The Reading Diet

June 26, 2019 • #

Books are one purchase I don’t restrict my spending on. I’m not a big buyer of “stuff” in general, but I don’t hesitate at all about my money going to reading. I do try to be circumspect to not overwhelm myself, and to limit that spending to ones that I’m highly interested in and likely to read. I tend to think along the same lines as Shane Parrish here (and, by extension, Charlie Munger):

Books contain a vast amount of knowledge and knowing what most other people don’t know is how I make a living. While books can be expensive, ignorance is costlier.

This is why books are necessary. Charlie Munger loved to quote a line from an old machine tool ad: “The man who needs a new machine tool and hasn’t purchased it yet is already paying for it.” You’re already paying for the knowledge you need but don’t have yet.

(I’ll admit, this may be a way to self-justify the expense, but hey, you can waste a lot more money a lot more frivolously than on books.)

Books from March trip

In recent years I’ve tried to keep the diet of books diverse between fiction and nonfiction, quick high-level stuff and deeper, richer ones. Since my interests are so varied already, covering a healthy swath of subjects isn’t a challenge. Over the years I’ve discovered my interests leaning toward “first principles” and classics. My very-occasional hauls from used bookstores show my preference for a lot of original sources and old standards for the library.

I’m also an avid user of Audible and read more (by volume) via audio than print. It’s become so second-nature to me to listen to books, I’ve become much more adept at retention of information from listening than I was before. I still avoid reading deep stuff or books with heavy visuals in audio form if I can. People think I’m crazy when I say I always listen to books while running, but I’ve gotten so used to it that music while exercising sounds weird to me.

Now you might ask: why not support the local library instead of buying? I wholeheartedly support libraries and want them to continue to thrive, but the process of searching for, checking out, and returning books adds overhead to the process of reading that I’d rather not bother with. Not to mention the selection may not even contain half the books I’m looking for. Again, it’s a personal thing. Part of that is due to my own patterns of reading sometimes 4 to 6 books simultaneously, with 1 or 2 in there that might take 6 months to finish. Once my kids get older and start spending time at the library, it may tip my behavior in that direction, as well.