Bookstores drive me crazy.
I'm not talking about libraries, or used bookstores, or art bookstores, or museum bookstores.
I'm talking about book stores that sell new books.
Crisp, unworn, unwrinkled books.
Books with no past.
No previous owners.
But why? Why do they drive me so crazy? Well, I think it has something to do with the cover art or the colorful and coordinated patterns of their spines.
Bookstores are basically like art galleries with stories attached.
Another thing that blows my mind about bookstores is how powerful the merchandise is.
This book started a war, this book invoked a fatwa, this book was passed down orally for hundreds of years and here they all sit before you and I barely read any of them.
and This is really what drives me insane.
There's so many books, but not enough time.
Between Netflix, podcasts, Social media, binge worthy cable shows, The New Yorker, and the 24-hour news cycle.
How the fuck am I supposed to find time to pick up a book? I guess if I had to describe this feeling it would be like the reading version of FOMO.
Which is just exacerbated by the staff picks section or those little award stickers.
I can never leave the bookstore without buying at least three books and we all know what happens to them.
So my quest is twofold.
First, I'm gonna search for the most beautiful bookstore in the world.
Well, not really the whole world, mostly just Western Europe and South America.
And second, I'm gonna ask a bunch of incredibly smart people to help me figure out how to read more books.
Because right now my whole content diet is out of whack and if I continue at this pace, I'm gonna know jack-shit before I die.
I want to first.
show you what you're currently doing because that will actually stress you out in a way that I think will be helpful.
This is Tim Urban He's an entrepreneur, A TED speaker and has a pretty influential blog called Wait But Why, which influences the likes of well Elon Musk.
I Figured if anyone could help me get perspective on my book store anxiety, it would be him.
So how much do you read? I probably read, look if I'm being honest, like a book a year.
I need to qualify this, when I say one book a year, I'm just meaning one book for pleasure.
Simply not for work or skimming self-help books How [stumbles] How long are you gonna live? My oldest grandparents lived till about like 90.
So you have 55 years left.
So, let's just look at this here All right.
Okay, it's a book So this is the book that you're gonna read this year, okay, and this is the book you're gonna read next year and this is the book that you might not finish because you're gonna die while reading this book here.
Okay, this shelf here, up here, is about 55 books This is all the books you're ever gonna read again, this is it.
I wish I had read more books.
Let's just figure out how fast you're reading.
I want you to read from here to that dot.
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul.
Lolita For tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap at three on the teeth Lo-Li-Ta Okay Okay, six minutes and 27 seconds.
– It felt like eternity.
Okay so, you read about 1550 words in 6 minutes 27 seconds 397 this worked out really nicely.
You read a book in about ten hours.
Somehow I feel like you don't, but I'll give it to you.
You were racing there.
You were timing but look I mean let's just give you the benefit of the doubt.
Sleep is good, but books are better George R.
Martin Okay, you're awake about sixteen hours a day.
That's thirty two half hours a day it's kind of allowing you thirty two half hours, right currently at one point six four minutes a day this is this is what Max allots to reading now, but if you allotted one of these of every day to reading, you will become a major reader who'll read a thousand books instead of fifty-five.
Wait a minute.
To read nine hundred and forty five more books before I die all I need to do is read 30 minutes a day.
Someone will be like, “Oh my grandfather.
He's this great reader He's read everything.
” That's you versus being like, “Yeah, my grandfather literally has not read anything ever.
” The secret of the people who were like, “Yeah, here are my 10 favorite books of 2016.
” and you're just like how do they.
They just do this and you don't.
Tim was giving me new hope.
Maybe there was a way to overcome my book anxiety after all.
You wake up in the morning and you flip on an audio book while you're brushing your teeth and making breakfast.
You've done your thirty minutes If you read for two hours every Saturday, you like to wake up in the morning and you have a Saturday session in a coffee shop reading.
You've just done four sevenths of your week.
It's very inspiring when you realize how easy you can read a thousand, and this is at your slow ass reading rate.
This also just speaks to the power of habits, because if you have the right habit, that's a breeze.
