Tai Lopez is one of those business motivational gurus. He’s a cocky, confident guy, and has both a Ferrari and a Lamborghini, but he has some pretty good advice to offer. His USP is his advice to read one book per day.

One book per day??

When they first hear this, everyone thinks he’s either out of his mind or trying to con people. How the heck can I read one book a day? I can barely finish one per month!

I was skeptical, but at the same time I was intrigued. There are always 10 books I want to read for every book I am reading. And when I finish a book it makes me realise how much more there is to learn. Every book represents a ridiculously small breadth of knowledge in any given subject. And none of them are conclusive; the last chapter is always full of open questions and implied further reading.

In my dreams, I see myself as that robot from the movie Short Circuit that can breeze through a book in 6 seconds flat, and then move on to the next one, squawking ‘more input!’.

Here’s his reasoning: the next best thing to having successful people as your personal mentors is reading the books they have written. In modern times we have so much information at our finger tips, that if we are not learning new things every day, we are wasting a precious opportunity. So, he says, we should chew that shit up.

Well I can’t argue with that. One a day though?

I can tell you it’s possible because I have done it. You can read a 300 page book in a day. Yeah, this is not going to be a day in which you are working for 8 hours. It’ll probably be on a weekend, and even then, 300 pages is a hard slog in one sitting. After a session like that, I am no doubt more knowledgeable, but I feel like falling asleep.

It’s do-able, but I don’t recommend it as a way of life. The obvious problem that comes to mind is the question of whether anybody can take in information in that short amount of time. You’re in danger of reading the words but not processing the thought behind them.

Another warning. Humans are addicted to learning new things. When we begin to understand something new, we get a dopamine rush. It’s the ‘that’s fascinating!’ effect. After finishing a book the temptation is to immediately pick up the next one. If you do this you’re at risk of not applying what you have learned. Personally, to make sure 1. I have fully understood what I have read and 2. will actually apply my new knowledge, I try to do some writing on the subject, even if it is just notes, and I commit to doing a life experiment.

I’ve published some of my book ‘notes’ on jamessmith.liberty.me.

For an example of a life experiment, after reading Focus by Daniel Goleman, I deliberately changed my smartphone behaviour. Instead of periodically checking it for texts, I set aside 20 minutes or so of ‘text time’, in which I actually have conversations with my friends. The theory was that I was interrupting my work by replying immediately after getting a text, disrupting my attention and wasting time. The result is that I now spend less of my day staring at my phone.

Despite its drawbacks, trying to achieve reading a book a day has made me realise a few things.

Firstly, you can read a lot faster than you think. After getting some speed-reading tips from the internet I am now confident I can read much faster, whilst retaining the information. Shut off the voice in your head that reads out the text. Read in chunks rather than one word at a time. And if you’re not enjoying the book or not finding the information relevant, just skip it! Nobody is going to yell at you for not finishing a book.

There was some amazing advice on an Amazon review of ‘Speed-reading for dummies’: don’t ever tell anyone you speed read! People who are slow-ass readers will be 100% convinced you will not take it in, no matter what you say. Everyone is a skeptic of speed-reading until they actually try it so I suggest you give it a go yourself.

Secondly, most books probably have 1 to 3 key points in them, and the rest is background, applications, evidence and even just padding. Most books might have been better served as web articles. So you have to learn how to be selective in your reading of any particular volume. Peruse the contents page to ascertain which parts of them will be of any use to you.

I’ve realised that most popular books are faddish, and don’t necessarily provide you with great knowledge. At best you’ll get a few tidbits that make you think ‘huh’. Probably not worth 20 bucks and 6 hours of your time I’m sure you’ll agree.

We should be trying to find books that are comprehensive and pack as much information in them as possible. Right now I’m reading a great textbook called Evolutionary Psychology by David Buss, one of Tai Lopez’s highly recommended, which I believe will give me solid grounding for further reading on the topic. Every page is to-the-point, and nothing but actual facts.

Henry Hazlitt was a fan of what could superficially be called speed-reading, with a few provisos. In Thinking As A Science , he recommends a method of study that involves concentrated reading and rumination on a key text, and then fast supplementary reading in a “hop, skip and a jump” fashion.

In economics, for example, you can start with one or two introductory texts, such as Economics In One Lesson and Essentials of Economics and then study a comprehensive text such as Man, Economy and State or Human Action. Then once you have mastered the basics you can read other texts quickly, depending on your interest. You can diverge into money and credit or economic history, for example.

But you can only speed-read when you are sure you have completely understood the basics of the subject! Don’t think you know something, diving into the literature with no plan of thought. I’ve read books in the past and then totally forgotten what they were all about a few weeks later. Avoid that frustration by taking some time to think through what you’ve read, discuss it with friends, and write about it.

I think I like Hazlitt’s method the most. But he was probably a fast reader too. I mean, look at his Free Man’s Library – that’s like 550 books he recommends just about classical liberalism!

So yeah, you don’t have to read one book a day, but you can probably read faster. I probably read a book in 1 to 3 days. If I’m taking any longer than that, I’m reading Atlas Shrugged or War and Peace (Russians aren’t the type to be brief, apparently). Last year I read just over 50 books. Now it’s only early May and I have read 44 books. At this rate I will have read about 120 books by the end of the year. That’s enough for me. If I read at any greater pace I think I’ll have an information overload.

I’m really not trying to brag here, I’m just telling you that reading doesn’t have to be a chore. Don’t pressure yourself. Commit to reading a bit faster than you usually do, and gradually increase the quantity of books you read a month. Before you know it you’ll be a big nerd, just like me πŸ˜€