I read a fair amount of books. The time commitment is hard for me as I’m not the fastest reader in the world, but I have an insatiable desire to learn new things and there’s nothing like a good book to exercise your mind and expose you to new ideas. Here are a few of the rules I’ve developed to help me figure out what to read and make the most of my time.
1) I don’t read anything that isn’t recommended to me
Amazon has literally millions of books available. I figured out a long time ago that I needed some filter to decide what to read. For me, that filter is my friends and their recommendations. I’m lucky to have a large group of smart people around me whose opinions I trust. There are one or two authors who I will read everything they write regardless, but other than that, I make few exceptions to this rule and so far it has worked out well for me. I always have a steady backlog of books to read. If you have any recommendations, let me know!
2) It’s okay to leave a book unfinished
If a book doesn’t capture my attention within the first chapter or two, I have no problem dropping it. I view my time as my most valuable asset. I’m not going to keep reading something just to say I finished it. I’ve also found that a lot of authors say everything they have to say in the first half of the book and then spend the second half rehashing all the same points as they strive to hit a certain word count. The minute I recognize this is happening, I set the book down and move on to the next one. I don’t leave books unfinished very often, but having a rule around this helps me not feel guilty about it when it does happen.
3) I give away every book I read
Moving sucks. Moving with massive stacks of books sucks worse. I’ve made it a habit to give away every book that I read once I’m done with it. Not only does it make moving easier, it gives me a fun way to share what I’m learning with my friends. I give away about half my books on twitter and the other half I give to specific people that come to mind as I’m reading through them. That said, I’m starting to read more on my iPad so that might put a dent in my book give-aways.
I’m currently reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Dan Heath and I’m enjoying it a lot. This one was recommended to me by Rob Lafave and a lot of the ideas in the book have really resonated with me. While the book is about understanding the mechanics of change, I’ve found a lot of the concepts apply to software design as well. For example, Heath talks a lot about decision paralysis and how we tend to freeze up when we’re given too many choices. One of the tactics we can use to overcome this is to make the decision before we have to make the decision by setting up overarching principles that guide our decision making. It’s fascinating stuff. If you’re looking for a good book, check it out.