What I Read

January 22, 2021

Towards the end of last year, I picked up the habit of spending time in the park before work each morning. I’d take a book, find a quiet bench and settle in. When the current restrictions on movement are lifted, this is a habit I intend to pick up again.

One morning, it struck me that the majority of what I read gets pushed in front of me. I don’t mean push notifications, I’ve long since turned those off. I’m thinking of the continuous news feed of articles pushed in front of me for attention. My reading starts with a list. I have lists for everything;

  • algorithmic news services
  • the curated Twitter timeline
  • RSS feeds
  • book lists

It struck me that the only choice I’m exercising is whether to look beyond the headlines, to look beyond the entries in a list. I’m turning to the same curated lists of articles from the same sources every day. Everything starts with a list of headlines. I scan down these lists looking for something interesting before deciding if I’m going to read it.

I’ve been toying with the idea of inverting this approach. What if I started with a topic of interest and then looked for articles worth reading? On the rare occasions that I’ve done this, I’ve thoroughly appreciated the results. I find it easier to focus, more stimulating and all round more enjoyable.

I’m not yet convinced that the difference in approach is as significant as I’m making it out. So this is something I’m going to experiment with. I’m going to try and start with an area of interest or a question.

What do I want to read?

I suspect I’ll read less (or at least skim less), but my hope is that I’ll apprecaite reading more. At the same time, I’m going to try and slow down the decisions I make about what to read. It feels rare that the immediacy of an article is what makes it impactful. If anything, the most impactful articles tend to weather any initial hype.

How do you decide what to read? Do you have a system or is it something that is spontaneous? I’d love to hear about it.