Single-serving sized visits with books

Imagine you have a book problem. (Don’t judge me, please.) You’ve read countless books. You’ve given away countless books in an attempt to get the foundation of your house to stop settling to one side. You’ve gone through your to-read book shelves and culled as many as you can bear over to the normal shelves, resigned to being okay with never reading them.

…and you still have hundreds of books that you really want to read.

There are two common ways that people recommend reading books: One-at-a-time, (whether thoroughly and carefully cover-to-cover or by breezing through them more quickly,) and multiple-at-a-time. In both ways however, you intend to pick some book and to completely, (whatever that means to you,) read the book.

I want to explain a third way: Single-serving sized visits.

Begin by allocating a set amount of time. Something like 45 minutes seems to work well for me, but it can be any amount that you can do in one sitting. Extra bonus points if you can make this a recurring thing you do regularly.

You will need post-it notes and a writing instrument. You will not need a bookmark.

You’re going to pay a short visit, (say 45 minutes,) to your book collection by picking one book. Take the book (and your post-its and your writing instrument) and head for your reading spot. (You do have a designated reading spot, right? :)

Spend 45 minutes reading the book however you wish. Skim it. Read the prologue. Dig deep into chapter 4. Start reading at page 88. Turn it upside down and read it [upside down] backwards. Whatever. If you really don’t like the book, you can walk out on the date and put the book on your read pile.

As you read it insert post-its…

  1. …on the upper edge of pages whenever you find a reference to any other book. It doesn’t have to be a book you have, or have read, or even want to read. Just start leaving “top” post-its referring to books. Write the name, (and author, etc., as much or as little as you like—”I have this”, “I want this book”, whatever) on each note.
  2. …on the outer edge of pages whenever you find something interesting. A quote, an idea, killer prose, whatever. Write a note explaining the reason you like what you’re noting, maybe try to position the post-it, and include a little arrow that points to the part—Or just a blank post-it, and write directly in your book if that’s your style.

After the allotted time, your visit is over. Put the book back, either in the to-read area, or maybe in the read-these area. (If you bother to distinguish.)

Over time, you will slowly get to know more and more of your books. You won’t feel like you need to read the books—you already know you can’t possibly finish them all. At least this way you’re going to have hundreds of great little visits with these ideas you’ve collected.

Over time, you’ll find more and more top post-its as you build mental links to other books. You’ll find all those side post-its marking ideas you like. You can also pick up a book and see what you think of it— I’ve never touched this book. [It has no post-its.] I clearly love this book. [It furry with notes.] When you want to recommend a book, you are likely to have post-its that have the good bits you’ll want them to see first. The top post-its are going to suggest other books in your collection you might want to visit next.

…and on and on.