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How To Read 7 Books in 7 Days

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It’s time for an epic reading assignment.

In the next week I will be reading one book each day. 7 days. 7 books.

You should too. Here’s how.

BUT WHY? PART 1.

Because everyone is dumb and getting dumber. The world is constantly changing and most people cannot keep up. Maybe the pace of machine learning is outpacing human learning. Who knows. The point is, you aren’t learning fast enough. It’s time you absorbed a ton of information, all at once.

WHY. PART 2.

There are whole fields of information and wisdom you know nothing about. Religion. Computer science. Business operations. Neuroscience. And guess what? You’re way fucking behind! I went too Foocamp a few weeks back alongside Tim O’Reilly, Hank Green, Kathy Sierra, and others, and guess what? I feel dumb. So I’m going to compensate.

WHY. PART 3.

Huge, impossible challenges are healthy. I literally have no clue if I will have the focus and dedication to do this, and you probably don’t either. Your self-esteem would be helped by stretching what you think is possible. That won’t happen unless you set yourself up for a massive goal. Consider this the book equivalent of running up Mount Kilimanjaro– or whatever works for you.

WHY. PART 4.

Tumblr m4pusvEQnE1rtg1hvo1 1280

WHY. PART 5.

Are you serious? Dude, just do this. You’ll feel awesome after.

OK, BUT HOW!? PART 1.

Ok, I just finished the first book a minute ago: The E-Myth Revisited. Clocks in at 292 pages. So this isn’t a joke. You’re going to need some serious planning, some technique, and some serious straight up putting-in-the-work time.

HOW. PART 2.

Choose your books in advance. Basically you need to be organized enough to know immediately what you’re reading and not doubt it. If you can, choose books that stack on top of each other so that you learn successive, stacking topics.

Here are some of the books I will be completing over the next few days:

Religion For Atheists by Alain de Botton.

Quiet by Susan Cain.

The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander.

All these stack up in my head for a bunch of learning I need to be doing. Try for the same.

HOW. PART 3.

When I first started reading a lot I read very slowly. In this case, slow reading will not work. So your first technique will be to use a tracer, such as your finger or a pen, for all of your reading. Try this technique right now with the pic above. Use your finger to trace right under the words in the pic and you’ll see that you immediately stop subvocalizing. This should double your reading speed pretty much immediately.

Once you have stopped subvocalizing and are using your tracer, make an effort to stop going back for “missed material” and remember to take breaks in between.

In case you’re wondering, I learned these technique from Emerson Spartz, a home-schooled child genius (lol) that read a biography a day for a year.

HOW. PART 4.

Read for information and trust in your brain to absorb. So please, for the love of God, do not read War & Peace or Moby Dick. Choose books you will learn things from but know that they contain some filler, as all books do. How do I know this? I was once told one of my books needed to be a certain width because it needs to be wide enough to be seen on the bookshelf. Fact: the size of a book is based partially on marketing and not entirely on content.

By the way, since I started reading faster– I absorbed more.

Anyway, find something you want to learn and focus on that as you read. This was one of Marshall McLuhan’s techniques– to come to a book with a question– and he claims to have gotten more out of reading from it.

HOW. PART 5.

Ok, I believe I spent about 5 hours reading this book today, more or less. You can choose faster books! I have a free and quick one right here if you really want to get a head start. But the point is not to let anyone (including you) pass judgment on which books you should read. Choose what’s manageable. Don’t go crazy.

Don’t kid yourself though. This requires some serious time. So use every possible moment. I did this between sets while on the gym and read in bed in the evening. I read everywhere. But most importantly, I still made time for work and phone calls. Most of what I got rid of was my social media time!

Fact: you can easily cut into your Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook time and get this done.

FINAL NOTE!

This is probably not sustainable. But it is epic. So do it. You know you want to.

Please share this. Thanks.

* Filed by at 11:30 pm under challenge


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37 Responses to “How To Read 7 Books in 7 Days”

  1. Maša Says:

    You changed my reading habits when you wrote about reading 52 books in a year (OK, Kindle was of great help too). I was really struggling at first, but now I’m addicted. So I’d love to join the next week’s challenge! BTW, GoodReads makes it really easy to track the progress of your yearly goal (I’m on track with 29/60).

    however, I’m still having trouble with subvocalizing, especially when I read in English (since it’s not my native language).

  2. NomadicNeill Says:

    ‘How To 4’ is exactly why I’m reading less and less hard-copy books. I don’t have time to wade through 100’s of pages to learn ideas that can be condensed into a couple of paragraphs.

  3. todd schnick Says:

    damn it, why do you do this to me. just when i was settling in to a book a week…

  4. jean-marc Says:

    Great challenge, which is not so much about reading but about choosing how I spend my time, and staying focused.

    I agree that the kindle is a big help. As is choosing which books to read. And, with business books, accepting that there’s probably 1-3 pages of substantive ideas (if you Mindmap or bullet point them).

    Julien mentions how publishers determine book format. They also require more than 3 pages! At best, the bulk of many business books is memorable anecdotes or examples, or resources. More commonly, padding.

