Business books tend to be seen as dry and wordy, a chore to get through.
If you’re reading this, you probably know the value of business books and blogs, the challenge is finding material that’s worth your time. Here are a few things that I’ve found useful:
Make the most of your autopilot time
At the end of a big day, picking up a nonfiction book isn’t everyone’s idea of fun.
Reading competes for your relaxation time, which could be used on TV, social media, YouTube, seeing friends, walking your dog, eating out, etc.
The book won’t win that fight.
Instead, sneak reading into the times you’ve already committed to other things. For me, this is my commute, I listen to audiobooks on the tram and while I walk. That’s about 90 minutes a day, which adds up to a lot of hours over the weeks and months. I also go for a walk at lunch, more time to listen to a good book.
If you’re sitting on a train or bus, an eReader may work, allowing you to carry thousands of books at a time.
You know what you like. Don’t let other people insist that you read books that are in formats that bore you, zoning out and skimming pages achieves nothing. The best book is one that you actually read.
Follow your curiosity
The next book you read should be the one that interests you right now, because that way you’ll finish it this week. Be spontaneous, be willing to be surprised by what grabs you.
Try a bit of everything
Your job as an entrepreneur, investor or student is to know the basics of each element of business life. Are you looking for an introduction, or a masterclass? These are different types of book, and if you pick the wrong one, you’ll zone out.
If you get through a book on capital raising, but don’t want to read another, that’s ok. Now try one on managing change, or service design, or Richard Branson.
Go for authors who tell good stories
If you want a good book on marketing, read Seth Godin. For team culture, read Patrick Lencioni. For startups, read Brad Feld or Ben Horowitz or Guy Kawasaki. For pitching, read Oren Klaff.
Because they all tell good stories, combinations of personal accounts and case studies, all in plain English.
Don’t go for lengthy, theoretical textbooks, or ones published by the big consulting firms. Go for ones by people who work in the trenches, and have actually participated in the work they’re writing about.
Collective wisdom is pretty good
If you hear several sources suggest a book, read it. The wisdom of crowds is usually close to the mark, even if it’s a subject you ordinarily wouldn’t have cared about.
Remember, you’re allowed to disagree with the book, at least you now have a valid, informed opinion on the subject.
Half is enough
If you’ve made it through half of a book, and aren’t enjoying what you’re reading, bail. Skip ahead to any chapters you might like, and if they don’t grab you, you’re done. There are no prizes for finishing books that bore you, spend your time on something that intrigues you.
The toothbrush test
How do I know a book is excellent? I keep reading it while I brush my teeth. If a book is so good that I read it even when inconvenient, I know it’s a winner. This happened with about 5 books last year, which made up most of my various reading recommendations. The trick is identifying what made the book so compelling to you, which helps you find more good books in the future.
Fill the gaps
Pick an attribute or skill you want to grow.
Want to be a better leader? Improve your public speaking? Understand the stock market? Read a balance sheet? Build a website?
Choose a book which will directly strengthen a weakness. Over the course of a year, you’ll drastically increase the value of your contributions at work.
Explore a specialization
If you loved a book more than you thought you would, read another one that builds on it. After 4-5 books, you begin to evaluate it as a specialization. Great! Add in some real-world work and experiments, and you’re on your way to being an expert.
Remember, the most important thing is not stop reading. Do whatever weird routine that works for you if it keeps up your momentum, and fuels a love of learning.