How to Stop Buying Books and Start Reading Them

5 Easy tips on effective buying and reading so you don’t get overloaded.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #192

Books! I just love books!

Actually, I do. I really love books.

For years, when someone said, "Stever, there's this great book you have to read!" I dropped everything, ran to the bookstore, and bought it. On my way home, I'd pass a stranger, who would see me with my new book. They'd say, "If you like that book, you'll love this other book." I'd turn around, run back to the store, and buy the other book, too. On my way home, if the stranger looked ready to recommend a third book, I'd look them straight in the eye and say, "Could you spare some change? I just spent my last dime on a book." They'd back off.

Once home, my two new acquisitions would go lovingly at the end of my backlog, a backlog that would be empty sometime in the mid-22nd century if I kept on adding to it at my current pace. And by the way, my sincere intention was to read these books, to learn and use the knowledge. It wasn't just about being able to say "My book backlog is bigger than yours!" (Though that does feel nice.)

So I found better ways to deal with books. Come join me in my quest to read with these 5 Quick and Dirty tips!

Tip #1: Create a “Books To Read” List

When someone suggests a book to you, don't run right out and buy it. And don't go straight to your favorite online book-seller either. Instead, create a "Books to Read" list and add their recommendation to the list. This introduces a little delay in the process. You may also want to note who gave you the recommendation. That way, you can punish them later if they have bad taste. 

When you want to buy a new book, scan your "Books to Read" list. You'll find that once the heat of the moment has passed, you can be more thoughtful about what you want to read. You will also see the recommendations side-by-side with the other books you're thinking of reading. While it seemed like a great idea when you wrote it down, The 20th Century's Favorite Lolly-Pop Flavors suddenly seems much less urgent when you consider it next to Get-it-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More. (Subtle, right?)

Tip #2: Only Buy Books You'll Read in the Next Week

Since you're accumulating books into your list, you don't need to buy the actual book until you're ready to read it. This is where I fall off the wagon; sometimes I buy books just to make sure it will be there when I'm ready…and I end up with 20 books on my shelf waiting to be read. Do as I say, not as I do! If you won't read a book in the next 7 days, don't buy it, yet. Now that we've invented cars and can drive quickly to bookstores, you can wait until you're almost done with your current book before starting the next one.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.