How To Read Books (And How To Stop)

It’s what geniuses do. Here’s the guide.

Luke Trayser
Jan 19, 2017 · 3 min read

Are you not a genius? Do you want to be one?

Medium is the place for you, my friend.

The how-to guides are everywhere. Here are a couple insanely popular ones written by people much smarter and more influential than I.

Spoiler: READ MORE BOOKS, KID. That’s how you can become much smarter, and perhaps even a genius.

One key problem: you kind of suck at reading books these days. There are so many entertainment options out there, and devoting hours per day to reading seems like more and more of an impossibility with each new trailer Netflix spits out.

But there’s a way to do it that keeps your ever-shrinking attention span at bay. I now present the how-to guide all the genius tutorials on Medium skip.


A Practical Guide For Big Dummies Who Forgot

  1. Make a big list of books you want to read next. Nonfiction is great. Fiction is great. Read both.
  2. Keep Internet-connected devices away from you. See Step 3.
  3. Read actual books (they smell really good) or use devoted e-readers. If you’re anything like me, your dumb idiot brain often reads a great passage on a phone or tablet and immediately Googles more information on it. Awful move. Guaranteed rabbit hole. So read actual books, or read on devices that can’t Internet real good. Stay focused.
  4. Buy fewer books. Come here. Sit down. Lemme tell you something about public libraries. They just give books to you. For free. I KNOW. I couldn’t believe it either. So instead of instantly buying every book, read it for free first. If you finish it and realize you need it in your life forever, you can buy it. But chances are you’ll learn some good stuff (and follow Step 8), then return the book to the library.* With all the money you save, you can pay off your credit card or college debt faster. Or throw the cash in an index fund and let it sit there for 30 years. Financial responsibility. So sexy.
  5. When you buy books, rough ’em up. They can take it. Place post-its, highlight passages, write in the margins. Make them yours.
  6. Read in silence. If you don’t have a silent spot in your life, find one. Your book requires your full attention.
  7. Sit up. This ain’t bedtime. This is learning time.
  8. Take notes in a cool notebook with a fun pen. How many times has this happened to you? “WOW. What a great passage. Life-changing. I’m totally gonna remember it forever. No need to write it down.” A lot, right? Same here. Practice your penmanship.
  9. Establish the ritual. Maybe it’s 15 minutes per day. Maybe it’s three hours. Maybe it’s at 5 a.m., during lunch, or after the kids go to sleep. Whatever it is, stick to it and create the habit.

*Hopefully this goes without saying, but treat your borrowed books with respect. Don’t stretch the binding, use bookmarks instead of dog-ears, and for crying out loud, don’t write on the pages, you mouth-breathing cave dweller.


Someone (on Medium, I think) fed me delicious food for thought a while back. Reading is potentially life changing and it might make you a genius, but it’s still consumption. And creating something is not possible if you’re consuming.

So use what you’ve consumed in all those books as fuel for the stuff you create. Create a bunch of things that suck, then create a bunch of things that kind of suck. Next, create things that are just fine. Then, create things that are good and create things that are great. Finally, create things that are genius.

You did it. Proud of you, champ.

Words for Life

20% inspirational, 80% not.

Luke Trayser

Written by

ACD and copy guy at Ivor Andrew. Freelance copywriting mercenary. Not my real hair. Get in touch on Twitter or email ltrayser at gmail.

Words for Life

20% inspirational, 80% not.

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