Quitting Books Quickly: My Journey from Reluctant Reader to Book Lover
I finished 56 books last year (eight with my eyes, the rest with my ears; more on this below), and as someone who only started reading for fun several years ago, it’s an accomplishment I’m very proud of.
My goal for 2022 was initially 18 books, but after starting the year off strong thanks, in large part, to the incredibly addictive and multitudinous works of Michael Connelly, I thought I would challenge myself and see how many books I could actually finish.
While I don’t plan to spend quite as much time reading every year (I barely watched a single TV show or movie in 2022), as a relatively new “recreational reader”, I want to share some thoughts and insights for those that are looking to read more for fun and/or to support their growth.
Quit books quickly!
The single best piece of advice I’ve ever received regarding reading more is to “quit books quickly!” While this may seem counterintuitive on the surface, you can likely relate to the experience of reading a book you don’t love, only to procrastinate, effectively reading nothing at all. With so many incredible books out there, I’m a believer that if you’re not roped in by ~15% of the way through, to quote Jay Z, “On, on to the next one.” Remember, you can always return back to the book and pick up where you left off.
You may think that audiobooks don’t count as reading, but your brain disagrees.
One of the things that I perpetually catch flack for is that I do most of my reading through audiobooks (interestingly, it seems to primarily come from people who don’t read at all, paper or otherwise). However, as I and many other audiobook readers have been saying for years, the experience of a book read with your eyes versus your ears is incredibly similar.
So similar, in fact, that according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in the Fall of 2019, “The semantic representations evoked by listening versus reading are almost identical. These results suggest that the representation of language semantics is independent of the sensory modality through which the semantic information is received.” In other words, whether the delivery vehicle for the words is a person’s eyes or ears, the impact on the brain is nearly indistinguishable.
Unlike paper books, however, audiobooks have the incredible benefit of being able to be listened to anywhere, dramatically increasing the opportunities for reading.
Here are a couple of caveats and a suggestion:
I suspect that, like “traditional” reading, the more you read audiobooks, the better your comprehension will become
I also suspect that those of us who are “auditory learners” find audiobooks more accessible and easier to focus on than those with different learning styles – I actually have a friend who passed his Bar exam after studying almost exclusively with audio versions of the prep materials!
If you do try audiobooks, I highly recommend you adjust the speed to match the speed your brain prefers. This may sound weird, but if you think about it, you probably read much faster than 1x speed of most audiobooks, and I find that when I’m able to set the speed of the book to one that better matches my headspace and the speed of the reader, I’m better able to deeply engage with the book
Most importantly, don’t let anyone discourage you from listening to audiobooks if that’s the book delivery vehicle that works best for you!
I used to think I didn’t like reading; turns out I just don’t like books.
If audiobooks aren’t your thing, and you also find it difficult to get into physical books, you should explore reading on a Kindle. There are definitely book traditionalists out there who “like the feel and smell” of paper, but for me, paper books are annoying to hold and carry around, and I can never seem to get the right lighting. It wasn’t until I borrowed my Dad’s Kindle to read a book he had that I realized it wasn’t the reading I disliked so much as the inconvenience of books!
It’s important to clarify that Amazon has two very different tablet-esque product lines: Android tablets under the Fire brand and industry-leading e-readers under the Kindle brand. Unlike the screens on your phone, iPad, or computer screen, Kindles utilize e-ink technology, which creates a reading experience more akin to reading a paper book or newspaper than a phone screen.
That said, while the text on a Kindle will look similar to a book, Kindles are able to provide a reading experience books just can’t compete with:
All of the models, except the most basic, offer backlights, which make it possible to read in all levels of brightness from full daylight to a pitch-black room, even with a person sleeping next to you.
In addition to showing page numbers, Kindles can hide that info for a more immersive experience, or they can show you what percentage of the book you’ve read, as well as estimate the time left in the book and in that particular chapter. This is great when trying to decide whether or not to read one more chapter before going to bed.
You can utilize a built-in dictionary, translator, and Wikipedia lookup to search for words, places, expressions, and events you may be unfamiliar with.
If you like to read in the tub or by the pool, most of the models are even waterproof.
Take advantage of your local book museum!
Whether you prefer paper, kindle or audiobooks, don’t forget to take advantage of your local book museum, or as my librarian calls it, “the library”.
While everyone knows you can get paper books from the library and many people know you can get movies and music from the library, far fewer people know that nearly all major libraries also include access to a digital catalog of (Kindle-compatible) e-books and audiobooks.
Similar to borrowing books from your physical library branch, you borrow the items for a set amount of time and you may need to “place a hold” (wait in line) for more in-demand items; however, also similar to the brick-and-mortar library, you’ve already paid for all the books there, whether or not you read them! So, in case you need that final bit of motivation to start reading, remember that every book you don’t read from the library is tax value you’re just leaving on the table.
Reading for fun still contributes to your personal growth!
Finally, I want to challenge the notion that reading business and self-help books is the only way to achieve growth. While you can certainly gain insights from the learnings, experiences, and research of self-help authors and business people, I think it’s important to recognize that there is value to be had from books of all genres.
For example, biographies can provide insight into what makes a successful person tick; the intimate connection formed with characters in a romance novel can give you a frame of reference for your own interpersonal relationships; and epic fantasies can teach you new ways to solve complex problems with lots of moving pieces. Most meaningfully for me, the ability that books have to provide insight into what characters are thinking, not just saying, has had a profound impact on my understanding of myself and others.
All of this is to say, you should feel confident in knowing that you can accelerate your personal and professional growth from any and every book you read!
Ultimately, if you want to read more, it has to be something you enjoy! Create a Goodreads account, ask friends for recommendations, step outside of your comfort zone, find the “book delivery vehicle” that works best for you, and quit books quickly until you find ones you can’t wait to come back to!