    Julien also mentions filters. For sure, we all experience the world differently. And again, for business books, as with many blogs, they exist in part to promote the author and content is chosen or framed accordingly.

    Which is fine, if I remember to be gently critical of what I read!

  5. Michal Says:

    I must disagree with PART 4

    Good books as War and Peace and Mobby Dick are much better for understaning world around us. I reccomend you Brothers Karamazov (better than 100 “how to be” books)

    I reading a lot of books(marketings books,) right now and something strange is happening. I dont learn anything new from these books.

    Do you have same feelings?

    • Sarah Says:

      I agree with Michael – I’ve learned so much more from reading War and Peace than I have from any How To book. And I also sincerely doubt that Tolstoy had a marketing agent who told him to make it filled with filler so it took up more room on a bookshelf!

      Try reading some books that teach you about different cultures and approaches to yours. You might find you are learning something too. Another commenter also mentions that by just cramming facts into your head, you also are not digesting or taking time to analyze what you read – not everything in a book is a good idea. Why not take some time after each book to think about and critique what the author had to say?

      • MaÅ¡a Says:

        I agree (although I haven’t read War and Peace yet, but I’m certainly going to), but I don’t think Julien meant we shouldn’t read books like these in general. They are just not suitable for this challenge – I’m certainly not able to read a thousand of pages in a single day. 🙂 I think we should read fiction and non-fiction (especially self-help and business related) in different ways. There’s nothing wrong with skimming through “how-to”, but flying through a piece of art would be a crime for me. It’s incomparable.

  6. Ryan Stephens Says:

    I’ll have to venture down this road another time; however, I am trying to read 52 books this calendar year and I can absolutely say that the time I’ve spent reading more challenging books (I do alternate fiction/non-fiction to keep pace) I’ve learned infinitely more than clicking on sensationalist links on Twitter.

    Two of my favorites so far this year:
    “A Billion Wicked Thoughts” and “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain”

    -R

  7. Matthew Ebel Says:

    Fuck it, I’m going to try this.

  8. Merlene Says:

    I probably already read an average of 5-7 books per week (a mix of genres – non-fiction during the day, fiction at night) but what I haven’t been doing is tracking what I’ve read, thoughts/impressions, etc. For nearly 10 years now I’ve wanted to keep a log or blog of what I’ve read but I’ve never really started with that. Now that I read exclusively Kindle format books, it’s a bit easier to track but still not ideal.

    So I’m thinking that maybe I’ll customize your challenge a bit and in addition to actually reading the 7 books, I’ll start that record (on a blog) I’ve been thinking about. Even if only recording a couple of sentences of impression or review for each.

  9. Jill Tooley Says:

    I’m going to try this, too! I’ve had about 20 books on my must-read list for months now, and I’m sick of it. This may be the kick I need to get started.

    One of the books on my list clocks in at 800 pages, though…I don’t think I can feasibly knock that out in a day. I’ll have to shuffle around a few books. Or split them up between 2-3 days (is that cheating?).

    Good luck to you, Julien. I look forward to reading about your progress!

  10. Matt Brennan Says:

    I’m still on pace with the book a week thing. I’ve recently started using a tracer like you suggested, and have seen my times increase. Online, I also use accelareader.com and have seen my times increase because of that as well. I may have to give this a time eventually!

  11. Jarkko Helenius Says:

    I’m gonna take on this challenge next week! Atop of all of my other projects. Including my blog. I have plenty of books to read in my tablet.

  12. Momekh Says:

    Brilliant writing.
    I will select thin books, because I am aware of this ‘useless thickening’. That’s not cheating.
    Selecting the topic or the theme of the 7 day epicness will be trickier though. This is a great challenge, Julien. And it’s awwn like king freakin kawng!

  13. Corey Koehler Says:

    This is totally possible!

    For instance, in the evening – “hours” before going to bed – President Teddy Roosevelt used to read a book (or two), about a subject near and dear to the person he was meeting with the next day (is that genius or what?). I wondered how he was able to do that.

    I looked into it and I found a gal named Evelyn Wood (look her up). She taught people how to speed read at 1500-6000 words PER MINUTE(it is no joke and it makes you wonder why the hell this isn’t part of the curriculum in elementary school). Our local public library had a copy of the course.

    Just an FYI!

    QUESTION concerning your note about the tracer. I am Kindle guy now and I was wondering if you or anyone else knows if there is an app or function or whatever for use on the Kindle that could act as a tracer or train you to read faster(that would be pretty handy for something like this).

  14. Matt Horwitz Says:

    Julien, this is freakin’ EPIC! I’ve been consuming books very quickly using the ebook and the audiobook (played at 2x+ speed) at the same time. Comprehension and retention are through the roof!

    If people do not realize that they need to start consuming (and absorbing) large amounts of information, they will fall behind.

    It won’t be like not having a phone, or not knowing how to use a computer. It will be worse.

    Digging this challenge man. You’re a BEAST !

  15. Matt Horwitz Says:

    Julien, this is freakin’ awesome! I’ve been consuming and integrating massive amounts of information via the eBook & audiobook (played at 2x+ speed) technique.

    People don’t realize that if they are not able to consume and process large amounts of information, they will fall behind.

