How to pick the right non-fiction book to read

I always feel conflicted to quit reading a book after picking it up. It is not rational. Usually I do not have problems quitting things. If you are anything like me — keep on reading on. There are too many good books for you. You do not have time to waste on books which are not good for you. Every book is a trap, every book is a project. Here are my tips on how to pick books you want to read.

Step 1: Do not buy the book

Buying the book is the first step towards committing to read the book.

It’s a difficult step to take, but do not buy the book. Even if it’s available on discount and your pocket’s itching to spend that money. Discounts only affect your bank balance, but not your state of mind and self-esteem. Every book you buy increases the counter of “unfinished projects” and “unrealized dreams”. Take your time to get to know the book first.

Step 2: Pre-reading

Reading takes a lot of spare time, and in case of non-fiction — also a lot of work.

Invest time and effort to know about the book as much as possible before you even seriously consider reading the whole thing. Be strategic about your time. Every book you read is a project, it is a big-ticket item. It is similar to buying a house, but with books, you pay with your time to get knowledge and insights.

Do your research! And the good thing about doing a pre-read check is that the time you spend doing it counts towards reading the book.

Read reviews on amazon and goodreads.com. Search for blog posts, YouTube videos.

Read the summaries. Check out Blinkist. They may have a good summary to read or a shortcast to listen to.

Search for podcasts with the author. Authors do podcast tours when they have a new book out. Hear what they have to say (and sell), understand how they think, and communicate.

Search Twitter for the threads on the book. Sometimes authors summarize the book, other times people #readinpublic.

Read a sample chapter. Get the demo for free. Amazon often allows you to read a selected chapter for free. Other publishers do that too. This is the most time and effort consuming part of the step, but the most important. You are not committed to reading the entire book, you still can get 95% of your time back, and get to keep all your money, and not have another unfinished project in your consciousness. Doing due diligence is the right thing to do.

Step 3: Read the book

If you still think that the book is worth your time, go ahead and read it.

Changed your mind? Even better, now you have free time, the money you did not spend on the book you do not really want to read, and peace of mind.

Plus, it is better to have a, “Here is why I decided not to read the book”, rather than lamenting, “I bought the book but didn’t really read it yet”, the next time we are allowed to see people. Be careful not to fall into the habit of ‘pre-reading’ without actually reading the books. The goal is to read-only the right books for you, not to collect the list of them.

Closing words

And one last thing. One might say: “Why would I bother reading the book when I already read the summary and understand what it is about?” It is a legit question. But …

  1. This question will never occur for the right book for you. You will be eager to read it, and you will regret that it is not longer when you finish it.
  2. Knowing the principles and ideas expressed in the book is not the same as living by them. Reading the whole thing helps engrave the ideas into your operating system. Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Stop Smoking helped thousands to quit. The book does not have any new information smokers did not know. The book manages to plant those ideas deep enough so that you can not ignore those ideas any longer. No one quit smoking by reading reviews and endorsement blurbs on the back of the book.

  3. You can have it on your shelf for well-deserved virtue-signaling.

Hope this helps! Tweet at @jkovzels to share you experince and hints!