39 | I was wrong about reading books!

Hi, I’m Yath! Thank you for being here. You are receiving this because you signed up to my weekly newsletter on self-growth and mindful productivity.

Hey friends,

Firstly, I want to wish you a very happy new year and I’m grateful to be sending this first article of 2021 to 767 incredible humans!

So let’s talk about reading.

We often hear ‘reading makes you wise’ or ‘reading changes your life’ and it does — I’ve seen my life change first-hand since 2018 when I picked up a book for the first time that wasn’t a compulsory read for high-school English exams. But, I want to be clear about one thing. It’s not what you think — it’s not per se how much you read that makes a difference to your life, it’s what you read and what you do with the information you read.

In 2019, I read 52 books (yes, the magic book a week) and in 2020, I read pretty much the same (albeit some were audiobooks and others were semi-fast flick-throughs). But in 2021, I pledge to do one thing, read fewer books, maybe even just two books every month, totalling 24 books.

Here are the 3 reasons why I’m reading less.

Less Input, More Output

If the end goal of reading is as they say to change your life, then the simple accumulation of knowledge isn’t going to make you any healthier, wealthier, or happier. There needs to be an element of action. In other words, a better balance between input and output.

Earlier this year, I read a book about learning in public (Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon). It listed 10 reasons why creating in public and sharing your journey will increase your ability to grow and develop rapidly. If I just kept the information to myself, sure I’d be wiser about the topic. But, it was only when I took action that I saw a meaningful impact on my life.

Paint The Bigger Picture

I used to finish reading a book and race to start the next. I was in this ‘more is better’ frenzy. But, now all I do is reflect. How does this book shape my knowledge? What were the key messages? How does it all fit into the bigger picture?

I think painting the bigger picture is crucial, books consumed in isolation are valuable to an extent, but multiple books combined provide a more powerful weapon of knowledge that you can leverage. I do this in Notion, I write summary notes for every book that I read, then I keep a larger database of life lessons from all the books, which then forms my overall take on life. I guess you could call it a Manual For Life. If you want me to share this, reply to this email and let me know!

This almost definitely takes more time, sometimes even an entire week of slow processing a book, but makes for a much deeper development in my knowledge of any given topic. Often, I even realise that I still don’t understand and may have to follow up a book with some additional reading.

Learn once, Store Forever

I can tell you at this point that most personal growth-hacking books will contain a lesson about gains compounding over time, starting-off small, and maybe something about finding your passion and doing what makes you happy. If your idea of spaced repetition is reading 20 books and getting this through reinforcement then so be it. But, with effective note-taking and apps like Readwise, you can read a pillar book in one particular domain and in most occasions get everything you need.

I’m sick of reading the same lessons over and over again whilst convincing myself just because it’s narrated differently with a different backstory it must somehow be novel information. It isn’t. So, now I selectively pick books that will be the most beneficial in furthering my understanding of a particular topic.


Maybe I have a bit of Advanced Person’s Paralysis where my dialogue around reading books has changed after ingesting over 100+ books, and maybe there is power in getting those vital reps in if you’re just getting into reading more. But, as I do have some experience, this is what I’ll say:

  • Read books with deep intent, know your ‘why’.

  • Focus on the output, apply what you learn.

  • Realise that multiple books relay the same lessons.

With that, happy reading in 2021 and if you’d like to have me as an accountability buddy, hit me up: goodreads.com/yathprem

This Week’s Quote 🎯

‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’ ― Benjamin Franklin

This Week’s Recommendation 🚀

📺 New Documentary — Less Is Now by The Minimalists

On January 1st, I watched this once. Then a few hours later, I watched it again and took a bucket of notes. Here’s an insanely good new documentary covered by The Minimalists, directed by Matt D’Avella on living an intentional life through the means of fewer, more considered belongings.

This Week on YouTube 🎥

I’ve got a very interesting video coming out on Friday, but until then on the topic of books, here are 3 life-changing books:

This Week’s Tweet 🐦

That’s all for this week — be safe, be happy!

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