No matter how much you read, it's worthless if you're reading the wrong stuff.
In this final chapter, I'll discuss the strategies and techniques for choosing your reading list. I’ll also give practical guides for finding great books you’ll enjoy.
If you don’t know where to begin, start with one of the reading lists I recommend.
And finally, keep the momentum going with tools to find books you’ll love.
This is what to read.
Steal This Reading List
Want to read a book a week, but running short on time? You're in luck.
Grab this curated list of 52 books for free. Each title is a masterpiece written by an acclaimed author (Woolf, Steinbeck, Orwell, Austen and Dickens all make the list).
The best part? You can read every book in just one week—even if you only have 12 minutes per day.Give Me the Reading List!
Table of Contents
Chapter 1Rock-Solid Strategies to Read More Books
Chapter 2How to Craft Insanely Effective Reading Goals
Chapter 3Discover What to Read With 5 Little-Known Tactics
1. View your reading list as a funnel, not a tunnel
When most people think of reading books, they imagine a serial process. They start reading a book, finish it, and start another one.
I call this one-at-a-time method the tunnel model.
In marketing, a funnel describes the process of building customers. A large number of people hear of you, some of them are interested, and some of them buy the product.
If you apply the funnel model to reading, you'll start a lot of books, grow interested in some, and finish a few of those.
Viewing your reading as a funnel offers three advantages:
1 You’ll never get stuck
Have you ever stalled because you got bored with the book? The funnel model gives you the freedom to stop reading a book and turn to something new.
It might feel weird at first, but shedding uninteresting books brings a lot of freedom.
On a few titles, you'll return with renewed interest.
I use this strategy at the end of the year and finish up any half-read books I'm interested in. It’s a quick way to rack up a number of titles in a weekend or two.
2 You’ll expand your tastes
Chances are, your reading list has the same kinds of titles over and over again, all preaching the same lessons and telling the same types of stories.
It’s just not exciting anymore.
The funnel model encourages you to spice up your reading list with unique titles that grab your attention.
3 You’ll get better at choosing books
If you view reading as a tunnel, it’s hard to recognize which titles are hits and which aren't. The larger sample size in the funnel model forces you to notice patterns.
True, you’ll finish a lower percentage of the books you start. But because it demands variety and lets you refine your tastes as you read, the funnel model actually ensures you’ll read more overall.
2. How to add variety to your reading list
The same is true with books, too. A reading list full of marketing books or psychological thrillers is like having a stale jar full of all brown M&Ms.
This is how to mix things up.
1 Don't be afraid of small books
I used to teach elementary school. When it came time for reading, my first graders would often find the shortest book possible. Their favorite loophole: if it's on the bookshelf, it counts for reading time.
Even if the book clearly says “200 connect-the-dot puzzles.”
Or is only one page long.
Or is actually a rock.
While I don’t recommend the back panel of a rocks and minerals science kit, you can add variety immediately by adding small books. Since they're often overlooked, short reads must be original or compelling to stand out.
2 Go to the library before closing
This is a little extreme, but it works.
Show up late to the library, go to a shelf you don't usual visit, and find 2-3 interesting books before closing.
I always find fascinating, unexpected books this way. Once, I picked up Hallelujah! The Welcome Table, an autobiographical cookbook by Maya Angelou.
Let me repeat: an autobiographical cookbook. It was fabulous.
3 Read a book from every genre
To really expand your reading tastes, read a book from every genre. For each genre, find a well-reviewed sample title and see if you like it.
Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of writing genres to get you started.
3. How to find books you're guaranteed to love
Sometimes, you want to intersperse your list with books you're guaranteed to like. I prefer two strategies for this.
1 Get suggestions from friends
My top strategy is also the simplest—get recommendations from people you trust.
- Bring it up in conversation. Ask a friend if they've read any good books lately. If they recommend something, record it on your reading list. When you finish the book, let them know. People like suggesting books to friends who take their recommendations seriously.
- Ask on social media. Just post on Facebook asking for suggestions. You'll be surprised how many good books your friends have read.
- Look at their Goodreads account. If you use Goodreads, you can follow friends and track the books they're reading. Whether you inform them of your stalking is up to you.
2 Watch more movies
A lot of people recommend that you should read instead of watching movies, but I respectfully disagree.
If you do it right, watching movies will give you the motivation to read more books. Before you invest 10 hours in reading a book, you can find out if you’ll like the content in 2 hours.
(Caveat: If there’s a book you already want to read, don’t watch the movie. It’ll spoil it.)
But not all movies are created equally. If the film is just a retelling of the book, the book has lost its excitement. The further the movie plot diverges, however, the more eager you’ll be to see what new surprises the book has in store.
