Why You Shouldn't Read a Book a Day
Reading a book a day has become the new standard. And nowadays YouTube is full of people like Tai Lopez.
And it’s impossible not to ask ourselves how the hell did these people find the time to read all these books. Don’t they have friends to meet up with, fish to feed, plants to water?
They made us believe if we read enough books, if we have enough knowledge (with Tai’s voice), a Ferrari will magically appear in our garage. I’m still waiting for mine (cricket sounds, me reading different books, and me looking around).
It’s a shame this type of advice is circulating around the internet but, in the end, I believe crappy advice is an inevitable part of the personal development ecosystem. What’s more insidious, in my opinion, is the philosophy behind them – knowledge materialism.
Materialism is defined as “a modern obsession to accumulate and pursue material possessions and physical comfort”.
People spend days waiting in Line at Apple Stores to buy the newest iPhone, although they have the previous one in their pockets and Black Friday Shopping is now considered a family tradition.
But this dynamic is not merely present here. In 1970, Chogyam Trungpa published a book called “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism”, which directly attacks this same dynamic but in a spiritual context. Spiritual seekers jump off one teacher to the next one, impatiently waiting for that big spiritual revelation – which usually never ends up happening.
If materialism, or this obsession with accumulating is subtle enough to infiltrate even spiritual pursuits, knowledge is definitely a usual suspect.
I call Knowledge Materialism to this fixation with reading an increasingly number of books, taking an increasingly number of courses and forgetting why we are learning in the first place – which is to transform ourselves and our worldview. We deeply confused the mean for the end, and we are paying a high price for it.
Distinct from this profound issu, there are some practical reasons why you shouldn’t read a book a day – here they are:
- Issue #1: If it’s worth reading in a day, it’s probably not worth reading at all or “Not every book is creating equal”
There are non-fiction books that literally changed the way we collectively see the world, while there are some books that should have never ever, ever been written.
In personal development, the books we choose matter a lot. Just like the phrase “You are what you eat”, “you are what you read” might be even more valid. What we read defines how we see each other, the world, and most importantly, ourselves.
That’s why we need to start making the distinction between mediocre or good enough books and high-quality books. Proponents of the “read a book a day” idea say that books only have one or two gems in there. But if that’s true, why don’t I look for a summary in Google.
Apps like Blinkist, for example, lets you read the key lessons from more than 2000 nonfiction books in 15 min – why would I need to buy 365 books if I an app can scan them for me?
On the contrary, high quality books are impossible to be read in a day. Every sentence, every page, and every chapter contain a life-changing idea. I’m talking about that kind of book that keeps you thinking for days on end, those ones you don’t want to miss a page because each sentence builds on the previous one. I’m referring to that book that when you think back, you cannot even imagine where your life could be if you haven’t read it. This lead us to…
- Issue #2: Change takes time or “Rome wasn’t built in a day”
In my opinion, it’s just staggering how profound and mind-blowing a really good book can be. Fair enough, they are difficult to find and some trial and error might happen before encountering one but when you do… OMG, you are in for a treat.
But what’s more impressive is this belief that you can read these type of books in a day and go on to the next one – almost like nothing happened. It’s almost like meeting your dream girl, going for a date, come home and start using Tinder again.
Just as we take our time with a good meal, we should take our time with inspiring books. We should read them, re-read them, think about what we just read, how it might apply to our lives, how it will change the way we think about the world and the implications it has, for us and for everybody else!
Instead of devouring them, a better way to proceed might be to enjoy them and let the book do its job, to change us. But as we all probably know, change takes time. It’s definitely easier for us to just read the next one since it’s a brand-new day but we must not forget the real reason we read books in the first place.
We’ve pointed out some flaws on this new reading paradigm – or knowledge materialism.
Now, what would reading a book with the correct intent look like? There’s no definitive answer since every person’s way of learning is different. But here are some tips I found useful:
How To Read A Book The Right Way
Tip #1: See books as life manuals
There’s almost nothing that bothers me as much as lending books. And it’s not because I’m greedy, it’s because I know I will need them in the future. When we view books as life manuals and not as novels, we don’t read them just once – we read them often.
Each time I have a fight with a friend or some member of my family, I quickly read my summary of “Crucial Conversations”. I keep coming back to my business books to build Inerize business plan. When I sit down and write the script for my videos, I revisit “On Writing Well”.
Books are literally advisors. When we read one, the author is giving us his or her advice, as if in real time. Let’s not underestimate the power of that! Keep books handy – you never know when we might need them.
Tip #2: Set minutes and not pages per day
A few years ago I remembered I had the goal of reading a book a week. Since I wasn’t really reading on Saturdays, I had 6 days to read a whole book – sounds good, right? It doesn’t work.
The problem appeared when I had to read books like A Brief History of Everything from Ken Wilber, with more than 600 pages. Supposedly, I had to read 100 pages a day but after page 50, I was almost having a seizure.
Reading is not about going through pages with the objective of fulfilling a certain goal – in this case, number of pages. We read to think about what the author is trying to communicate and doing the exercises if there are any.
If instead of setting pages per day, we set minutes per day dedicated to just reading, it will enable us to take our time, to absorb what we read, to do the exercises and to contemplate what’s in front of us.
Remember, it’s not about how many books or pages we read, it’s about learning, improving and transforming.
Tip #3: How is this book going to change my behavior or my worldview?
As we previously touched upon, the true reason we read books is to change, to transform, to improve, or to make our worldview a little more accurate, a little more healthy.
But as we probably know from years of experience, change doesn’t come naturally – it’s hard work. I struggle every day to make these videos, to work in my writing, to go to the gym, to eat healthy, and much more. Sometimes I succeed, but most often I don’t.
But this change I’m working on is not possible without a conscious effort on my part. Each time I read a book or advice, I asked myself how THIS is going to change my behavior or my way of thinking.
It was easy for me to read that cold showers are good for my body, it’s really hard to wake up in the mornings, and do it.
If a book you read didn’t changed how you think, feel or act, it didn’t fulfill its purpose – and without your conscious attention, that’s going to happen. That’s why it’s important to ask ourselves: how is what I’m reading going to change me? What am I going to do differently?
Tip #4 Reading a book is only the beginning
It might prove quite challenging to read and finish a good book, but once I am finished, I feel okay with myself. Proudly, I stack my book in bookshelf and start a new one. Haha, if I only knew that was just the beginning…
The truth is that the easy part of all of this process is to read and finish the book – the hard part is actually implementing and actualizing what the book is trying to communicate. I can read thousands of books about following my passion but if I don’t have the balls to discover and purse it, the book was completely useless.
Once we understand that reading a book is just the beginning, is the moment we will see actual results from them.
Books are meant to help us step outside our current worldview, way of life and cultural narrative. They are capable of expanding our capacity to think, act and feel. I personally know that my life would be completely different from what it is now if I haven’t read the books I’ve read, and that’s a miracle.
The moment we forget this and use books as person trophies to stack in our library, is the moment we stop using them and let them use us – and that’s unacceptable and disrespectful to the author’s effort to change our lives, or even the world.
Respect the book, respect the authors, and let books change you.
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