Speed reading sucks, try deep reading instead

We live in the age of more:

More money, more information, more fun, more calories, more sex, more friends, more whatever.

Unfortunately, more isn’t always better.

Some time ago, an algorithm on the internet discovered that I am an avid reader and started to enrich my browsing experience with ads for the app Blinkist.

The main goal of Blinkist is to provide short summaries of non-fiction books by condensing them into approximately 15-minute reads.

Its marketing message goes like this: “CEOs read more than 50 books per year. And so should you.”

In my opinion, this advertisement sums up everything that is wrong in our modern society.

To quote Nassim Taleb:

“If a book can be summarized, it’s not a book but a magazine article; don’t read it and don’t read its summary.”

I guess our modern relationship with Information is similar to our relationship with food. Petrarch recognized that already a long time ago when he said “like our stomachs, our minds are hurt more often by overeating than by hunger”

James Clear put it even more bluntly

“A body filled with junk food struggles to move well. A mind filled with junk thoughts struggles to think well.”

You cannot digest ideas well when you read too many books. If you read, without digesting, you are not behaving like a CEO but like a bulimic.

Remember: In our time information has moved from a position of scarcity to abundance.

But more information doesn’t mean that you will be better informed. In the contrast, more information means more noise.

Many people confuse noise with the signal, thinking they are getting educated, although they actually only getting superficial and often misleading knowledge.

We need to remember that not everything that counts can be measured, and not everything that can be measured, counts. Reading is a great habit. But it is difficult – if not impossible — to measure the benefit you receive from reading a particular book.

Deep Reading instead of Speed Reading

Instead of trying to accelerate your reading speed, try deep reading instead.

To quote Nassim Taleb again: “To get more done, focus on doing less. When you read, read slowly and deliberately. Take your time and absorb what the author wants to communicate.”

Rereading books sometimes feels like a waste of time. But the hallmark of a good book is its rereadability.

I am often surprised, how different a book feels when I am reading it for the second time. Great books tend to give you more insights, knowledge, and wisdom, the more thoroughly you digest them. They are an inexhaustible source of knowledge and inspiration

Summary

There is a saying, that you just need to make five good investment decisions in your lifetime in order to get rich. Something similar is true for books: You just need to read perhaps five great books to learn the most important lessons for your life.

Most likely, you will still need to read much more than five books to find those five pieces. But at least remember that reading is not about quantity but quality.

Don’t read a book that can be summarized on a few pages.

Rather reread your favorite books because they still contain a lot of hidden value for you.