How to Read More Books

How to Read More Books January 20, 2017

I love books. My library contains thousands of them. But I’m a slow reader. Very slow, in fact.

That’s why I value Leaders Book Summaries. This is a service for Christian leaders who want to up their reading game, enabling them to consume scores of books in record time.

I’ve interviewed Dave Frederick twice over the years. Dave is the founder of Leaders Book Summaries.

Here are the two interviews back to back. You can also get a FREE issue here to test drive the service.

Frank: You’ve been involved in providing summaries of top leadership books for several years now. Why do you do it? Why do you think it’s so important for leaders to read?

Dave: Every leader I know will tell you they want to grow in wisdom. It’s desperately needed by anyone carrying any leadership responsibility. And reading is one of the best ways to gain that wisdom.

You can get wisdom from your experience—often painful experience—or you can learn from other people. Reading gives you the opportunity to learn from some of the best leaders and wisest people in the world. There really is no substitute.

I would much rather learn from other people’s mistakes than have to make them myself! I know I’ll make plenty of mistakes, but I’d prefer to avoid as many as I can, and reading helps me do that.

Frank: How much do you think a leader should read? Is there a magic number you shoot for?

Dave: No magic number—I think we should read as much as we can, and as widely as we can. I know people who read 3-5 books per week, but that is pretty rare. Most people I know struggle to find time to read at all, or maybe get through 1-2 books per month.

Frank: Why is it so hard for people to find time to read?

Dave: We’re busy! I have never had someone say to me, “Dave, I don’t know what to do with all my extra time.” Life is demanding, and if you are in any kind of leadership role, it’s even moreso. We struggle to find time to get everything done.

It’s the classic case of putting the urgent before the important. Unfortunately, we really undercut ourselves in the long term when we do that. If we don’t make reading a priority, we limit our growth, and we put a ceiling on our ministry and effectiveness.

Reading now is an investment in our own future. I don’t want to minister or lead at the same level in 2-3 years that I operate at now. I want to be better! But that will only happen if I invest now in my own learning and growth. They payoff comes later, but it does come.

Frank: Any suggestions for finding the time?

Dave: One of the key issues is that we have to break out of the tyranny of the urgent and commit to taking the time. It isn’t going to happen unless we make it happen. Sometimes that means accepting that we may get less done in the short term if we take time to invest in our own personal development, knowing that we will come out way ahead in the long term.

Another key is to set aside specific times to read. Some do that right before bed, or first thing when they get up. It doesn’t matter when, but just like with any priority, you have to put it into your schedule; you have to write it down on your calendar, or else it will get squeezed out. And I plan ahead of time what I read, so I don’t waste time trying to decide in the moment and waste time.

Finally, I almost always carry something to read with me. That might be a book or magazine, a Kindle book, or something saved on my laptop. That allows me to take advantage of down time or when I’m stuck waiting in a line.

And read summaries! LOL—seriously, that is one way to maximize your reading time. An average reader can get through a summary in 15-20 minutes, versus taking 3-5 hours for the whole book. That’s an easy way to invest.

Most of you are influencers of some sort. Many are pastors, teachers, authors, bloggers, professors, and people who are involved in some kind of ministry. (So says this year’s blog survey,)

Here’s the second interview.

Why is it important for those who influence others to read many books?

Dave Frederick: If you want to influence or lead other people, you have to keep learning and growing. You can’t really lead people beyond where you are yourself. Reading allows you to benefit from other’s experiences and grow in wisdom without having to recreate the wheel every time. And it’s a great way to gain information that you need to help yourself, and others, move forward. None of us knows all we need to; the most effective leaders keep investing in their own growth so they have more to pass on.

What would you say to a leader who says, “I don’t read any books except the Bible?”

Dave Frederick: I would say, “That sounds very spiritual! But I don’t think it is either biblical or wise.” Paul didn’t live that way. He asked Timothy to bring “the scrolls, especially the parchments” (II Timothy 4:13) which would have been reading material, and he was familiar with writers of different cultures—he quoted them at times when he preached. Also, Proverbs is clear that we should pursue wisdom, and reading is one of the best ways to do that. As far as I can see, the most effective, impactful spiritual leaders throughout history have all been readers. You would be hard-pressed to find any that didn’t read the Bible and other material as well.

How does Leaders Book Summaries help busy people to read more books?

Dave Frederick: It’s really just simple math. A typical person will take 4-6 hours to read a full book. They will take 15-20 minutes to read a summary, and they will still get all the key information. Interestingly, a Carnegie-Mellon study found that people who read good summaries often retain more of what they read than those who read the whole book. I don’t think the goal is just to read more—although summaries enable you to do that—but rather to learn more. And reading summaries helps you do that as well.

What if a person says, “I want to read more books, but I’m not a leader.” What is your response?

Dave Frederick: So what? Reading, learning, growing—those things are for everyone. If you want to become a leader, reading is a great way to invest in yourself, but even if you don’t, hopefully you still want to become all you can be—and the wisdom you can gain from reading will serve you well.

What are some of the most popular books you’ve featured in summary form?

Dave Frederick: That’s a hard one! We summarize all the current top leadership books, and try to make sure that we get all the older classics as well. It’s probably easier to talk about popular authors: John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, Henry Cloud, Patrick Lencioni, Larry Osborne, the Heath brothers, Kouzes & Posner, Bill Hybels, and so many more—if they are writing good material, we try to summarize it. We want to get the best material out there into people’s hands. If you go to the website, you can actually see all the books we have summarized.

What has the response been to Leaders Book Summaries?

Dave Frederick: Overwhelming! We have had thousands of people sign up. Many churches have gotten subscriptions for all of their leaders. The truth is, no one is out there wondering what to do with all of their extra time! So having a way to invest in yourself and grow, without having to spend hours and hours, really addresses a felt need.

Is there anything else that you do besides the summaries?

Dave Frederick: Yes! This year we have added a new service we call LeadersTips. These are short, 2-3 minute videos that cover one specific tip for leaders—one specific idea or insight that will help you become a better leader. We do one per week, and they are free to our subscribers. It’s just another way to serve people.

Any final comments?

Dave Frederick:  Our goal is simple: we want to help people become who they are called to be and do what they are called to do. That’s what we are called to do. Both the summaries and the videos serve that purpose. As God’s leaders step into their identity and develop their skills, I think the church, and the world, will be affected. It’s exciting to me that we get to play a small part in helping that happen.

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