If you don't have the right habit, you'll do it four days in a row, and then you'll take 40 days off.
At 30 minutes a day.
you can read this, and War and Peace, and Moby Dick, and three other books.
Okay We are now heading to Europe, to Brussels first actually, to see one of the most amazing bookstores in the world.
First stop: Brussels.
A city famous for beer, chocolate, Tintin, the EU and now a bookstore on the city's outskirts called Cook & Book.
Okay, so I am here at Cook & Book It doesn't look like much from the outside, but look at the size of this place.
It's spread out across one, two, three, four, five six, seven eight buildings Cook & Books' nine different libraries include the literature room, The English bookstore, Travel, Fine Arts, comics and graphic novels, Music, Oh and then there's the home and garden room, the cookbook room and the children's bookstore.
It's like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory but the bookstore version Okay, well today has gotten off to somewhat of a rough start I had wanted to leave Brussels at 11 but I woke up at around 11:30 It's now one The book store closes at 6:00 And I'm renting a car to drive to Maastricht, which should only be about an hour and a half, we've got the rental car Okay, here we go the great European driving experiment.
I think I got it.
I'm on the wrong side of the road already.
It's a church.
Dominican church and it's empty for almost 200 years.
We celebrate carnival in it, it has Christmas markets in it, Napoleon's stored his horse and carriages over here Different things.
My favorite story about the church is that it housed the local guillotine in the 19th century.
I like these books.
Do you read a lot of books? Yes.
50 to 60 books in a year.
50 to 60 books a year? Yes.
That's a lot of books.
That's a lot of books, yeah.
A lot of reading.
Do you watch TV? Little, just little yeah, not much.
Yes I hope I will be able to confide everything to you as I have never been able to confide in anyone And I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support How do you make time for all those books? I go to bed to bed early and make time to read.
how many hours a day would you say you read? One to two hours.
Depends how tired I am.
Thank you so much.
I really appreciate it Bye.
I like big books and I cannot lie.
I think that I'm over doing it with news.
I gorge myself on news.
So you said you read the news about 20 minutes a day and you're on social media another 30 50 minutes a day of those things adds up to three hundred and four hours a year Which would be, at your rate, over 30 books.
So you're saying there's a 30 bookshelf that is filled.
With news and social media.
Right now what we're doing is we're taking a 30 book shelf that you are reading every year and we're taking 17 of the News and social media books out and We're putting in 17 new books There's a blog called Barking Up the Wrong Tree by a guy named Eric Barker and His blog is super popular, it's great and It's about, you know, for his.
in order to write he needs to read one or two Even three things just to write one post.
He doesn't post every week.
So he must read fifty maybe a hundred books a year He has some magical secret.
I don't know what it is, but You're trying to go to 18 if he's reading 50 or 100.
That's a whole different thing and again, you know he has he does other things with his time, so I didn't know what His secret is but you should talk to him My name is Eric Barker and I'm an addict.
This is Eric Barker.
Over the last 10 years he's become one of the most popular writers on the internet with his blog “Barking up the Wrong Tree” now available in best-selling book form.
His posts like “Six Hostage Negotiation Techniques That Will Get You What You Want” and “how to make your life better by sending five simple emails” Draw from cutting-edge findings in science and human behavior to distill clear and simple life hacks Like talking to yourself using the word you “you can do it”, “you're the best” is actually more effective than using the word I.
For each post he does a ton of research including reading multiple books and journals and conducting long interviews And he's posting one a week.
So how do you do it? What's your process? How do you get through so much material? On my phone.
I don't have Facebook.
I don't have Twitter.
I don't have email My instinct to check social media, I've redirected towards the Kindle app I give myself three checks a day unless there's an explicit reason when I know an important emails coming in So it's like, you can check everything now.
Facebook, Twitter, Email.
Get it all done but anytime I have that urge to check, you know, I pause for a second and I'm like Is there a good reason for this? And if not, I redirect that towards towards reading a blog Yet habit strange thing what cannot have it accomplished? Do you read on your iPhone? Most of my reading takes place on my iPad where it's it's really Is it iPad or Kindle? It's the Kindle app on the iPad Interesting.
