Reading for mood vs reading to learn

For most of my adult life, I read non-fiction books to learn something new, to get advice, or to get better at something I was already doing. I’d focus on reading new books every time, take notes, and (in some cases) try to apply what I had learned in my work and life.

Then, a few years ago I read this quote in “Fooled by Randomness” by Nassim Taleb:

I do not know if it applies to other people, but, in spite of my being a voracious reader, I have rarely been truly affected in my behavior (in any durable manner) by anything I have read. A book can make a strong impression, but such an impression tends to wane after some newer impression replaces it in my brain (a new book).

That prompted me to think, and well, sure enough, every book sets up a new mood. Depending on the book I was reading I might get inspired, or analytical, or want to write, or want to hack on something, and so on: it would change my disposition, at least for that day or week while I was still in contact with the book.

I decided to take that lesson and use it to my advantage: by re-reading a book (or my notes about it) I can now manipulate my mood on any given day!

I can make myself feel calmer when I’m stressed, reduce my spending habits when I want to buy something expensive, get more analytical when I’m thinking about a problem emotionally, and so on. It’s a really powerful thing, and it works like a charm for me.

I cycle through different books to achieve different moods, but these are some of my favourites:

  • To get calm and relaxed: “Striking Thoughts” (Bruce Lee), “Fuck It!” (John C. Parkin).
  • To reduce my desires ($$$, career): “Life Nomadic” (Tynan), “Goodbye, Things” (Fumio Sasaki).
  • To get analytical: “The 4-Hour Work Week” (Tim Ferriss), “The 4-Hour Chef” (Tim Ferriss)
  • To feel like reading even more: anything by Nassim Taleb, but especially “Fooled by Randomness” and “The Black Swan” (lots of great recommendation and love for books in those two).
  • To feel like writing: “On Writing” (Stephen King), “2k to 10k” (Rachel Aaron)
  • To feel like hacking: “Masters of Doom” (David Kushner).
  • To just do it: “The Obstacle is the Way” (Ryan Holiday), “Ego is the Enemy” (Ryan Holiday), “Crushing It!” (Gary Vee).

Usually, I don’t need much: just 5-15 minutes reading or just skimming a book (with highlighted content) is enough to change my mood and disposition. Some days it takes longer than that.

In any case, this is one of the reasons why I now spend almost as much time re-reading books as I do reading new ones!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.