    It will be worse that not having a cell phone, or not knowing how to use a computer. They will reach near uselessness.

    Digging this challenge man. You’re a BEAST!

  16. Momekh Says:

    Reading the comments now I feel if there is undue attention on the information side of things.

    Hmmm…

    “Information is not the source of Knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.”

    Eistein said that. Application of knowledge is what makes it happen. Otherwise it’s just a waste of time. World belongs to the bold, not the ‘most informed’. Ad infinitum.

    Although I totally dig this 7 books, 7 days challenge (as I mentioned in an earlier comment), I feel that this may give the impression of ‘info cramming’ as a healthy alternative to actual/practiced knowledge. Thoughts?

  17. greg voisen Says:

    Hey Rich,
    This idea sounds compelling but I think I will chunk it down into more manageable segments of reading. Love your idea though.
    In Spirit,
    Greg Voisen

  18. Karin Lehmann Says:

    I am going to throw in some audio books so I can make use of time in traffic … I live in L.A.

    Thanks for the challenge, just what I needed.

  19. Chris Stott Says:

    This is a great challenge and something I do when I have a beach holiday.

    My issue here is that I’ve been reading a book a week (inspired by your post) this year and I’m up to 30 books so far, however I think it is too much because of the *type* of books I read (bias towards business and self improvement). What happens is that I finish one book and then move straight on to the next, not giving myself time to process, experiment with consider what I have learnt. No sooner have I read one book and thought it was fantastic, than I move on to another and another and so on.

    In that respect I agree with @Momekh’s post above (and love any comment on a blog with an Einstein quote!).

    Would love to hear your thoughts? I switch from reading online stuff like “Top 5 Twitter tips” to *real* books, but now I think I need to experience more myself.

  20. FJR Says:

    Hope this rec is okay- Steven Pressfield’s new book Turning Pro reads really fast (maybe three hours?) and is, I think, worthwhile for many readers.
    I regret not to be able to embark on a book a day this week, as I have committed myself to finishing a very long David Foster Wallace just to see what his work is like. This is its time for me.

  21. naved Says:

    its a very good idea, but do you think by reading super fast everyday one book will lead you to something? its not about reading and reading with brain closed and eyes open. we must at least put all this reading/knowledge to some practicality as well, then only can we do justice with whatever we have read and make it sound actually “learned”. Lets make it learning not reading.

    This is what i think, i may be wrong though but i strongly believe on this.

  22. Jo-Anne Says:

    There was a time when I could easly read 7 books in 7 days now not so much I seem to busy to read……..

  23. Natalia Says:

    God! I love you impossible challenges! This one is definitely impossible, got so many things going on, but done a few and has been quite interesting

  24. Khairie Says:

    I’m gonna get 7 books together within a few days and take this challenge on.

  25. Jennifer Says:

    I like this idea, but I am going to do something a little different. I have several ebooks and manifestos that I have gotten from from various websites. They range from 40 to 90 pages. I am going to finish one a day for seven days. It’s shorter than a book, but I think the information will be valuable and I can get it off my to-do list.

  26. Katie Says:

    Julien, this is an epic assignment. You’re on!

    Anything involving books and works makes me happy, and this lovely challenge will own. I like your suggestions to start with.

  27. Jacob Says:

    Reading one book each day, one cannot hope to absorb them. This will not make you wiser, it will only contribute to the already dominant fast-information culture, where information goes in one ear and out the other. It reminds me of those “carpe diem” texts and images that some people keep posting on Facebook. It may be a good message, but you definitely wont remember it tomorrow.

  28. Jim Takchess Says:

    I won’t take the 7 book challenge but will read Flinch today.

    Thanks,
    Jim

  29. Murray Rob Roy McGregor Says:

    I just finished my second reading of Quiet by Susan Cain. You need to think about what your reading and the multiple contexts the ideas presented fit into. Reading is not about volume; it’s about quality.

    Suggestion. Read three books, then read the better two (or even just one) a second time. The second reading, slower, in depth will educate you faster, more profoundly that a seven day superficial reading race. The seven books – seven days is the fast food equivalent of knowledge, all fat and salt – no protein.

    Looking for a suggestion? Try “Monoculture” by F.S. Michaels, winner of the 2011 NCTE George Orwell Award.

  30. Lee Says:

    1. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School – John Medina
    2. Make something people love – Alexis Ohanian
    3. The $100 Startup: Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love and Work Better to Live More – Chris Guillebeau
    4. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
    5. Rework: Change the Way You Work Forever – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
    6. Think!: Before It’s Too Late: Twenty Three Reasons Why World Thinking is So Poor – Edward de Bono
    7. The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle – Steven Pressfield

  31. Jared Taylor Says:

    Thanks for this, Julien. Finished my 7 days yesterday. It was amazing – learned more in those 7 days than I have in a while. Now it feels much more attainable to do your book-a-week challenge.

  32. Ib'Ockiya Says:

    I strongly believe that reading in such a fast pace would not give you the time to analyse and apply what you’ve red before. But I’m a strong advocate of reading and geting information.
    In all, I sincerely love your method of 7b in 7d and I will give it a trial.

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