Video Thumbnail

How to Read Faster


- these are all the books that i read in 2010, 10 years ago. That's 14 books, not too bad. But these are the books i read in 20. (books bang). Shit. (books bang).

Why Read

What's up, everybody, mark manson here. You know, harry s. truman once said that "not all readers are leaders, but all leaders read.". There's a reason that reading has been around for 5,000 years. It fucking works. It makes you smarter, makes you more empathetic, makes you more self-aware, entertains the shit out of you. I mean, what else could you want? Reading is one of those things that everybody seems to wish they did more. If you don't read any books, you wish you read a few. If you read a few books, you wish you read a lot. And if you read a lot, then you're really aware of all the cool stuff that you don't have time to read. Since my job is to just read stuff all day and then regurgitate it to people with poop jokes and f bombs, i figured that i would sit down and go through some of the biggest things that have helped me become a better reader over the years and help you read more books and read better books. And at the end of the video, i'm gonna talk about how you can remember more of what you read and you'l be surprised it has nothing to do with a highlighter or taking notes.

Cut the Inner Monologue

This is probably something you don't even realize that you do. Most people don't, but when you read there's that little voice inside your head, talking out each and every word to you. For instance, you might read, the man turned and deceptively smiled, acknowledging the expectations upon him, even though he had no intention of fulfilling them. The reason you read these words aloud to yourself in your own head is because that's how you learned to read. When we were little snot nose kids, we're taught to sound out each and every syllable in each and every word. And so we developed this mental habit of enunciating every single sound in our minds as we read. Now, there's a problem with this. It's fucking slow and you don't need to do it. I don't need to sound out deceptively to know what deceptively means. I'm fucking 36 years old, i know what deceptively means. What's incredible is that you can quickly train yourself to turn off your inner monologue. Try it, try reading something without sounding out the words in your head. You'l find that your eyes can actually move much quicker than the little voice in your head can move.

Read With Your Finger

Tip number two, read with your finger. Now this one sounds weird and you're gonna feel like a doofus sitting there with your computer screen, moving your finger back and forth, but it's surprising how much it helps. Now, the reason for this is that our eyes are actually not completely stable. Now, when we read texts that's in front of us, our eyes kind of naturally jump around and it takes mental effort to keep our eyes focused on each line. This is why a lot of times when you're reading, you lose your spot. You forget which line you're on. You read the same line twice. Sometimes you read a line and your brain will insert the word from below into the sentence that you're reading. It's because our eyes do not move perfectly horizontally. But if you put your finger below the words as you read, it gives your eyes something to focus on and move with and it stabilizes them. And surprisingly, this makes you read quicker. In fact, a lot of people just by using their finger to scan the texts, can improve their reading speed by up to, i don't know, 20, 30%. I just made that number up, but it's a lot. You'l notice when you try it. Using your finger to scan as you read, it works for everything. You can use it with a book. You can use it on an ipad. You can use it on a computer screen. Yeah, it feels weird, but it helps. All right, tip number three. And this one's just a little bit more meta and practical.

