I had forgotten how to read despite completing four books a month. After a few weeks of hitting my reading goal, I hardly remembered the books’ names. 

The pressure of reading 50, 60 books a year had gotten to me. I had fallen into the ultimate trap of equating my intellect with how well-read I am. This resulted from a culture where examples are thrown around about how Bill Gates reads 50 books a year coupled with the constant crowd of book titles winning newer literature prizes every day. There is a cultural prestige that comes with the maximalist philosophy of hoarding many books. 

The assumption is understandable. It is for the same reason that money is associated with success: It is an easy, quantifiable, data-driven measurement of something intangible. But like the former money-success assumption, the more books-better intellect assumption is also worth questioning. 

It is worth pausing and reflecting on why to read, what to read, and how to read rather than indiscriminately reading lots of books under the premise that it is time and energy well-spent. 

Because despite reading a book a week, I hardly had any enjoyment in reading. I did not get wiser or truly grasped anything new. All I had was a pang of guilt parading me to read more, not read better

So, in 2020, I read far fewer books than I had in any other year. Instead of learning about always-in-business speed reading, I learned about the philosophical slow and immersive reading. I did not “skim through” tiny details anymore. I read them mindfully and intentionally, becoming a voracious slow reader. 

Reading at a slower pace allowed me to make that text to real-world, text to self, text to life connection. This never happened to me when speed reading, maybe because it lessens comprehension. Speed reading does not make room for deeper thought. 

Surprisingly, slow reading was far more challenging for me. There are so many tempting distractions with the advent of social media that I almost always unconsciously chose the easier, shorter, faster books that contained no dense material. This was only in the quest to reach my reading list goal, even if that reading had accounted for nothing. 

But deep attention and careful reading is a challenge worth taking, especially considering the constant locomotion of modern lives. Once I had the hang of slow reading, it became my meditation, an act of self-care, a form of pure rest. I decelerated the pace of my fast life by slow reading. 

There’s tremendous value in reading slow, reading thorough, reading thoughtfully. In 2021, instead of making a reading goal, make it an experience


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ERIN FALCONER!

Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.