In Step 1, you will choose a book that is so good that it will convince you that you are a reader.
I can’t overstate the importance of this step. Your first book will be the difference between reading 0 books and reading 1 or more books this month.
Take Moby Dick as an example. Authors and book critics have called Moby Dick “gripping”, “flawless” and an “immaculate conception”. It sounds like a good book to start with, right? Not at all. If Moby Dick was the first book you started reading for your THING, you’d get a dozen pages into a chapter about the anatomy of the whale before your eyes rolled back in your head. If you don’t like the first book you try to read, it will be easy to convince yourself that reading isn’t your THING.
On the other hand, if you pick up the perfect book - a book that pulls you in like your favorite movie does - you’ll finish it in a few days. If that happens, it will be easy to convince yourself that reading is your THING. It really all comes down to the book. So in Step 1, we’re going to take that decision seriously.
Here are my suggestions (in order of effectiveness) for finding the perfect book:
1) Talk to a close friend or family member who is a reader.
Tell them you are going to pick up the habit of reading this month and that you are looking for a book recommendation. By going to someone who knows you well, you will get the best recommendation with the least amount of effort on your part. Always try to outsource curation.
You can use this simple script as a jumping-off point for that conversation:
Hey. I’ve decided to read every day this month and I want to start with a book that is really hard to put down. I know you read a lot and you know me really well so I wanted to get your opinion. I think [fiction/nonfiction] would be best for me. Any recommendations?
Don’t let them recommend 10 books. Make them narrow it down to one or two.
2) See a professional.
In other words, a librarian. I talked to my friend Michelle who is a librarian about using librarians for book recommendations and this was her advice:
My biggest advice is don't be afraid to approach [library] staff and ask questions. The main job of library staff is to assist patrons. We can't exist without the user! So while it can be scary, and damn all shushing librarian stereotypes, a vast majority of library staff are friendly and helpful.
A good librarian/library specialist will ask the interested reader what they have liked reading in the past. I'd ask them what tone are they looking for - upbeat, comedic, serious... If they don't have books they've really enjoyed, I would ask about topics of interest or media (TV shows, movies) that they have enjoyed. So what I would recommend to a hesitant reader is to know what they like and have an idea of what they might be interested in reading about. Maybe it's adventure stories, maybe it's learning about sailboats. I'd empower the reader to say "no" or "not that" at any time. The librarian should be able to take it from there.
3) Check out a reading list published by a trusted individual.
DO NOT GOOGLE “Best books 2020.” It’s too big of a risk to solicit recommendations from the internet at-large. Just because book critics or someone on Reddit thinks a book is good, that doesn’t mean you’ll like it. I fell for that trap a handful of times already this year. The exception to this rule is if you have been following someone’s blog, YouTube channel, podcast, etc. for a while and you are sure that something they recommend will be a good fit for you.
I use The CEO Library to see which books inspire the authors, entrepreneurs, athletes, and content creators who inspire me. For example, I've read all of Malcolm Gladwell's books and listen to his podcast Revisionist History, so I trust his book recommendations.
4) If you have nowhere else to turn, you can check out my list of book recommendations.
I update it monthly with non-fiction and fiction books.
After you get a book recommendation using one of these methods, read the synopsis for yourself.
If you feel excited about the book, go ahead and lock it in. If not, don’t hesitate to start the process over and get a new recommendation. Remember, this first book will probably be the difference between reading multiple books this month and zero books this month.
Step 1 is complete when you have followed one of these suggestions and know exactly which book you want to read. Step 2 is all about getting the book (ideally for free).