The unit of reading is a chapter

The unit of reading is a chapter, not a book.
Throwback photo to me reading my my hammock in Cayman. A favourite author, with the title a lyric from my favourite musician.

I wish you some happy reading this Sunday, and while you do:

consider that the ‘unit of reading’ is not ‘the book’. It’s the chapter. Books are just convenient ways of keeping chapters around the house in neat bundles.

Nick Parker, in his latest newsletter post: “How to read lots of books

Last Tuesday, my most recent guest on WhatComesNext.Live was Rob Poynton. Rob raved to me about his absolute favourite email newsletter, “That Explains Things” from Nick Parker. The quote above is from the first newsletter from Nick since I signed up.

Suffice to say this one post may be life-changing for me. It may also have value for you.

I’m an avid book collector who rarely finishes any, has multiple piles of books, has many “on the go”, often picks those up to read a little then puts them down. Oh, and I feel guilty about all of that, plus I put myself off buying more as they add to the unread books.

A few snippets from Nick’s newsletter post:

  • If you read according to principles like ‘I’ve started this book, so I must finish it’, or ‘don’t start a new book until you’ve finished this one’, just stop it. You wouldn’t consume any other media like this (‘Just gotta finish reading this whole website before I click anything else’). Put the boring book down and pick up another. Nobody will judge you and nothing bad will happen.
  • Have lots of interesting books around. To help with this: always buy the book. In the scheme of things, books cost nothing. The equivalent of a couple of pints. Less than a pizza. If you’re broke and can’t afford books, you’ll know. If you’re feeling like ‘hmm, I’m not sure whether I should or not…’ Yes, you should. Buy the damn book.
  • (My guess is that we prevaricate about buying books not because of the cost, but because the feeling of having ‘too many’ unread books weighs on us in some way.)
  • Have lots of books on the go. How many? How many places can you get away with making small piles of books?: one pile by the bed, another on the desk, a book or two in my rucksack, a small stack by the comfy chair…
  • Here’s liberating: consider that the ‘unit of reading’ is not ‘the book’. It’s the chapter. Books are just convenient ways of keeping chapters around the house in neat bundles.
  • Book 30-minute slots into your work calendar for reading. (Call them things like ‘Catch-up w/Dostoevsky re: Project Karamazov’.)

All of Nick’s point liberate me from “reading guilt”. This last one, though, is one that feels highly actionable, booking “reading slots” into my diary. Genius!

Happy reading. Oh, and each Sunday my reading always involves one that is a “comfy chair with a good cup of coffee, the weekly email from Maria Popova and Brainpickings.


Also published on Medium.