How To Read More Books
There are a few reasons why you might want to read more books:
- You’re a college student with a heavy reading list (e.g. a literature major) and feel guilty about relying on the Spark Notes and watching the movie
- You want to master a certain subject, get a promotion, or advice from the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders, entrepreneurs
- You want to broaden your horizons and you think getting more books read will help (it will)
- You want to show off – don’t worry, this blog is a judgement-free zone
How many books do people read?
Most of us know someone who reads a ridiculous number of books in a year. You know the type:
“War and Peace? Oh, I polished that off on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks back.”
But for the average reading mortal, a book or two a month is a pretty healthy number, compared with the general population.
Here are some statistics:
- Over 60% of US adults reported reading at least one book in any format so far this year (2018)
- Data from 2017 study reported a healthy 41% of adults had read 15 books or more during the year
- A global study from 17 countries reported 30% of respondents read every day or almost every day
Wasn’t the world supposed to be on the brink of a global attention-deficit epidemic? Seems like reading, in whatever format, is alive and kicking.
Read more books and be in the 41%
It’s an obvious point, but the easiest way to read more books is to speed up your reading. One of the best ways to do this is to stop subvocalizing as you read. Subvocalizing is when you ‘read’ the words aloud to yourself. Think back to when you started reading this article. Did you read the words aloud in your head…does your tongue move a little as you read? If so, you’re subvocalizing.
People who do this usually read at the same pace as they speak – in other words pretty slowly. In a sense you’re not reading a book, you’re reading a book to yourself. You can train yourself to stop subvocalizing, or, and here’s the easy part, you can listen to a book instead.
With audiobooks, you don’t need to follow words on a page, nor are you able to check back to previous words or sentences. This cuts out subvocalization. Instead, you can listen at a far faster pace (surprisingly fast, but more on that in a minute). Think of it like this: If you’re having a conversation with someone, you never need to say the speaker’s words aloud to yourself, your brain accepts them and sorts them out for you. The same happens when you’re listening to audiobooks.
“War and Peace? Oh, I polished that off on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago…”
How To Read More Books
Speeding up an audiobook helps you listen to the book much faster. The advantage of listening is that you can take in a surprising amount of aural information, even when it’s coming at you at high speed. Try speeding up the narration of your current audiobook to 1.5. After a while increase it again to 2. It will seem fast to begin with, but but you’ll soon adjust; you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to follow along and retain the information, despite the speed. For the brave amongst you, and for fans of The Chipmunks, try going even faster.
Fill in the gaps (of time)
Listening to audiobooks frees you from the limitations of a physical or ebook (you can’t drop soundwaves in the bath.) You can listen to an audiobook practically anywhere. Even though most of us consider ourselves time-poor, there’s a surprising amount of time available if you think hard about it: the daily commute, household chores, calls of nature. All this time presents ‘audio opportunities’ – a chance to listen to an audiobook and get on with your day at the same time. Taking advantage of these little pockets of time will definitely help you read more books.
In his bestselling book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests turning everyday activities into games with “built-in goals, feedback, rules, and challenges”. Encourage yourself to listen to more books by setting reading goals: ‘I’ll listen to book X every day during my commute.” Completed that challenge? Now step it up, “I’ll listen to book Y on my way to work and on the way home.” These personal challenges, and the positive feedback you’ll get from completing them, will make you feel good and increase the number of audiobooks you get through. Keep an eye on your reading habit by using a habit tracker.
Reading challenges are one of the most popular topics on the reading social network Goodreads. Users can set a target for a given year and record and share their progress. A lot of users recommend setting the target fairly low, to make reaching and then exceeding the goal more satisfying, and less intimidating. How many books do you think you’ll read and listen to this year?
Listening = understanding
According to Daniel Willingham, listening to the audio version of a difficult text might help you understand it:
“The written word is not always similar to speech…prosody might be an aid to comprehension. Prosody refers to changes in pacing, pitch, and rhythm in speech.”
He offers an apt example: ‘“I really like your blog” can either be a sincere compliment or a sarcastic put-down. Both look identical on the page, and prosody would communicate the difference in spoken language.” [in this case, I’ll take it as a compliment]
To sum up
- Listening to audiobooks cuts out subvocalization and helps you get through more books
- Speed up the narration of your audiobooks
- Listening to audiobooks gives you the freedom to capitalize on wasted time and can make routine or boring tasks more entertaining and productive
- Set yourself a reading challenge (and stick to it!)
- Reading nonfiction of particularly difficult texts? Listening to the audiobook might help you understand and retain information