Five Tips Mark Manson Uses to Read and Internalize 81 Books Per Year
“There’s a reason that reading has been around for more than 5,000 years. It fucking works.”
But you already know that. What you probably don’t know is who said the words. Mark Manson is a thinker who explains psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy using blog posts filled with poop jokes and f-bombs.
He’s also the author of two massive bestsellers that blew the minds of 13 million people across the world. Since half of Mark’s work is to sit down and read, he definitely knows one thing or two about being a better and faster reader.
On top of Mark’s five tips, below, you’ll find a hack that’ll help you remember what you read.
1. Shut down your inner voice
When we first learn to read, we sound each syllable out loud. Sure, it’s cute when you’re a kid, then you realize the older you get, the weirder it looks.
That’s why you slowly move the process into your head. You start to look silent on the outside, but your inner voice keeps singing inside. Hear that? You’re not alone — most of us have a little voice and suffer from its downside. Mark explained the latter very accurately.
“It’s fucking slow,” which is why reading faster requires you to turn off your inner voice. Here’s how.
Picture words as symbols or images instead of sounds. It can be tricky at the beginning because you’ll be splitting your attention between two things. One: make sure your little voice shuts up, and two: scan the text in front of you. So, be patient with yourself as you practice.
Studies on reading habits found that the suppression of inner voice increases your reading speed at the cost of comprehension. The more you speed, the less you understand.
Okay, Nabil, what the heck should I do then?
You can suppress your inner-voice when you’re going through the fluff of a book or an article —like this sentence here. But when you get to the core message, switch back to your ‘noisy’ reading mode.
2. Read with your finger
I know what you’re thinking: Just like mouthing syllables out loud, reading with your finger doesn’t look cute anymore. Hear me out first.
When you run your finger along with the words you’re reading, you’ll help your eyes stay on track. You’ll also avoid distractions like your cat jumping on the sofa or your roommate stealing your cheesecake from the fridge.
Sure, you’ll look like a six-year-old on steroids because your finger will move fast and you’ll probably lose a snack. But if this helps improve your reading, who cares? Besides, cheesecakes aren’t healthy.
Though the trick makes sense, I couldn’t find specific scientific evidence for it — I only found a strong connexion. Research has shown that video games improve focus. Wait, what does this have to do with reading?
Video games improve your visual attention because they train your eye to keep track of moving objects — just like you’d keep track of your moving finger.
Better visual attention, better reading.
3. Stop reading shit you don’t like
You don’t finish a meal you don’t enjoy nor a movie that bores you to death. So why the heck do you fixate on reading every word of a book you don’t like?
Here, let me remind you of something you’re free to do. Skip.
Skip the boring paragraphs, turn the pages that sound too familiar and put down the whole book if you think you got the idea — or if the idea sounds rubbish. Yes, that’s it. Skip.
As you may have noticed, skipping applies differently to fiction and non-fiction books.
For fiction, it’s easy: all or nothing. For non-fiction, however, the trick is about optimizing your reading time. Repetition is common in these books because the most relevant psychological research and reliable productivity studies are also the most cited. That’s why Mark said:
“If you’re reading every word of every non-fiction book, you’re doing it wrong.”
4. Schedule your reading time
Hey, relax. The idea isn’t to expand your to-do-list. Rather, scheduling your reading time means exploiting downtimes in your day.
Suppose you need 30' to fall asleep at night and 15' to sip your morning coffee. Let’s steal another 15' from TikTok and Twitter — I promise, you won’t miss much.
That’s one hour.
The average person can read one page every two minutes. If you use that hour to read, you’ll score 30 pages every day. Most books include around 300 pages, which means that you can read 36 books a year.
Actually, you can read way more than that because you’ll learn to read faster and skip shit you don’t like. Also, remember, these results derive from reading 60' a day.
Mark finished 81 books in 2020 because he most likely averages a reading time of two hours each day.
It’s alright to miss one day or twenty-two. As long as you keep getting back on your reading track, you’ll grow your book-count. Even if you score nine books on your first year, that beats the heck out of zero.
5. Read more than one book at a time
Reading is like having lunch. You can quickly get tired of eating the same meal over and over again. Mark’s last trick is to pick two or three books from different genres to keep yourself entertained.
For instance, you could read a marketing book for work, a psychology review for your personal growth, and a sci-fi novel for fun. Every time you overdose from one, shift to another.
The idea is to keep the process of reading fun and engaging. So if a book or a novel sucks you in, don’t force yourself out of it. Keep reading.
How to remember what you read
The short answer is: instead of polluting a book with notes and highlights, use its content. Not sure you fully got it? That’s what the not-so-long answer is here for.
Studies have shown that popular techniques like highlighting, rereading, and taking notes have low retention utility. Translation: popular methods suck at making you remember stuff.
In contrast, it’s easy for your brain to remember things you use in life.
Okay, so how do you use abstract ideas written in a book? The same study suggests you discuss them in a conversation or write about them. Either way, the process resembles teaching your ideas to someone else, and as they say: the best way to learn is to teach.
However, when it comes to specifics like actionable tips and examples, Mark suggests you don’t force yourself to remember each detail. Instead, he advises recalling where to find the insights.
For example, instead of memorizing everything I shared in this article, you can save it or take screenshots. When you decide to implement the reading tips, you can come back to the content and snipe the details you need.
Wait, what were these tips again?