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Simple Secrets to Reading More

Someone once advised me that, if you want to read more books, you should always carry a book with you.

As bluntly simple as this is, for me, it has been one of the most effective tools for reading more books that I have found. We have more time for reading than we perceive: waiting in a doctor’s office, between meetings, waiting to board a plane at airports, or finding a corner at family holidays. While waiting for something, I can easily choose a book over a phone if I already have a book in my hand. The problem is that we usually spend more time holding a phone than a book.

I love reading. Books, fiction and nonfiction, have been among my most incredible life teachers. I get distilled wisdom from someone through nonfiction to gain a different perspective. Fiction helps deepen my emotions by allowing me to experience the characters intimately. Research suggests that devouring books helps keep the mind sharper for longer while lowering heart rate and feelings of psychological distress. Whoa! What a wonderful bonus!

Interestingly, I read more books in English than books in Korean, although Korean is much easier for me as my native language. Ironically, I first published my book, Whenever You’re Ready, in English, and then translated it into Korean to be officially published in Korea. It is funny to think that one would start this ambitious journey of writing a book in a foreign language first, rather than in their mother tongue. My only explanation is that it doesn’t matter which language one writes in as long as it comes from the heart.

Over the last two decades, I have trained myself to think in English, which has helped me develop a different way of thinking from my primary way of thinking in Korean. Switching between two languages has allowed me to develop my thinking muscles and perspective, improving my shortcomings in critical-thinking skills.

Last week, one of my friends asked if I had any tips on reading more books, as if I had some earth-shattering answers. The truth is that, as much as I love to read, I wish I could do more of it.

However, I have eight tips to share that work for me to keep more books in my life.

1. Read a book about what you are currently interested in. I am surprised at how often people try to read books only because they are from some bestseller lists and have nothing to do with their current interests. Though it can be fun to choose a book based on its popularity, it doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy reading it. Listen to the small voice of your quest and find answers in the books. You will more likely enjoy the process, as it aligns with your curiosity.

2. Read multiple books at once. I always have about four or five books in progress simultaneously. I am not a perfectionist when it comes to books. Start wherever you left off, catch up when you can, and ditch the book if you don’t want to finish or don’t find it interesting anymore. By giving yourself permission to call it quits, you allow more space for books that you will love.

3. Read in different formats. I often listen to audiobooks when I drive. Despite my initial resistance, I now love reading on a Kindle for convenience. The more formats you have, including Kindle and audiobooks, the better chances you will read more.

4. Study the table of contents. For nonfiction, I take my time to study the table of contents and go back to this page as often as necessary to gauge the book’s big picture. The author had a blueprint for thinking about its architecture before she or he wrote the book. The table of contents is the main structure of the book before the decorations of the house (a.k.a. the details of the chapters) have been added. The more you see the big picture, the better your understanding of the main points of the book. Thus, the fun factor!

5. Start small. The fact is that as you are reading my newsletter (which is probably much longer than other emails you usually receive), you are basically reading a short chapter of a book without realizing it. (Thank you for not quitting this newsletter thus far. I hope my newsletter has been valuable to you.) Try reading fun articles or short stories in a magazine. Start 10 minutes a day at a set time. Read a small amount, such as one page or one chapter daily, for several weeks until you establish a good habit.

6. Read dirty. My books are crammed with handwritten notes, lines, and highlights on pages folded on the corners for easy access. For me, a part of the fun of reading nonfiction is discovering something that resonates with me or teaches me. The more actively engaged you are in your reading, the more likely you will be to retain what you read. My steps are typically 1) fold corners at pages that I find interesting on the initial reading, 2) go back to the folded page and make a line with a pen under the more important sentences, 3) highlight words or sentences with colors, and 4) write my reflection as one word or a sentence next to the highlighted section.

This means that I go through the book multiple times with my guide to essential spots with these steps. When I return to the book years later, I look only at the pages on which I made a note or highlighted.

7. Invest in books. I don’t have a budget for books. I splurge on them more than on anything else in life. If I see a book that I want to read, I get it without hesitation. It adds friction to a luxurious trip to a foreign country, but sometimes, it has given me greater satisfaction and more growth. The side effects? More reading. It’s a vicious, positive cycle that I don’t want to get off. Afterward, I donate books to local libraries when I decide not to keep them.

8. Track your books. I have a Notion file in which I give scores for each book I read, a one-sentence review, and the date I started. It is not anything fancy or for sharing with others but purely for the enjoyment I get from keeping these thoughts in one place. Sometimes, just reading the title and my quick summary gives me an instant time-travel machine back to when I read the book, the smell of the place I read it in, or how I felt during the reading experience. Additionally, I keep several screenshots of the best parts of the book in the file.

I hope that some of the above points will inspire you to grab a book and start reading!

I am curious if you have a system for reading books. Do any of my methods resonate with you? What are you currently reading this week? Please share it with me!

Have a wonderful week!


A heavenly spot to take a break from practicing piano this week

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