This also just speaks to the power of habits because changing a habit is like Overriding your current software and if you do it enough times What's cool about your brain, is it rewrites it to accommodate the new behavior you're saying? Oh I guess we're doing this everyday now.
In his book, The Power of Habit Charles Duhigg says habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.
When an action becomes a habit It actually moves to a different part of the brain.
You see decision making and willpower take place in the prefrontal cortex That's prime real estate when we turn an action into a habit It migrates to the basal ganglia and therefore frees up space in the prefrontal cortex for other more important decisions There's one expert in terms of habit formation BJ Fogg at Stanford and I love this one principle He uses it's called minimum viable effort When you're trying to build a habit, he says the key thing is consistency, because if it's not consistent, it's not a habit So minimum viable effort you want to start flossing more? Okay, floss one tooth Just floss one tooth.
Make it so simple that you can't not do it I'm gonna read one page.
It's so simple.
I can't not do it.
I'd feel like an idiot once you can do that for like two weeks straight great two pages.
As opposed to setting this crazy high goal, failing, feeling bad, not wanting to do it Now you've got a Pavlovian association where it's like, oh, I tried that it didn't work I don't feel good.
In discussing helpful ways to build a habit, Duhigg talks a lot about rewards like giving yourself a piece of chocolate, or in my case a mini Cinnabon, every time you perform a desired habit The difference between the thousand book reader and the 55 book reader in their lifetimes isn't really much It's one has the right habit and the other one doesn't have the right habit Rigid the skeleton of habits alone upholds the human frame Do you read one book at a time? Or do you read like five books at once? I read multiple books at once and especially, you know, when you're when you're starting out, you know, try and build that habit totally read multiple books because once again you you kind of want that you want that you wanna be excited and At least at first, you know, it's like if it if you're excited about something and then it doesn't pan out You're not so much fine.
The most important thing is you want to keep reading you want to build that reading habit So if it turns into a slog put it aside take the next one because first and foremost just make sure you're enjoying it What I kept hearing him say was: allow yourself to fall in love It's okay to date a lot of books at the beginning before you really make a connection with one But then once you do throw yourself in full bore maybe if I only focused on how excited I was to read my current book so much so that I just read it at every Free moment I had: on the subway, in an uber or times I'd just be mindlessly checking social media I mean if I did all that I could surely make a habit of reading 30 minutes a day Couldn't I? It's also worth noting that on Eric's blog he explains another good hack to forming a habit is using friends to hold you accountable I will read “Infinite Jest” with you.
I will have a book club So we're going to do “Infinite Jest?” I'm gonna start this it seems even as I say that I'm like there's no way I could ever read this It is Just like 9:15 in Porto Portugal.
We're going over now to Livraria Lello, bookstore Lello.
Oh my god.
There's a huge line to get into this place What's interesting about Lello is that they actually make you buy a ticket for four Euros but those four euros are against any book that you might buy in there It's like Wimbledon over here Are there always this many people here? Yes every day We're talking about a million a year, which is 3, 000 a day.
It's the most authentic Harry Potter universe that actually exists.
That's my going theory.
Dursley of number 4 Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal Thank you very much, JK Rowling Apparently lived in Porto.
She was married with someone here and she used to come here and write Where you were upstairs before we used to have a cafe It was a very quiet place like most bookstores And she was so overwhelmed with the beauty of it so she would come and sit down and write here and They say she got inspired by a lot of the details We've got here the stairs for example The fluidity.
“Behind the wall was a spiral staircase that was moving smoothly upward like an escalator” She took things from town from the fountain next door from the students wearing black: “First year Students will require three sets of plain work robes, black.
” Most people come here thinking That the movie was actually filmed here Hi everyone, I'm Howard Berg the world's fastest reader I'm here today to share with you some of the strategies that helped me get into the Guinness Book of World Records So let's get started.
We have Howard Berg with us this morning He is the world's fastest reader.
The world's fastest reader Howard Berg is wrapping up Max Baucus' Health Care Bill.
