for pleasure. A good business book, on the other hand, should stand as a source of learning or help you solve a problem.
In an interview with the New York Times, Gates said,
“These days, I also get to visit interesting places, meet with scientists, and watch a lot of lectures online. But reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”
Gates is not alone. When asked about the secret to his success, Warren Buffett told a body of students about to graduate,
“Read 500 pages…every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
But how can you get through 50, never mind 500, pages a day?
Read More Than One Business Book At Once
I like to keep two or three books on the go. This practice enables me to switch from one book to the next without getting bored. Reading multiple books means the ideas from the first book mix in weird ways with the ideas from the second book.
The trick is not to read so many books that you find it difficult to get through them. However, if you read more than one book, you’ll always have something to feel excited about picking up.
Listen To Audiobooks
Audiobooks are a fantastic way to get through more business books from your list. You can listen to them while commuting to work, on the train or working out. After you’re comfortable with the format, increase the playback speed to one-and-a-half or even two times normal playback speed.
I particularly like how Amazon’s Whispersync technology enables me to listen to an audiobook on my phone and resume reading it from a Kindle later on.
Abandon Bad Books
Oprah famously recommended putting a book down after 50 pages if it’s not enjoyable. I’d caveat that recommendation with “if it’s not enjoyable or useful.”
If you struggle with this practice, don’t worry.
Bill Gates has trouble putting down bad books too. Gates told Time magazine he spends more time on books he dislikes because he writes arguments and counterpoints in the margins.
Ask Your Peers For Book Recommendations
In an interview with Time, Gates cited Business Adventures by John Brooks as one of his favorite reads of all time. He said,
“[Business Adventures] is a collection of Brooks’s New Yorker essays about why various companies succeeded or failed. The essay titled “Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox” should win an award for most clever chapter name, and the lessons inside the book are even better. I took inspiration from it while running Microsoft.”
You might not be able to run your purchases past Gates or Buffett before clicking “Buy now” on Amazon, but you can use their public reading lists to inform which business books you pick up next.
Create Your Antilibrary
Lebanese-American investor and author Nassim Taleb believes the books you haven’t read contain more value than the ones you’ve finished.
In Black Swan, he told his readers to beware of reading too many books from a list or personal library without replenishing their shelves with unread titles. He called on us to build a personal antilibrary of unread books.
“The [antilibrary] should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there.
In other words, there’s nothing wrong with tsundoku after all.