Stop Reading

Stop reading shit you don't like. It's amazing to me, i run across this all the time, but people have this idea with books that if you start a book, you have to finish every single page or else you're a fucking loser, an idiot and a failure. I don't understand why people have this attitude. You don't keep watching movies you don't like. You don't keep watching tv shows you don't like. You skip youtube videos that are boring. Why do you force yourself to read a book that's not good. It makes no sense. Again, i think some of this comes back to our schooling. In school, you were graded based on how much of the book you read. To get a good grade, you have to read all the book. Life does not work that way. Take it from a non-fiction author, most non-fiction books are full of crap. The average non-fiction book has two, maybe three useful chapters in it. Most non-fiction books are glorified blog posts, repeated over and over and over for 200 pages. If i'm reading chapter one. And i get the idea, and then i get the chapter two, and the author is basically just restating the idea from chapter one in a different way, i fucking skip chapter two, i go to chapter three. And then if chapter three is repeating the same idea in another way, i skipped that one too. In fact, most books, if i realized that they aren't dense with valuable information, i just go straight to the table of contents, and i asked myself, which chapters look interesting? Oh, chapter one, three, seven, and 14. Okay, i'l read those. I know that if i read those and they're great, maybe i'l go back and look at another chapter or find something else to read, but if not, that's fine. I'd say half of the books that i end up reading, i probably read half of the text in them, maybe less. And you shouldn't feel bad about this. The point of reading is to serve you, not for you to serve the book. Similarly, if a book is just bad, fucking put it down. Move on to the next one. I have a personal rule. I always read at least 10% of a book before i decide whether to put it down or not. If it's a 200 page book, i give it 20 pages. But if i hit 20 pages and i'm not into it, i look at the table of contents, nothing looks interesting. I put it away. I'd take for every two books that i buy and i read, there's one book that i buy and i ended up not reading 'cause i just don't really like it. And i don't feel guilty about that. Finally, what you'l find when you start reading more and more, is that a lot of non-fiction stuff repeats itself. So at this point, i've probably read like a hundred psychology books. And what you discover is that there are maybe half a dozen seminal studies in the field of psychology. Major breakthroughs in the field that get repeated all the time. If i have to read about the fucking marshmallow test one more time, done by walter mischel in 1972, i'l fucking gag. So when i'm reading a book and i come across, oh, it's the marshmallow test, skip five pages, go onto the next thing. You'l find all the time that authors use similar anecdotes, they use similar examples, they use similar stories, and when you keep running into these things over and over again, just skip them. You already know what's in them, so why read it again? For some reason out of these five tips that i always give this one is the most surprising and most difficult for people. I don't understand why people have so much emotional attachment or judgment based on how many words in a book that they read. For non-fiction, if you're reading every single word of every single book, you're doing it wrong. Now for fiction, it's a completely different story. No pun intended. If a fiction book's good, you read every word. If a fiction book's bad, you fucking stop and put it away.

Schedule Reading

All right, tip number four. Schedule your reading time. Now, everybody i talked to who wants to read more, they all say the same thing, "but mark, i'm so busy, i don't have enough time. "you should see my schedule.". It's no excuse. Reading is the easiest, most transportable hobby or interest or activity that is there ever. It's so fucking easy. You can read on your commutes in the morning or listen to an audio book. You can read on your lunch breaks. I always have an article or a book to read while i'm eating lunch. I often take a book to the gym and read in between sets or even during sets. Hell, if the books you're reading are big enough, you can do sets with the books. Hell, sometimes i keep a book in the bathroom so i can read while i take a shit. I play a little game with myself. I try to read more pages than i have flushes. I call it poop for pages. (chuckles) that might be the stupidest thing i've ever said on camera. And this doesn't even get into scheduling time in your day. Even without scheduling anything, i can easily find at least 30 minutes a day to read. And then if you schedule time on top of that, it's an easy 60 minutes at least. And this is what people don't understand. Like people see that i read all these books and they think i'm like superhuman or something. I'm not superhuman. My reading speed isn't that much above the average reading speed. The trick is consistency. The average person can read a page in roughly about two minutes. So if you read 60 minutes per day, that's 30 pages a day. And if you figure the average book is about 300 pages well, now you're reading a book every 10 days or 37 books per year. But if you're being smart and you're putting away shitty books and you're skipping shitty chapters, then you're gonna end up reading way more than that.

Read More Than One Book

All right, and tip number five, read more than one book at a time. This is another one that people have a lot of weird beliefs about. Like the idea that reading two books at the same time is twice as mentally challenging as reading one book at a time. It's not, actually, it's easier than reading only one book. Why? Because when you get sick of that first book, you just move to the second one and it feels exciting and new again. And then when you get sick of the second one, you go back to the first one. I actually find it much easier to sustain my attention and excitement for both books if i'm able to jump back and forth between them. I generally try to read three books at any given time. And i divide them up into three categories in my head. I have kind of the philosophically and technically challenging book. I have just a general non-fiction educational book. Then i have like a light fiction or a biography or something like that. I see it as like my fun book. Sometimes if the philosophical book is very challenging and requires a lot of mental effort, i'l schedule time in my day to actually sit down and read that philosophical book. If i'm reading a novel and it's really fucking good, sometimes i'l just screw the whole morning and read my novel. Sometimes i just get sick of one of my books and i set it down for a week or two. Then i come back when i'm more mentally refreshed. All right, so we've got some basic tips on how to read quicker and more efficiently. We've got tips on how to be ruthless in your book selection, and also how to be more practical in terms of finding time during the day to read.

