Three Ways to Decide What to Read Next!

Ruki and I don’t agree on a lot of things, and one of my peculiarities that annoys the crap out of her is this weird logic that any good fiction book is not to be read, for at some point, someone’s going to make a movie or a TV show out of it. I couldn’t help but smirk to myself, thinking about the number of arguments and debates we’ve had on this, as I go about writing this post. In the aftermath of this video that I created at the end of last year (my #somethingnew for 2020), a lot of people asked me how I chose my reading list. This seemingly innocuous question often stumps a lot of bibliophiles; of course, one can’t be expected to read everything out there… So how do I go about deciding what to read?

Interest areas: While I know that my logic for reading non-fiction is flawed, it does help me direct my energies and attention (limited as it is by modern-day distractions) on the things that matter to me. Some of my interest areas include mental health, behavioral economics, investing, contemporary history (World War ll onwards), and investigative journalism.

Thought leaders: While interest areas serve only as a general guide, I’ve realized that it’s important to have a range and depth in one’s reading material. Learning about the world and how it works in areas that are much removed from what you’re interested in opens your eyes to possibilities, including cross-domain and cross-discipline applications. For example, my interest in data visualization has helped me analyze information faster in my role at work. For one to develop this range and depth, it’s important to seek out recommendations from thought leaders in different fields. Follow such people on professional platforms such as LinkedIn and see what they’re reading. Bill Gates publishes his reading list for the season on the Gates Foundation website. McKinsey publishes an executive reading list every year on its website.

Book covers, footnotes, and references: The biggest scam in the world is the line, “A New York Times bestseller,” on the cover of a book. Having said that, book covers are also interesting places where you can find your next read. Sample this:

Matt Haig’s endorsements on the covers of Lost Connections and Humankind led me to his bestsellers: The Midnight Library and Notes on a Nervous Planet

Covers often have testimonials and endorsements from other authors. Look them up on goodreads and see if their work interests you. That’s how I’ve managed to find some of my recent reads, including The Midnight Library and Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. Another useful place with clues to what you should be reading next are footnotes and references. This is especially true if you wish to develop the depth I spoke about earlier. Sample this:

Rutger Bregman’s work on universal basic income referenced in Johann Hari’s Lost Connections

Finally, if binge-watching is a thing, then why can’t binge-reading be a thing too? Just pick up an author and finish all their books. Too much reading never hurt anyone, and it will only serve to further the realization that we know nothing about the world we live in. Keep reading. Keep growing 🙂

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