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SDS 224: Hacks for reading more books

Hacks for reading more books

Welcome to the FiveMinuteFriday episode of the SuperDataScience Podcast!

Today, we share some great tips on how to read more books. It’s perfect if you’ve included it in your New Year’s Resolution, so make sure to tune in!

So, why are you tuning in to this podcast? Don’t say you don’t have any choice of what to listen to when exercising, driving, or cooking. For sure, you want to learn more and expand your knowledge.

Podcasts, audiobooks, or training courses are the most convenient choices because you can do other important stuff while listening to them simultaneously. It has been the go-to lately as compared to reading books. Reading books has become tedious for some. I dare say, it is not! It still is one of the best ways to open your minds to new worlds and perspectives.

It’s time to have a new outlook on how you should tackle reading. In this episode, let me give you some hacks to improve your reading habit. I’ve recently stumbled on the article Everything I Knew About Reading Was Wrong where it points out the things that we shouldn’t really give importance to when we’re about to read. Here are the takeaways:

1 – Give yourself permission to quit

Most of us hate the feeling of not finishing a book. We lose interest and instead delay the time of finishing it. His advice: just leave it! Move on to something else. When you do this, you don’t miss on the chance to read more books.

2 – Read more than one book at a time

Sequential reading is not advisable. It’s good practice to read about multiple disciplines at the same time. It makes it easier sometimes to understand complex stuff discussed in a particular book if you’ve got books related to it. Discover also the concept of interleaving – the practice of working on different problems at the same time.

3 – Make sure not to force yourself to read in sequential order

This applies when you are reading self-help books. You don’t have to read chapter after chapter. Make use of the index of the glossary. You can quickly look for and read what you need. The author suggests that you treat a self-help book like a website. Only get/read what you need.




Full Podcast Transcript

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This is FiveMinuteFriday episode number 224 Hacks for Reading More Books.

Welcome back to the SuperDataScience Podcast, ladies and gentlemen, and Happy New Year.

By the time you are hearing this, it's already 2019 and I'm super excited that we are entering this new year in the 21st century. All the exciting developments in technology and I can't want to see what it'll bring for the space of Data Science.

And this week's episode is about a blog that I found recently on reading books. Because it's a new year and I thought that we all like to study. Like, you're listening to this podcast because somehow you heard of SuperDataScience, somehow you heard of this podcast and you wanted to learn more. You wanted to get these ideas, insights into people’s journeys, Data Scientist success stories, case studies and so on.

And one way of getting lots of knowledge and learning is reading books. And I found, well, actually a friend recommended this blog post to me and I found it very, very insightful and I wanted to share some insights with you.

We will link to this blog post in the show notes at so you can read the full version there. If you like, it's called "Everything I Knew About Reading was Wrong." You can find it on "Medium" or "Hacker Noon." Once again, we'll link to it at

But in this episode, I'll describe the main takeaways from this blog post to possibly give you some hacks and ideas, tips, on how to read more books in 2019. I personally found these very insightful, so here we go.

There are three main takeaways.

And take away number one is to give yourself the permission to quit. So, a lot of the time, and I found this true for myself, we get stuck on not reading more books because we're almost finished with a book, but we're, you know, we've got like maybe, we're 80 percent, for instance, I might be 80 percent through a book, or 70. And I feel that it's kind of like slowed down. I'm not that interested in it. I'm not as excited about it as at the start. But I feel this obligation to finish it. I feel kind of like, guilty for not finishing it and starting a new one. I feel like a quitter for not doing it and therefore that's, and I kind of like, put it off. I say to myself, "Oh, okay, I'll finish it next week," or "Finish it tomorrow," or, "I'll keep reading later on”. It never happens. And that puts off all the other books I could be reading just because I haven't finished this one.

So, the first mind shift that is recommended by this blog is to actually give yourself a permission to quit. Don't put yourself into the trap when you start a book, that you have to finish it. If you like it if you're still getting a lot of value, whether it's fiction, you're enjoying it, if it's non-fiction if you're getting value for yourself out of it, then feel free to continue.

But if you're not, then be confident in quitting that book and moving on to something else. And in the article actually, the author suggests some interesting observations that with fiction books, usually, the graph is kind of like exponential. The further you get into the book, the more interesting it gets. The value you extract from the book grows.

