The Benefits of the Portfolio Method of Reading

Aug 4th 2016

What is the best investment you can make for your future? Stocks? Real Estate? Pork Bellies?

None of those.

Reading is your best investment. Books are cheap relative to the time you spend with them—assuming you actually read them. And if you find the right books, they can change your life.

Many successful people, reflecting on the ups and downs of their life, credit one book or another for the inflection point that brought them to where they are now.

And if success isn't enough of a motivation for you, what about living longer? According to a new study, book readers live (on average) almost two years longer than non-book readers.

Ten Life-Changing Books

The particular book that changes a life is different for each person. Here are ten common examples, which is just a start (your life-changing book might be something totally different):

1.The Bible

2.The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

3.The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

4.Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

5.The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

6.Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

7.The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

8.How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

9.The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (you can read our review of The One Thing here)

10.Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

You can read our Book Recommendations by category below:

Business and Entrepreneurship

Health, Fitness & Diet

Writing and Other Skills

Here are ten other book recommendations.

The Portfolio Method of Reading

There is, of course, a time and attention cost to reading books. That is one of the reasons you should adopt the portfolio method of reading.

What is the portfolio method of reading? It is an alternative to reading one or two books all the way through before starting another one. It is our approach here at the Success, Health, and Lifestyle blog.

It works best with non-fiction, but in practice we usually add a novel or selection of short stories to our current portfolio. Pick five or six books of varying genre, difficulty, and writing style.

One, for example, could be a life-changing book from the list above, like The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Another could be a modern novel, like Mark Helprin’s Memoir from Antproof Case (a favorite). Add a book on health or fitness, like Perfect Health Diet by Jaminet and Jaminet (our review here). Then, throw in something classic, like Letters from a Stoic by Seneca. To challenge and expand your mind (and mix in some science and philosophy), add The Big Picture by Sean Carroll.

That is a strong portfolio of reading.

The next step is to just pick up one of the books (or power up the kindle) and start reading until you are tired of reading that particular book. Then move on to another, then another, then another, until you want a break from reading.

If you are about to go to bed and your eyes are starting to close, pick one of the lighter books in your portfolio that doesn’t require you to parse complex philosophy or economics. In the mood for something challenging? You should have a book that fits that desire. Do you have trouble with insomnia? Try fiction before bed so your problem-solving mind isn’t over-stimulated by a life-changing book, keeping you up all night (a common recommendation from Tim Ferriss from his podcast).

The point is that for each of us, our attention, interest, and desires usually change throughout the day. There should be a book that roughly fits each reading “mood” you experience during the day (and night).

Similarly, many people don’t have the attention span to focus for more than 30 to 60 minutes straight in a way that maximizes the value of a particular book. Switching from one book to another—and one writing style to another—during that period will create a freshness that will rejuvenate your attention span.

The portfolio method of reading will create greater return on your time and attention reading. Try it; I bet you will agree. You will find yourself reading more and with greater pleasure.

As you practice it, you will read some books faster than others. That is okay. Don’t worry if you finish the books at different paces. If one book doesn’t leave the shelf or nightstand, go ahead and abandon it. You will also discovery that there is also satisfaction in having some books that you have just started, which will seem fresh, and others that you are about to finish.

Start reading.

If reading isn't enough for you and you want to take your personal development to the next level, try writing. Writing is like teaching in that it doesn't allow you to fake knowledge and understanding. So it takes you deeper into the subject, with great benefit.

If writing interests you, you might enjoy our article "Thinking by Writing: Improve your Decisions by Writing Them Out." We also recommend that you read "On Writing Well," by William Zinsser. You can read our review of "On Writing Well" here.