How to Read More

Do you wish you could read more? I’ve discovered a way to (maybe).

Imagine you’ve been given the opportunity to teach a special course – on any subject you want – to a classroom full of eager students.

I would teach a class on writing. But what would the reading list be?

I created one, and I called it “Writing Well”:

  1. How to Write a Good Advertisement by Victor O. Schwab
  2. Impossible to Ignore by Carmen Simon
  3. The Fantasy Fiction Formula by Deborah Chester
  4. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
  5. Writing for the Web by Lynda Felder
  6. On Writing by Stephen King
  7. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
  8. Writing Novels That Sell by Jack Bickham
  9. Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
  10. Creating Characters: How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain

This is how I first started thinking about reading lists. And I wondered if they could help me in some way.

I was feeling dissatisfied with the amount I was reading. I think the MORE you read, the more dissatisfied you are with how LITTLE you read. Also, it takes much less energy to watch YouTube after a long day of work than read a book, and sometimes that’s exactly what I do.

I became a little obsessed, as I do, and concocted several reading lists, consisting of books I hadn’t read, as if I were preparing to teach half a dozen more classes. With help from a friend, I created a Best Fantasy Novels syllabus. Then I created a Psychology of Marketing reading list (largely co-opted from Scott Adams), and a Rule the World syllabus, full of how-to books on key life skills.

The syllabus format motivates me because I like:

  • Checking items off a list
  • Seeing the big picture
  • Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: Reading the books will be fun, but I’ll also enjoy saying I completed this list.
  • The Zeigarnik effect (the sometimes overwhelming urge to complete what you’ve started)

Does the idea of a reading syllabus intrigue you? Do you already have reading lists? Are they filled with books you wish you had already read? I had a professor who said that everyone wishes to have written, but not many wish to write – and reading is similar to writing in enough ways that I feel this to be an important and pertinent question.

16 thoughts on “How to Read More

  1. Seems like a good approach Tom. My problem is that I have books piled high on my reading stand next to my bed. Half of the books are half read. I always start off fully into a new book, but then I find about halfway I shift to a feeling that I have to finish the book just to achieve the goal of finishing the book. At that point, I put it down and move on to the next book. Maybe I’m just ADHD. At least I do fully read half the book, those are the books I actually enjoyed reading.


  2. I don’t keep a list because it would be too long to carry to the library. Currently I’m rereading some of my favorites, even though I still have many more to explore. The many colors tend to be distracting. I’d use color only to draw attention to key points.


  3. I saved this to my reading bookmarks. In case one day I become curious about how others do it. 🙂 As for the booklists, oh yes, I have a couple. One is private and contains the books I wish to read (and films I wish to watch), the other is public and contains the favourites of people who were kind enough to respond and give me their favourite titles. Maybe you’d like to leave me a couple of your favourites of all times? Let’s say up to 10?


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