A huge percentage of adults in the U.S. don't read books at all. This post is not for them. (That group would be happier and smarter if they cultivated a reading habit).

This post is for those of you who have read about the many business icons who gobble a library's worth of books a year and who are determined to keep up, pushing yourself to race through more and more titles.

The pressure to get through more books is something writer Chad Hall understands well. On the todoist Blog recently he shared his own experience with trying to cram ever more writing into his brain, as well as the complete failure of his experiment in binge reading. Then he goes on to suggest something that he swears works better.

"Brain gluttony" vs. slow reading

"2015 was my year of brain gluttony. On top of... unending social media posts, emails and text messages, I set myself two fairly insane challenges. The first of which was to watch 300 movies. My second goal was to read 80 books. The whole idea was absurd. And though I would love to say that I failed to achieve both of these goals, something much worse happened: I exceeded them. In 2015, I read 89 books and I watched 355 movies," Hall writes.

But in order to achieve that crazy level of information consumption, he needed to use every shortcut and trick in the book, from double speed audio books to speed reading apps. With these tools (and a shed-load of determination) Hall was able to exceed his goal, but he confesses, "over the span of the entire year, I feel like I learned very little... It seems that the faster the consumption, the lower my comprehension became."

Over the course of his experiment, Hall came to the same conclusion as science: speed reading doesn't work. Not just in the sense of circus sideshow levels of speed reading, but also the more mundane idea that cramming the maximum number of titles into your schedule is both desirable and possible.

"The purpose of a book is to inspire growth. A book is meant to become an addition to our sense of self. And it is here that we find our problem with fast reading: When we begin to view books as something to consume and we challenge ourselves to ingest them faster, we begin to see them as data; as simply something to remember. When we stop looking to them for knowledge everything in them becomes temporary," Hall thoughtfully writes.

So this year he's trying something different. Instead of pushing himself to consume more and more books, in 2016 he's reading less but better, turning off electronic notifications to avoid distractions, reflecting rather than rushing, re-reading key passages, and jotting down notes.

Should you follow his lead?

Published on: May 12, 2016
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