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Many of us buy lots of books that go unread and causes us guilt, but that’s a habit that many successful people have they believe they are better off for it.
For those who actually put in the time to read and learn how to learn, a pile of unread books may actually be a sign of intelligence rather than the lack of it.
“I maybe start half the books I get, and I probably finish a third of the books I start. And that works out to finishing 1–2 books per week.”
It costs you money and time, but it may pay for itself by changing your life for the better. It’s an experiment. And the more “smart” experiments you perform, the more likely you are to find a breakthrough experiment that changes everything.
Inherent in being a good experimenter is being OK with the losses. Therefore, remember that every time you purchase a book that turns out to be a dud, you are just one step closer to a book that will change your life.
The free metadata that books generate (i.e., author interviews, author presentations, book summaries, reviews, quotes, first and last chapters, etc.) is a condensed version of the book, like a fractal, and often just as valuable as the book itself.
This allows you to try more books before you buy them and know where in the books is the most relevant information. Therefore, each book buying “experiment” has better odds of succeeding.
Intellectual humility gives us a more realistic conception of ourselves and our place in the world, helping us conduct our lives more effectively and harmoniously.
Successfully navigating day-to-day experience mostly requires what we already know, that makes us believe we know more than we actually do, that we have life figured out. Having lots of unread books is a reminder that this isn't true. Plus, unread books are more valuable than read ones and serve as a research tool.
To make better use of your time, drop your current book if you find one that’s better, but be careful not to abandon it for one with a catchy title. Fractal Reading will help you discern when it’s time to change books.
“At every moment, you should be reading the best book you know of in the world [for you]. But as soon as you discover something that seems more interesting or more important, you should absolutely discard your current book … because any other algorithm necessarily results in your reading ‘worse’ stuff over time.”
Strategically placed books can affect us consciously and unconsciously. They create a kind of idea space for you that makes productive collisions more likely to happen.
You buy books because there is potentially important information in them, but you leave them unread because some key drive is missing, like information, time or need. When you remind yourself you own an unread book you keep open the possibility to read it when you stumble upon the missing drive.
Skipping a whole page, reading in 5-minute spurts or skimming to find the most interesting parts and then go deep and slow on those.
Reading books this way can be powerful on a few levels:
Smart readers have a consistent learning ritual. They also learn how to learn, maximizing the value extracted from reading, and take action until they get the result they’re looking for.
Whereas book hoarders judge themselves by the number of books they own, smart readers judge themselves by what they get out of them.
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