I love reading.
In fact, my claim to fame is that I was the 1st person in my Grade 2 class to read 100 books. (They may have been picture books but books are books, ok?!) I read so much, especially when I was younger, that my mom often reminds me that I would take out upwards of 10 books at the library and would usually have finished one by the time I got home. The Scholastic Book Fair at school (and if you don’t know what that is — it’s basically a young book lover’s dream) was also my favourite day of the year. For my mom’s wallet? Not so much.
This love for reading continued into adulthood. For many years, I would read as many books as possible jumping into the next book with not even a second to process what I learned in the last one. There really was no rhyme or reason to the books I was choosing to read. More importantly, I wasn’t getting full value out of them.
Are you reading just for reading’s sake?
I was…and I feel confident I’m not alone in this. We’re so caught up in gaining the bragging rights that come with reading a particular amount of books a year, yet it’s likely that we wouldn’t even be able to recall the titles of them, let alone what we learned.
Determined to get more value out of the books I was reading, I eventually built out a strategy to ensure that I was reading the right books, making note of the key takeaways, sharing those insights with others and properly archiving the books I’ve finished:
Honestly, Goodreads is a book lover’s paradise. I’ve always heard of the platform but never really spent the time to use all of its features. Completely free to use, you can set up bookshelves to organize the books you’ve read and the books you want to read. Although I have yet to spend the time adding all the books I’ve read in my lifetime to my bookshelves, I’ve decided to focus on a few key bookshelves:
My Favourite Books — This is pretty self-explanatory. These are the books I absolutely love and will always recommend. Since I get a lot of questions about book recommendations, I’ve tried my best to store all of my favourite reads here so that I can share the link with whoever asks!
2019 Books — Once I’ve finished a book, I add it to this bookshelf so at the end of the year, I’ll know exactly how many books I’ve read. If I really loved it then I also add it to the ‘my favourite books’ bookshelf as well.
Books To Read — Prior to using Goodreads, I would create a note in my phone for every book I had my eye on. Now, I just add everything into Goodreads. They also have a scanning feature that allows you to scan a book in order to add it to your bookshelves. I’ve found this super helpful for when I’m out and about and I come across a book I want to read. I simply pull out my phone, scan the title and it saves right to my ‘books to read’ bookshelf.
Aside from the bookshelves feature, Goodreads is the best place to discover new books to read! You can look through new and upcoming books as well as what’s trending in specific categories. It’s also very helpful to look through the reviews. I don’t know about you but I can’t stand when I spend money on a book to then find out that I really don’t like it. Before buying any book, I go through a ton of reader reviews to get a sense of what the general consensus is. I know that you should really only take these reviews with a grain of salt as everyone has different reading preferences but I find that doing my due diligence has helped me find better books to read.
Sign up for Blinkist
Blinkist is an app that provides key lessons (which they call ‘blinks’) on top non-fiction books in both text and audio. Now, I’m not sure if this can fully replace reading the actual book but I’ve personally found it useful for two things: 1) After I finish reading a non-fiction book, I go through the Blinkist summary as a way to recap the main points and 2) Diving deeper into a book before I buy it to ensure I’ll really like it. However, Blinkist is not free ($14.99 per month) so if adding another line item to your monthly expenses isn’t ideal right now, you can simply try out their free 7 day trial to get a sense of how it works.
Take notes (and then share them online!)
This has been a game changer for me. Yes, it does take me longer to finish a book but having notes that I can refer back to has been extremely helpful. If I end up mentioning the book in conversation, I can quickly pull up my notes (I just use the Notes app on my iPhone) to share some of my key takeaways. Another reason why you should consider taking notes? You can use them to help build up your personal brand. If you struggle with finding content to share online, simply take down your favourite quotes and passages from the books you read and then share it on Linkedin and/or Instagram.
Join a book club
At the start of 2019, I co-hosted a virtual book club meeting for Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming and it was also my first time ever participating in one. Now I understand what all the hype is about! It is so great to dive into deep discussions about a book’s themes, surprising moments and how the book relates to our own lived experiences. Participating in a book club forces you to slow down and really take in the book instead of just jumping into another one. Want to find a book club in your local area? Eventbrite is a great place to start!
Create a book review
Now, the reason why I didn’t just say write a book review is that you can really get creative with what medium you choose! Sure, you can write something up on your own blog and/or a publishing platform like Linkedin or Medium but you could also create a YouTube video, a series of Instagram stories, an IGTV video, a tweet or even post a #bookstagram (a book photo on Instagram!). Taking the time to create a review is another great way to slow down, review the book’s main takeaways and then figure out the best way to share them with the world.
There’s no question that reading books is one of the best ways to invest in your professional development but it’s important to note that if you’re not careful, it can very quickly add up financially. Being able to purchase books is a privilege and that said, there shouldn’t be any guilt if you’re unable to buy new books on a regular basis. If you want to keep up with your reading habit without the financial expense, look into your local library (they also have e-Books and audio books) and if you work full-time for a company, look into your benefits to see if you have access to a professional development budget! Many workplaces these days will allow you to expense books that relate to your role and if you don’t, perhaps it’s something to consider asking for during your next performance review!
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how you choose to access and consume books — whether it’s via a new book, a used book, an e-Book or audio book — what matters most is how you use what you’ve learned.
Originally published at www.dowelldresswell.com on February 20, 2019.