Check out these resources for ideas:
Wikipedia’s comprehensive list of nonfiction book-to-movie adaptations
Wikipedia’s comprehensive list of fiction book-to-movie adaptations
Wikipedia’s list of newer adaptions loosely based on or inspired by older works.
The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
Turing’s Cathedral by George Dyson
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
4. Follow a curated list
A curated list can be a great starting place for quality books. No matter what your interest, there’s a list for it.
Each list can be a little overwhelming, however. Just choose one at a time.
1 The greatest books of all time
Of course, a list of “the greatest” is subjective, but it’s a great starting point.
These is a collection of modern classics, starting with the year Time Magazine began.
The world's best factual writing is ranked on two lists—one by readers and one by a panel of judges.
Every book in this compilation should be read before college. Have you read them all?
Chances are, you mostly read books written by authors of one gender. I’d recommend finding the list that best describes you, and reading books from the other lists first.
This list examines history-shaping books—all written for women, and most written by women.
A collection of books on classic manliness, ranging from tales of courage to how to skin a bear.
Art of Manliness
This multi-genre collection of award-winning titles focuses on books published in the last 10 years.
National Book Foundation
If you aren’t careful, your reading list can easily skew towards books written by, for, and about white Americans and Europeans. Solve that with these lists.
This authoritative list is filled with legendary titles that have lasting impact to this day.
This complete list contains every topic imagineable, from novels to academic journals.
This list highlights the classics, and also shines the spotlight on lesser-known Latinx authors.
This list holds true to its stated purpose, painting a portrait of Asian literature’s tremendous variety.
This list was pared down from 1,500 nominated titles to the most culturally significant works.
African Studies Center Leiden
This comprehensive list contains fiction from the entire Pacific, sorted by island.
Lunch at the Raintree Cafe
4 Guides curated by thought leaders
Why guess at what to read when an expert you respect can do the job for you?
I’ve found some of my favorite books by following the recommendations of experts I respect, such as:
5. Analyze to find new books you'll love
If you find a book you really enjoy, use it to expand your reading list. Here's how.
Scribd provides a subscription for ebooks and audiobooks. But you don’t have to make a purchase to find new titles you’ll like.
Go to the main page and search for a book, like Mike Matthew’s Bigger Leaner Stronger.
Find the correct title and click on it.
Bingo! Scribd gives a series of similar titles you might enjoy.
Most of these sites base their recommendations on purchase or download history. But not TasteDive. Instead, titles need personal recommendations to appear.
It works best if you search for older titles and bestsellers. Let’s look for Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek.
We immediately get a few suggestions. A lot of TasteDive’s recommendations are by the same author, but you’ll still uncover new titles.
The one thing that frustrates me about TasteDive is the search feature. Unlike Amazon or Google, there isn’t fuzzy search. If you don’t type the title in correctly, you’ll get an error message.
Still, it’s a helpful tool you should try out.
Find the title with the most downloads. This isn’t always the most prominent one.
Click on the Bibrec tab, which stands for Bibliographic Record.
There are topic suggestions you can search for if you like one category (I’m sure “kidnapping victims” is exactly why you picked up Oliver Twist in the first place). But we can also see what other readers downloaded.
And here is a long list of titles enjoyed by readers like you.
I saved the best for last.
Beneath the page of almost every book on Amazon, you can find the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.” It’s a goldmine for book recommendations.
Let’s search for Vanessa Van Edward’s fantastic new book Captivate.
Click on the title of the book.
If we scroll down the page, we’re immediately greeted with a list of recommendations. Amazon has found about 100 books we would enjoy!
But let’s dig deeper. Click on the first one.
Just one title away, we suddenly get overwhelmed with another 100 books on different topics. These books are on writing, fitness, communication, and learning.
With any one title, you can easily find thousands of books you’d enjoy.
And the best part? Amazon has spent millions on their system, and they’re usually right.
Putting it all together
Most people whine and complain about not having enough time to read.
And for those people, that’s enough. In their minds, whining and complaining is equivalent to reading.
If they complain about never having time to read, it justifies the fact they never do.
But the world’s top readers? The 1% of readers who master a book a week—or more? Whining isn’t a solution. Complaining is the problem, not the answer.
Instead of making up excuses, they build systems. They analyze how much they’re reading, and adjust things until they reach their goals.
To become a top reader, you must apply your knowledge. Take one piece of this guide and make it happen, now.
Stop hoping you’ll read the books on your list someday.
Stop dreaming about your well-read self.
Stop wishing you had more time.
The time is now.
Start acting like it.
Here’s Your Next Step
Want to read a book a week, but running short on time? You're in luck.
Acclaimed authors like Woolf, Steinbeck, Orwell, Austen and Dickens didn’t spend all their time writing 500-page volumes. They also penned concise works, and you can get a taste of the greats for a fraction of the time.