Don't read more. Read slower.
If you're anything like me, you can't help buying more books. You probably don't even know how many unread books are waiting for you on your shelves and Kindle library.
Also, you surely have a reading habit and every New Year's you set a new reading goal. Your Goodreads account tracks your progress, you enroll in Reading Challenges and nothing excites you more than the possibility of reaching such a goal. 100 books in the year? Sure! Why not!?
I've not only been guilty of all of those things, it has been my life in recent years. Being able to say (even to yourself) that you read 30, 50 or 100 books in a year is a powerful feeling for many.
However, the obvious question here is: how much of what you have read this year do you actually remember? How much has stayed with you? Could you say 5 interesting things about each of those books?
Unless you are a genius with super powerful memory, you probably don't remember what you read last month, let alone last year. I have decided to stop this situation, because in the end, what good is it to read a whole library but retain a tiny fraction of it? The solution to this problem is actually very simple, but requires an extra effort when reading: note-taking.
I used to think that highlighting a physical or digital book or even writing some comments on the margins of pages would be enough for me to recall all the best parts of books. Turns out it is not enough, because all of my highlights and comments live in the books themselves, which are somewhere in some shelf or in some deep corner of my Kindle.
The solution, as I said, is note-taking. Something I have been doing for many years for other things, except for the books I was reading. The speed of reading was taking priority over the depth of the reading. I flipped the priorities now, and the approach looks like this:
- Have a way to capture ideas while reading. This could be the highlight + note feature of the Kindle or the notes app on my phone. I'm a pen & paper kind of person too, so an actual notebook is useful too. The key here is not to capture quotes from the book. Aim to capture your impression of the quote. Ask yourself: What does this mean to me? How does this relate to other things I'm reading or thinking about?
- Have a centralized space for all of your notes. Do not let the notes live inside the books, transfer them to an app like Evernote, Google Keep or Notion so that you can start building a data base not only of the books you read but also of your thoughts on the book. This is a million times more useful and productive than speed reading through the year forgetting most of it by the end.
Of course, doing this means you will read less books during the year, and your Goodreads challenges will not look as impressive. But, that's OK. I have come to realize that reading is not a speed contest, but rather a way to create depth in our minds and connect the ideas therein.