How to be Well-Read Without Reading Well

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss Share on X

Most successful writers, entrepreneurs, and world leaders have one thing in common: They read. A lot.

Bill Gates reads 50 books per year, and Warren Buffet reads up to 1,000 pages a day. Oprah has a book club, and billionaire David Rubenstein reads up to six books a week. Mark Cuban reads over three hours a day, and a young Elon Musk used to read up to 10 hours per day.*

Does this mean that you have to be a good reader to be a big achiever?

If so, that would be a sad state of affairs for people who struggle with dyslexia; people who can barely carve out time to eat, much less read; and people who get dizzy at the sight of hundreds of pages of dense text.

Luckily, if that’s you, there are several ways to be well-read without reading well, including the following:

4 Ways to be Well-Read When You’re Not a Great Reader

1. Listen to audiobooks

This one is the most obvious. Audiobooks, podcasts, and the like are much more portable than books, and you can listen to them anywhere — in the car, at the gym, while you’re doing the dishes, during lunch break, etc.

2. Watch videos

If you’re looking for something a little more interactive than a book, remember that a lot of today’s top writers are also speakers. You can easily find TED talks and Youtube videos in which writers share nearly everything they write about in their books, sometimes in a more memorable fashion.

3. Read book summaries!

Nowadays, there are plenty of book summaries available for both fiction and nonfiction books. SparkNotes and Cliffnotes have long been used by high school and college students to…erm…supplement their reading for literature classes.

But if you don’t have time to read 500 pages of a book, you can find book summaries of all kinds of books at SuperSummary, InstaRead, Ant Hive Media free summaries, and even Medium:

The Ultimate Index of Detailed Book Notes
We read to know we’re not alone — William Nicholson

Of course, you will not get the full scope of the book by reading summaries, but they can help you learn the most improtant lessons, and decide whether you want to know more.

4. DON’T read everything

Reading a lot is not a guarantee of success. In fact, reading the wrong material can actually be a guarantee of massive failure. The key to being well-read is to read good books, and read them in the right manner.

First, find good books: Look for book recommendations from people you admire and want to be like. Check out the books referenced by books you’ve read before that you like.

Second, don’t read each book from cover to cover: Not every idea in every book is going to be useful for you. Learn to master the skill of skimming, and only read the most useful parts in depth.

Here’s an idea: Scan the introduction and conclusion of a book before you decide to buy it. That will give you an idea of what the book is about and the author’s style. Then, skim chapter titles, and first paragraphs to figure out which parts of the book you want to read. You can also look for diagrams, pull quotes, and the like.

Finally: If a book is not working out, stop reading. Even a good book may only have one or a few good ideas. There are so many books, and so little time. Choose wisely.

What Books REALLY Are

Besides giving you lots of material to talk about at parties, and things to write about on your blog, books can help you to achieve nearly anything you want.

Because books aren’t mere sheaves of paper stuck between two covers. Books are actually vehicles for powerful ideas. They can transfer a person’s experience and wisdom directly to your brain.

If you do want to learn quickly and well, books are a necessary step on that ladder.

But you don’t need to read every page of every book to be “well-read.”

There are many ways of absorbing good ideas. The most important trait of a well-read person is to retain a student’s mind.

That way, whether you read well or poorly, you will always find and learn what you need to create the life you want.


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