NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: The following is a guest post by Alex Tran – the most courageous woman in my life (medium.com/@alexgtran)
This year, I set my goal to read 15 books. I hit the goal after March and ended up with 52 books in total as of the last Sunday of the year 2019. Here’s the story behind it.
I was a real nerd growing up. Ever since I was small, I picked books over toys and dolls. Whenever I had any pocket money and my parents asked me what I wanted to spend them on, I would say “books” without hesitation. I used to read everything available to me, from daily newspapers to mom’s women magazines, love stories, poetry, detective stories and more. The smell of papers made me the happiest girl in the world.
My love for books faded the moment I got to university. I hid myself in libraries reading accounting and finance textbooks to the point that I forgot what it was like to read a real book. My heart stopped racing whenever I saw an interesting looking cover — yea, I’m that kind of person that judges a book by its cover. And slowly, my soul is no longer a garden, but more like a frozen lake in the winter. I was determined to pick up books again once I got out of school.
Before we get deep into this topic — no, I don’t use the popular app that gives you book summaries called Blinklist. But here are the two powerful tools that help me reach 15 books in 2018 and 52 books in 2019. You should use them too.
Let’s start with #1. Goodreads is the only source of book recommendation that I use (other than words of mouth from my friends). It’s also the best way to keep count of the books you’ve read. I started using Goodreads since 2016 but I didn’t really make the most out of it until recently. Goodreads allows me to see what my friends and networks are reading currently, what books are trending in my top categories and it gives me great reviews for my consideration before committing to any book.
Goodreads totally changed my reading habit. Before using 2016, I had no system to read books. I simply go to a bookstore once every few months, check out some highlighted covers, buying one of them, reading a few pages at home and realizing that the book is not really for me. Since I started using Goodreads, I have the habit of saving good books whenever I see them to my ‘To-read shelf’. I currently have 150 books lining up there that I can keep me busy for the next 3 years. Knowing that there is always the next best book motivates me to read faster and read more.
Next, I gotta give a lot of credit to Audible, without it, I could never achieve 50+ books a year (Thank you all of you at Audible and Amazon). When my tiny apartment can no longer store paperback books, I changed to Kindle, but that didn’t help me to read any faster. In 2019, I started using Audible instead. For the past 3 years, I commute 2 hours a day from home to work, and from work to home, and as much as I love reading on the subway, my eyes and brain can’t keep up. Since using Audible, I can now shut my eyes while reading — how incredible is that! I started slowly at 1x speed, which then turns into 1.5x and 2x. Now I’ve got to the point that I can finish a book within 2 days. I hate my commute but I also love it, as I basically have 10 hours of reading every week.
At this point, you might have a few questions, like:
- How can you obtain knowledge by listening too much and too fast?
- How to spend time reading if you don’t commute at all?
To answer the first question, to be honest, it was my real concern when being introduced to Audible. I love highlighting my books and there was no way to do that when listening. Some people obtain knowledge visually by reading much better than by listening. If you are this type of person, audio books might not be for you. But if you can consume content by listening, then you’d be surprise at how easy it is to absorb the content. When your brain turns on the mode for active listening, it only receives content that makes sense that your brain can process. Otherwise, you’d be zoning out right away. If the book does a good job at explaining its concept and storytelling, and you pay attention to listening, you will have no trouble digesting the book.
Sometimes I love a book so much that I read it twice or even three times. I even bought a Kindle or a paperback version of the book so I can keep coming back to certain pages that have the information that I want.
To answer the second question, if you don’t commute, you can still find time to read. Life moves so fast that sometimes we don’t slow down to spend time on what truly matters. People choose scrolling down through Instagram or binge watching Netflix instead of reading, and that’s a lifestyle choice. If you truly want to find time to read, be creative! Play audio books while cooking or eating, driving to grocery stores or on road trips or on the plane— I’ve done that. Set yourself the habit of 30 minutes reading before sleeping every night or 30 minutes after waking up if that is the only free time you can afford. You can also have a reading buddy as well — someone that shares the same book taste with you and willing to listen to you go on and on about your new book.
If there is anything that I remember about 2019, it would be about books. It was truly a year of knowledge discovery and constant learning. Many books I’ve read this year challenge my perspective on the world or help me create better habits, which I will cover in another article. For now, my goal for 2020 is another 50 books, let’s see how far we can go 🙂