I'm the world's fastest reader I can read around 80 pages a minute this supersonic speed put Howard in the Guinness Book of World Records and on the road teaching others his skill not a magic trick It is a skill and it's something people can learn.
That's my whole point of doing this I'm going to show you how to increase your reading speed.
I'm gonna show you why you read slowly I'm gonna show you how to improve your comprehension, which I think is far more important than your speed In fact before we're done today, I'll show you the meaning of life.
If you'd like that.
I'll show you.
Yeah, that's it Howard is the fastest reader in the world, so I asked him to teach me his world-famous speed reading technique Are you from New York? I? Thought so, I heard a little of that Twang I figured if I could up my pages per minute.
Then I could easily read more books before I died.
Okay? To start speeding up You're gonna take your hand and you're gonna go one line at a time With your hand going from the left to the right margin from the left to the right margin with your eyes Following your hand you go one line at a time all the way across eye following the hand Eye following the hand and here's the secret sauce as fast as you could comprehend and just doing that one change Will bump you up by 10 to 20 percent Like just just doing this line by line as fast as you could comprehend not that's right They told you a lot of things in school that were wrong what they did when they taught reading is they had you read aloud? It's like someone's in back or your head pronouncing one word at a time When I'm reading 80-90 pages a minute, I'm seeing movies and then when I want to remember what I read I play the movie back and I'm seeing the details in my movie and I'm converting what I'm seeing back to sound So we're gonna learn a Paul Revere, but we're going to use the senses and not just the way we normally would learn it So I'm gonna show you how to do this.
So Paul Revere He stood near Boston Harbor and he smelled and tasted salt.
Okay, I want you to smell and taste the salt He saw that bite to tower see the light in the tower one light by land So you're having me Experience it He mounted his horse.
He felt the saddle pressing against him you feel the saddle.
Mm-hmm he started a ride and on the cobblestones he heard the And then he got in the woods this is what you mean by Hear it feel it smell it touch it taste it Experience it and he heard the hooves on the soft ground and He could smell the pine trees in the woods And a textbook it would have said Paul Revere warned the regulars the Minutemen were coming, you know next day well, you'd remember as I read something about the Revolutionary War, but if you Experienced it.
You smell the smells.
You heard the hooves you felt the saddle now all of your brain is engaged It's immersive.
You're experiencing it as if it's happening Tell me when you're ready right go What's happening is the part of your brain that listens to the words won't be able to keep up it's like this isn't working I can't read like this and I want that to happen because then there's only one place in your brain which can process the data at that speed because of the stress and because of the confusion the part of your brain that makes movies switches on and Then you are reading faster and you do know what you're reading Stop.
Now look at where you are compared to where you were the first time.
You're about 10-20% faster Yeah, okay.
That's how easy this is I am in Lisbon Portugal and I'm heading right now to the world famous Ler Devagar bookstore They're opening up a little early for me because I wanted to fly a drone inside the store Manuel, nice to meet you.
Okay, this is Manuel.
He had the best drone footage of Lisbon on YouTube when I searched yesterday How old are you? I'm 17.
-You're 17? Amazing! He and his assistant Nuno, also 17, are here to help me shoot this All right, well we're already having some problems with the drone Manuel is sweating over here Come on! Get it up! We have a bookshop, but we have also a restaurant, a patisserie, a bar, a gallery What does Ler Devagar mean? Ler Devagar means read slowly Because All things that we do we must do slowly or with time If I can only go to one other book shop in Portugal which one should it be? Outside Lisbon Lello in Porto Akivo in Lyria Fonta Lettras in Evora and all book shops in Obidos.
In where? – Obidos That town is a whole bookstore town, yes.
Yes, there are Fourteen bookshops and the habitants in the center of the city are sixty-two! 62 inhabitants and 14 bookshops It was my last day in Portugal and I didn't really have a lot of time So I rushed up to Obidos and tried to see as many bookstores as I could before everything closed This one's in a church This one sells fresh produce The bookstore that's in the church just told me about another bookstore that's amazing That's like a labyrinth of books, but it closes in like five minutes My search for beautiful bookstores is starting to make me as anxious as my reading problem, I'm literally Inside of a dark maze of books right now.
