I Discovered How to Read A Book; And Now I Can’t Read

I read 33 books in a year. Now I can barely finish one.

I Discovered How to Read A Book; And Now I Can’t Read
Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash

A few years back, I had a moment of clarity. One of the things I learned was how to read fast. This was great for a time. I enjoyed the books I read and the time I spent reading. I read 33 books in a year.

About 18 months ago, I ruined it. This was due in part to two things: I read the book “How to Read a Book”, and I heard a quite from a YouTuber.

“How to Read a Book” was supposed to be amazing. It teaches you how to truly get into the thoughts of the author. It has some sage wisdom in it. It emphasizes that you truly haven’t read a book until you’ve tried and tested the physical things the book demands you do.

It’s right. But it isn’t fun. Over night, books that were a joy to read in a week became the unfinished dark clouds hanging over my head.

I want to read The Lean Startup. But I can’t start a startup right now, I have two kids under 4 and I work full time.

I want to read The Food Lab, but I don’t have time to experiment with food, my kids are hungry.

I want to read Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, but I don’t want to have to talk to people.

At this point, I was reading one book a month.

Dan Martel, an entrepreneur and underrated YouTuber, has a lot of great content in his channel. One of his many videos advocates ”Just In Time Learning.” The concept is pretty simple. Agree to do something, and then figure out how to do it.

My brain has spun this around. Now, my brain believes that anything I’m reading must be related to one of my goals. If it’s not, then that book no longer contains actual valuable (to me) knowledge.

After that, I was reading half a book a month.

Recently, to make things even worse, I’ve discovered Zettelkasten which is also know as “how you’ve been taking notes wrong this whole time.” I hate how much sense it makes.

The concept is pretty simple, and I’ve honestly started systems similar to, but not exactly like it. The Zettelkasten system of extracting atomic Ideas and linking them together is great until you realize that it makes reading a book into work.

But reading is supposed to be fun. Entertaining, even.

Now, I can’t read. I haven’t finished a book in the last six months.

But if I don’t take notes properly, did I even read it?

And if I didn’t act on those concepts, did I actually read it?

And should I even read it if it won’t help me survive being a dad of two young kids during a pandemic?