Remember What You Read

Now, let's talk about remembering what you read, because one of the most common questions i get from people is what is your note-taking system? How do you remember all this stuff? How do you know where you saw what study? People like to assume that i've got this like massive database of notes with like a super computer linking like 800 different concepts and ideas with sources and citations. No, i don't use any of that stuff. In fact, i use almost nothing. This actually, let's call this the harsh truth of the day. (dramatic music). The harsh truth of the day is that highlighting and note-taking is basically worthless. This upsets a lot of people. And again, i don't fucking know why would you wanna highlight a book? Like that's just, that sounds really annoying. Again, this comes from school. In school, the reason you thought highlighting is important or note-taking is important is because you were tested on what you read. People mistake the highlighting for memory. Studies have consistently shown highlighting, underlining, notes in the margin, this has no effect in your retention. The only point of doing it was so that when you went back and studied for the test, you knew what to look at. Now, some people say, "well, you can do the same thing with books "you read for fun. "you can highlight all the cool parts. "and then a month later you go back "and you check all the parts you highlighted.

Human Memory

Why would you do that? Here's the thing about human memory. We remember things that we use. If i read a book on nutrition, the way i'm gonna remember what i read is by actually changing what i eat and paying attention to what i eat. If i just highlight the whole nutrition book and then i eat the same garbage i always eat, i'm not gonna remember anything. Basically, we remember what's useful. If you don't find ways to implement the ideas you read into your life in some way, you're not gonna remember them. And you're gonna have this feeling of like, "wow, i read all these books "and i have no idea what's in them.".

Why Read Nonfiction

(upbeat music). Ultimately, the only reason to read non-fiction is to change your life in some way, is to become smarter in some way, to improve yourself in some way. Now here's the thing, a lot of books, it's kind of hard to use what you read. I mean even in my own books, it's about concepts and principles. You know, it's not like, "oh, go out and do x, y, z, "and then you'l make a million dollars.". Like there's none of that stuff in it. So this idea of like using stuff that you read, it's actually kind of a nebulous abstract thing. I can read a principle and my using it can simply be having a different perspective on an area of my life than i had before. For example, when i read kant's moral philosophy, i found his ethical principles to be very profound. And i was able to see how they apply to a lot of my beliefs about people and relationships and ethics in general. And so a lot of times using something we've read, it just happens in our mind, but still we have to make that mental effort. We have to go through that process of saying, "okay, i read this, how does this apply to my own life?". (upbeat music). Now, if you are really dead set on like having a hack to remember the stuff you read, there are ways to kind of trick your brain into thinking that you were using the stuff you read so that you remember it better. One of them is to simply talk about the ideas to somebody else. So you read a really cool book about neuroscience, go find a friend or somebody else who's willing to be bored to tears, and describe to them what you just read. The human mind remembers what's useful, and generally humans tend to see social interactions as the most useful and important things that happen in our lives. So when you tell somebody else about an idea, your brain is subconsciously saying, "oh, this must be really important.". Now the last thing i'm gonna say about remembering stuff is that you don't have to remember every idea from every book you've read. You only have to remember what ideas are in every book that you've read. So speaking of neuroscience, there's this famous neuroscientist named antonio damasio. I've read two of his books. I couldn't explain off the top of my head exactly what's in his books. I'm not a neuroscientist, it's not my area of expertise, it's not a piece of knowledge i use frequently, but i remember the arguments in those books. And so i know where to look, if i need to find those neuroscience arguments again. So the importance is not necessarily remembering everything you read, it's remembering where you read it, because when you need something, you can just go grab the book off the shelf and find it. Takes two minutes, i do it all the time. 90% of the stuff in my articles and books, it's 'cause i grabbed shit off the shelf. And i went looking for it. I'm like, "oh yeah, there is that thing. "there's that experiment. "lemme write about that.". The only reason to try to obsessively remember every single thing you read is if you wanna impress people at parties. And let's be honest, who the fuck wants to impress people at parties? All right, that's a wrap. Be sure to like this video, subscribe to the channel, i'm gonna have a lot more practical life tips coming out. And you know, if you're really ballsy, post in the comments, how many books you have read this year and how many you wish you could read? I think you'd actually be surprised how easy it is to bridge that gap.

👇 Give it a try