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Writing-guided reading

September 13, 2020

There are so many great books to read, but so little time to do it. How to pick a book from a list of hundreds or even thousands of recommended books to read?

I read about a lot of different topics. This leads to reading about things that might or might not be useful in the future.

Reading in this way is like the education we get in school. We learn about concepts and facts that might or might not be useful in the future. It's the abundance principle to learning. "You might need this someday."

But, I've discovered a way to have more direction in my reading, and surprisingly it was by writing. Writing puts me on a quest to do more research about the topic I write about. That's why I'm currently reading about evolution, history, and progress.

So if you want more direction with your reading, you should write about a topic. Yes, this only moves the problem to writing: from not knowing what to read, to not knowing what to write.

Yet, there is an easy solution for finding what to write about. Write about what you think about in the shower or before falling asleep. Write about topics that excite you. If some thought is ricocheting in your mind while you do other tasks, take notes. Put down that thought somewhere and either take action on it or remove it. If you write about topics that excite you, that will lead to reading more about topics that excite you. This is an antidote to reading books only because someone recommended it to you.

So, if someone recommends a book to you, it's very likely a good book. It might not be the best book for you, though, since it's not about things that currently interest you. It's a book that was great for whoever recommended it. They have different interests, goals, and plans than you do, so this might not be the best fit for you. You can find a better book for yourself, for most of the books recommended by others.

Instead of reading because it might be useful in the future, read things that are useful now. Think scarcity instead of abundance.

While life is short, there's an endless amount of books to read. Instead of reading any mildly intriguing book, read what's currently useful. Instead of letting others decide what to read for you, decide what to read yourself. But, don't decide based on your current mood or trends. Decide based on the usefulness of the book for the article you're writing. And it should be about the topic that excites you. Focus on reading about what you can immediately apply to real-life — what you can test in reality.

The best books are the ones that re-ignite your passion for reading — the ones you can't put down.

Currently, "The Rational Optimist" is that kind of book for me. I can't stop reading it, and time flies with it. Most of the books are not that good, and there's nothing wrong with quitting the book after one chapter. By doing that, I'm more careful with my time. I preserve more of it so that I can invest it in a better book. Each book comes with an opportunity cost.

The great way to fight this opportunity cost is by guiding your reading with writing.

Writing will launch you on a quest to do more research about the topic that excites you. Let it act as a filter for your reading, and no book will bore you ever again. And you will find yourself reading a lot more.

I send a newsletter called Regular Reveries every Wednesday. It consists of four sections: this week's article, the best of what I've read in a week, a quote that resonated with me, and a question for you.

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