Non-secrets for voracious reading
On audiobooks : to me they do not replace physical (or Kindle) books but serve the purpose of cultivating myself while doing other tasks such as driving or washing the dishes. Speaking of that, while listening to the audiobook of "the cancelling of the American mind" yesterday, I heard what I think may well be the first reference to your concept of luxury beliefs in a book 😀.
Podcast are great to get recommendations of good content (books, websites, other podcasts, people, movies...) by people I trust. They are a chain that connect a network of great people. I first heard of Jordan Peterson on Jocko Willink podcast. On Peterson podcast, I listened to Claire Lehman of Quillette. And on Quillette podcast, I discovered you and the luxury belief concept.
If one wants physical books the used books on Amazon are the way to go. Prices are lowest in the summer. Quality descriptions from Goodwill outlets are usually quite accurate, Thriftbooks (city name) not bad either. Often can get a good enough quality copy without much marking or poor binding for 1 to 2 dollars plus 4 dollars shipping, and if it is a book you know you are keeping often a hardback is available for the same price, longer shelf life with better binding.
It is great to hear from a guy who is passionate about reading. It is sad for me to see so few males reading compared to when I grew up (even in the 60s and 70s it was not cool to read a lot). Unlike my siblings I did not enjoy reading. I liked picture books of things (eg. planes) and I was obsessed with maps, but would not read fiction (Beatrix Potter bored me). It was not until I discovered the Hardy Boys at 10 that I fell in love with reading. They had action, adventure, mystery and risk. In today’s society the Hardy Boys would be considered “trad”.
I would recommend to parents of boys, expose them to different types of kids stories to see what they like, and don’t worry how “politically correct” the story might be. You just need to get them i the habit of reading.
Great post Rob. I'm pretty sure I asked you something like this in our meeting at the start of the year. You've reminded me to swap the highlighter for the pen when I read books. Less aesthetic than a highlighter perhaps, but it means I can get those notes in the margins on top of highlighting/underlining!
Also good to mention James Clear. I saw his book Atomic Habits on the charts for a long time and dismissed it as another gimmicky book. But I eventually read it and there's great stuff in there - it really works.
Thank you so much for an in-depth, helpful article on this, Rob! I am inspired. Would you be open to doing a related article on a reading list, maybe of books that stood out to you in the past year? Jordan Peterson's reading list on his site is wonderful. I am grateful for it introducing me to Theodore Dalrymple's books, if nothing else.
I have a friend obsessed with culture war topics who point blank refuses to read any of my commentary on the matters that exercise him so much. He prefers to listen to podcasts and Rumble provocateurs. Needless to say he's alarmingly poorly informed (not just because he doesn't read my stuff). Meanwhile, I'm getting back into physical books and noticing how much more I retain, compared with Kindle consumption.
“You can tell the difference between a smart person who reads and a smart person who doesn’t by how they express ideas, the references they make, and the chains of logic they follow.”
Reminds me of this from Confucius:
[2:15] The Master said: “To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous.”
Such great advice! I used to read so much the library knew me by name and even recommended books to me. I did this thing where I would pick a row and just read the next book in line, no matter what. I read Alan Jackson's (country singer) biography and Samuel Johnson's (dictionary) in the same week. Lol. However, I got a smart phone the next year, and I am ashamed to say I don't read as often any more. I really like the idea of a kale phone. Definitely taking that advice. And, I agree with the audio books. I tried while treadmill walking. There's no way to retain properly. I have a book of quotes from books I've read. New Year's Resolution: Read.
I listen to all my substacks,including yours. I pause when I want to. Same with audiobooks and podcasts, as well as news stories, etc.. I lack for nothing. And it goes faster. I absorb all of it. When I read a physical 📖 I usually fall asleep 😴
Great post Rob. I have found it quite inspirational as I struggle with reading books. I tend to read a lot of articles on my phone and I realise this is not significantly contributing to my understanding on areas of interest. I need to rethink my current approach, which is really only reading before bed. I think I am quite addicted to the immediacy of current opinion pieces in the online magazines I read. I have basically swapped Twitter for this (I got off Twitter a couple of years ago as I didn’t think it was doing me much good). I could be spending this time reading a good book instead. I like the idea of having multiple books on the go as I think I ,rather masochistically, force myself to read books I might not be that into and this likely reduces my rate of reading.
“Take that pillow from your head and put a book in it!”
One of your best posts. People really need to wake up and read lots and lots more books. I’ve been on a tear too.
This is very true about podcasts, with the exception of those that demonstrate techniques -- 'here's how to's. There are a great many things to do which are very easy to show, but very hard to explain in words. If you try to explain in words to a person who has never done it, they will nod their head and then start shaking their head and say 'I just don't get what you are saying'. Then you demonstrate it. 'Aha!' they say -- 'Now I get it!'. Youtube taught me how to get the string-sealed bags of rice open without using scissors this way. I read countless written instructions, never got one to work, and thought -- maybe the person who wrote that had a different design than I do. Nope. It was just me.
Kudos to another helpful post -- well written and needed by readers today who are so subject to bad habits of all sorts taking them (us) away from "old school" readership. Once on a flight with my computer opened to iBooks, a youngish seat mate asked how many books I had in there. When I answered, "about 200," she looked perplexed and seriously asked me if adding so many books made it heavier.
Hopefully I have not missed it, but would be interested in a follow up piece on how you manage your notes/highlights/quotes. Suggested title "I read, now what?".
Do you use some fancy app? A physical system of some sort? Sheer brain power?
I find myself not having issues with the reading part, but have highlights and passages spread between screenshots, photos, and Books (the Apple reader). My thoughts are mostly in some notes app.
On the plus side, all of these are searchable (photos goes through OCR), but I do find myself forgetting things I've read or sometimes re-discovering things I have read through already.
I've been flirting with the idea of putting things in a space repetition app just to help with recall, but I'm also not sure if this is some sort of attempt at intellectual vanity. After all, I don't need to drop a quote in conversation, but I do want to be able to know it exists and where to find it.
Great essay and energized me to continue to develop my reading habit.
I pulled out my Kindle app, got my Oscar Wilde book ready, and made a mental note to open it instead of Twitter next time I'm sitting around waiting for a friend to arrive or something. Thanks!
Apart from the self-evident "references" part, I call BS on this. And "reading books" is not the One True Path to wisdom, enlightenment, etc. They're just books, written by people, some with interesting thoughts (which could usually be expressed in shorter form) and some with little of value to say. They are not magical tablets of wisdom from above.