The Warren Buffet Diet

One of the things that annoy me in conversations, medium, blog and twitter posts are things like “This year I read 12 books”, “goal for 2018: read two books per a month” or “read like warren buffet - the 500 page diet” . In conversations this topic of wanting to read more, or not having time to read, or having so many books not yet read comes up quite a lot as well. I am not sure why this annoys me so much. Partly, I think it is because of the status connotated with reading books and hence the benefit of claiming to read a lot or wanting to read more.

Here is how reading (books) breaks down for me. Obviously, that is specific to everybody's lifestyle.

Basic time mechanics of reading

The average time to read one page is 2 minutes. The average book contains 300 pages. That means the average book takes 600 minutes or 10 hours.

To be useful, numbers have to broken down on a daily basis to grasp them. 600 minutes means 20 min per day. If you smoke, that’s about 6 cigarettes. If you commute to work by train your time use probably looks like 2 x 20 min per day for 20 working days which is 800 minutes or 133% of a book a month.

Now, I travel at least once per month. Travel usually means 30 minutes to the airport, 30 minutes in security, 30 minutes at the gate. 60 minutes on the plane. That’s 140 minutes on way, or 280 minutes both ways. Or 46% of a book a month.

In other words - I and most people certainly have the time to a book a month. Adding to this, if you commute by car audiobooks also do about a 2 pages per minute. I for example also listen to audiobooks while running. If you want to make sure you read 20 min a day you could just get a daily tracking app like daylio (google it) and check it of. 

Breaking down “I don’t have enough time to read”

When you say “i don’t have enough time to read”, there are two components to this statement.

Component 1: The expectation of number of books you want to read.
Component 2: The time you spend on reading.

Reading a book a month is a decent reasonable expectation. But also is 2 books a month, or 0 books a month. There is no morality or worth attached to reading or not reading. If you do not read a book a month, then the problems could be:

1) You do not have the time
2) The book you are reading is not interesting
3) You don’t really like reading

You do not have the time - not true.

I think this is generally not true. In the combination of reading in the morning, reading in the evening, during a commute, listening to an audiobook while running or cooking.

You don’t really like reading - often true

In the previous point we saw that you do have the time to read. Given this, if you still do not read and also have a good book to read, you are not actually interested in reading. Don’t claim you don’t have the time to read. You are lying to yourself. Admit you don’t like to read and get on with something you do like.

The book you are currently reading is bad - often true

When ever I read less than usual this is the cause. The majority of books in the world are not interesting to me.

The writing could be bad or the content is less interesting than I thought when I bought the book. An example of the latter are the books “Astrophysics for people in a hurry”, “Asking Essential Questions”, “The Gulag Archipelo”, “The Genius in the System” and a number of books that I don’t remember because I gave them away.

Recapping this section: you have the time to read. You either like to read or you don‘t like to read. Most likely you don’t like the book you are currently reading but you are still reading it.

If you start reading a book, chances a higher you don’t like it then that you do like it.

That is true because you know nothing about the book before your start reading it. Unless you read books by an author you know.  You might know about something like “Steffen recommended it to me” or “It is about a topic I am interested in”. Once you read about 10-20% you actually know if the topic is interesting or if it is well written. I’d say it is safe to assume that you don’t like about 50-70% of the books you start.

For some reason there is a shame associated with not finishing a book. I’d not know why that is, but I do know that it is stupid. You buy a book with close to zero information that will determine whether you like it or not. If you find out that you do not like it, it is somehow bad to not finish the book.

That is really dumb because:

1) You will read less books in your life because you read slower and less often when you do not like a book

2) You will spend more time of your life reading books that you don’t enjoy.

Because it is more likely that you like a book as opposed to you not liking a book (see above), by arguing that you “need to finish a book” you are making an active decision to have a worse life and learn less.

Also, storing books is stupid, but that is another topic