How Bill Gates Reads Books

If you’re a dedicated reader of our site, you know that we’ve periodically highlighted Bill Gates’ favorite books. (See his lists from 20152016 and 2017, plus this recommendation made earlier this year.) You also know that his reading diet skews heavily towards non-fiction–towards books like Enlightenment Now by Steven PinkerSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Noah Yuval Harari, and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck.

That’s what Gates likes to read. But how about how he reads? How does Gates get the most out of his time spent reading? As he explains in the Quartz video above, it boils down to this:

  1. Take Notes in the Margins: That simple step helps ensure that you’re really paying attention and engaging critically with the text. It lets you “take in new knowledge and attach it to knowledge you already have.”
  2. Don’t Start What You Can’t Finish: Gates doesn’t explain why you should never cut your losses. Maybe it’s a form of self-discipline. Maybe it’s a fear of missing out on what a book promises to deliver. Or maybe it’s the sunk cost fallacy. Either way, Gates does recommend picking your books carefully before you get started.
  3. Paper Books, Not eBooks: Better for marginalia, for sure.
  4. Block Out an Hour of Reading Time: You can’t read a serious book in a short sitting. To really engage with a book, give it a good hour each day. A tall order, I known, in our age of ever-declining attention spans.

To be sure, you have your own reading practices to recommend. Please don’t hesitate to add them to the comments section below.

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Related Content:

Bill Gates, Book Critic, Names His Top 5 Books of 2015

Six Books (and One Blog) Bill Gates Wants You to Read This Summer

Take Big History: A Free Short Course on 13.8 Billion Years of History, Funded by Bill Gates

View Bill Gates’ Mobile Library: The Books & Courses That Help Him Change The World

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