On reading more books


My wife and I got new furniture for our bedroom last year. Instead of a traditional night stand, I got a lovely round table that I envisioned as a home to the stack of books I’m actively reading or planning to read soon.

Unfortunately, my spacious bedside table is running out of space. I keep adding books to the now multiple stacks on my table. I’m adding books a lot faster than I’m reading books. And this has become a bit of a concern. It’s not that I’m adding books too fast, though I probably acquire books a bit recklessly. (My philosophy has always been to just get whatever books I’m interested in. No buyer’s remorse.) The problem, though, is I’m not reading at a satisfactory pace.

Sure, my life is relatively full. Family and work keep me on the go, and it seems like there’s not much time left over to sit quietly and read. But reading should be a priority for me. Books have been central to shaping my life. I know that reading challenging books propels me forward in ways that few other activities do.

My internet addled brain, though, has been trained like yours has for quick bursts of reading pleasure. There is immediate resistance to sticking with any kind of long form reading. And there are plenty of shiny objects on the various screens in my life luring me away with the promise of easy and instant reading gratification.

But, it’s a trap. (Insert Admiral Ackbar voice.) The majority of reading we do on devices—status updates from friends, tweets, superficial news articles—does not challenge or stretch our minds in any meaningful way. It puts you in kickback mode and encourages your brain to be passive rather than active. It’s empty calories for your brain.

I want to be intentional about making books an ongoing priority in my daily schedule.

I need a plan.

Recently, I’ve been reading first thing in the morning when I wake up. Even just thirty minutes of reading before I do anything else allows to me make real progress. I knocked out a short biography of Montaigne this way last month, and I’m almost halfway through Pinker’s hefty Enlightenment Now with most of the reading coming before 6:15 AM on weekdays.

I’ll get some reading done at lunch on a few days each week. And I used a quiet Saturday afternoon recently to make headway on a novel. (I try to keep one non-fiction book and one novel going at all times. Non-fiction in the morning and at lunch. The novel is usually my bedtime and weekend reading.)

The thing is, I get up about the same time in the morning as I always do. But instead of clicking through apps (my RSS feed reader, Tweetbot, and email) and wasting the brief quiet I have each morning, now I’m sitting at our dining room table and immediately opening my book to start reading.

Breakfast for my brain.

Early to rise, early to read. More books, more better. That’s the plan.