Whereas, with non-fiction book at best it's kind of linear. The further you go through the book the, like, the value just grows linearly. But if it's a poorly written non-fiction book, then often times the most of the value will be kind of like at the start of the book, in the first third, or first quarter or third of the book. And then after that it just kind of repeats itself. And that's why you lose interest with time. So there's like the law of diminishing returns there. And it approximates to some sort of value that you're getting from the book.

So, you're not getting as much value so, therefore, it might be a good idea to stop reading that book anyway.

So, that is the first hack.

Hack number two is the most interesting probably, is to read more. And actually read a lot more than just one book at a time.

The author raises a lot of great arguments for this and that's interesting because, like, a lot of the time, I used to think that sequential reading is the way. You need to finish one book before you move on to the next one, move on to the next one.

But in 2018 I tried reading a couple books at the same time and it was actually quite fun. So not as much as the author, the author gives an example of like, they're reading 14 books at the same time. That's a lot. And I think, you know, that's totally doable but, I tried reading two or three at the same time and it was helpful.

First of all, you have a book for every mood. If you're in the mood for a historical book, you can read that. If you're in a mood for a fiction book, you can read that. If you're in a mood for a self-help, or self-development book, you can read that. So you always have these, no matter what mood you are in, you can always read a book. You don't have to force yourself to read the book that you're not in the mood for reading.

And the other thing is that it's kind of like, if you're reading books sequentially, like reading books at the same time, many books at the same time, is actually great for long-term retention. If you think about it, it’s similar to how we study in school or in high school. We don't just study Algebra for three weeks and then we study English for two weeks, and then we study History for five weeks. It's not like that. We study all these subjects parallel at the same time. And that's because it's better that way for long-term retention. It's better to spend 10 days, spend an hour for 10 days reading a book, rather than to spend 10 hours in one day. You'll get more out of it if you space out this repetition of that book. And therefore, having multiple books is good, because you can mix and match.

And the other thing is called "Interleaving." When these books, whatever subjects your learning, they can actually help you with understanding the other books. For example, there's a great example in the article that, say you're reading a book about modern history. A game theory book can help you gain a deeper understanding of the Cold War and a marketing book can help to reveal how Hitler captivated an entire nation. And it's not one way. The history book will deepen your understanding of the two other fields because you've analyzed those real-life examples.

So, there we go, they can actually like, reading multiple books can help you reflect on what you're reading or learning from different angles.

And finally, mind shift number three, or hack number three, is you don't have to read a book in sequential order. You don't have to read the chapters one after the other.

Of course, if it's a fiction book, then probably it's beneficial to read it sequentially because otherwise you'll lose the story. But if it's a self-development book, it’s a book about, you know, you want to learn some techniques, or something for yourself, especially if it's in your professional space, around like, Data Science, or technical aspects, then the glossary of the book or the index of the book is your best friend. You can go in there and look at the different chapters you're interested in and if there's something you're interested in, like, say, Chapter Seven. You don't have to wait, you don't have to force yourself to read through the whole book to get to Chapter Seven and get the value out of it. You can just skip to Chapter Seven right away and read that first and if you like it you read some of the other chapters.

And the author of this article suggests to look at a book as a website. Like, if you have a website, with lots of blog posts, you're not going to go in and read them in chronological order from start to finish. You're just going to pick the blog post that you're interested in and you're going to read those. Same thing with a book. All the chapters are like individual blog posts, so you don't in most cases, especially with self-help books or self-development books or books where you're like learning something, non-fiction books basically. You don't necessarily have to read them in order. All those chapters. To get the value that you're looking for.

So, there we go.

In summary the hacks for getting more out of reading books in 2019 are: give yourself the permission to quit; then number two was read more books, read more than one book at a time, preferable many more, five maybe even 10; and number three was to make sure, not force yourself to read even a single book in sequential order. For non-fiction books you don't have to read them, the book itself, in sequential order. You can skip to the chapters you're interested in.

So, there we go. Hopefully this will help you get your hands on more books and get as much knowledge as you can in 2019. Maybe experiment with that.

Once again, you can get the full article, which is really interesting, you can get the link for that at
If you know somebody who's interested in reading books and who gets a lot of value out of reading books send them this podcast so that they can get these hacks as well.

And I look forward to seeing you back here next time. Until then, happy analyzing.

Kirill Eremenko
Kirill Eremenko

I’m a Data Scientist and Entrepreneur. I also teach Data Science Online and host the SDS podcast where I interview some of the most inspiring Data Scientists from all around the world. I am passionate about bringing Data Science and Analytics to the world!

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