There was so much to see but just not enough time and There's like some Chocolaty saying dripping from the ceiling If this is not a living metaphor, I don't know what is I'm standing in the literary man hotel and It is the most amazing hotel I've ever seen in my entire life But I Can't possibly film any more today right now.
I'm recording this on my cell phone because all my other cameras the batteries are dead Because I've been shooting all day Look at this place I have to come back, I mean that's that's just it I have to come back here The train is approaching Terminal B All right, we are here now in Prairie View, Texas Well actually is Prairie View the name of the place? It is okay Right here okay, do you prefer to sit or stand? I can sit Dr.
Simmons is a total baller Born the youngest of 12 children to a sharecropper family in Texas Ruth became the first African American woman to head an Ivy League university When she became president of Brown in 2001 She's also a world-class scholar in comparative literature and still teaches many courses on the topic to this day So I figured she'd be the perfect person to tell me what books we should be reading in our limited time I'm much less convinced than many others that there is a prescriptive list of books that you must read I'm more convinced that it is the reading widely that matters more than anything else not somebody a list of things that people have said these are the things to read, no.
I don't buy that at all I know a lot of people today like to do things on the fly You can't read a book on the fly Thank goodness, right? Because Forced Meditation it's probably a good thing Is that what you feel books are, forced meditation? -They can enable it if you're not disciplined enough to meditate otherwise I remember that, you know Brown students would come and they'd show me their schedule and you know Everything is so laid out and they're very intense about it and they've got to do this and then they've got to do that and so forth and I always always Say to them.
I want to see you sitting on the green with a book stop Reflect If you don't do that you are a lesser human being for sure for sure The busyness does not make our lives meaningful It is the interior life that makes the greatest difference to us in the end Maybe the whole purpose of reading wasn't to learn more But to get in touch with that deep and quiet part of yourself Your inner temple so to speak if you enforce reading You're likely to enforce time for reflection Because it's hard to read without reflecting This reminded me of something Howard Berg said I don't start off with that speed It's as slow as I want I've learned to shut it off when I want to.
If I'm relaxing and I'm reading and I'm enjoying something Do you want to read let's say you're a Harry Potter fan and you waited ten months for the next book Do you want to finish in three minutes? It's like chugging down Perignon or looking at the Mona Lisa on a skateboard.
You you don't get the ambiance the flavor Well, if the fastest reader in the world likes to slow down when he reads Maybe I should too The last stop on this journey : Buenos Aires Okay, today is the day I'm going to the number one most beautiful bookstore in the world at least according to the internet.
Finally made it to the promised land.
Now I just need to go in and film it El Teatro Grand Splendid started as a tango theater in 1919 and then became a movie theater in 1929 And eventually a bookstore in 2000 These bookstores are like temples Some of them have even been churches A place to get in touch with your higher-self And nourish your soul There's something about being in a bookstore that makes you feel infinite like you can touch the magic And when I look at it that way it doesn't make me so anxious Alright well that just about does it I've seen almost all the most beautiful bookstores in Europe North America and South America At some point.
I'll have to make a volume two in Russia and Asia and Australia, but until then I think this will have to do On the way to the airport I reflected on what this journey was really about What reading is really about? When we read we are transported to another Another space another seat, you lose yourself.
You forget everything that's happening outside It is the most amazing thing You can fly when we read a book, but it only works if you slow down enough to hear the hooves experiencing.
To get to that quiet place inside yourself where you're reflecting and build a habit out of it Just 30 minutes a day or three hours a week With all the ways you can read now.
There's almost no excuse forced meditation Is probably a good thing and the best part about it is that it should be fun First and foremost just make sure you're enjoying it unlike the gym This is not a bad square this one your favorite rectangles of the day and the meaning of life Well Howard still needs to explain that one to me.
It's not hidden it's in plain sight but it's scattered to thousands and Thousands and thousands and thousands of books and art and music the pieces of the puzzle are all out there So Tim it's been literally Maybe a year.
Yeah, since we met yeah, how are you doing with “Infinite Jest”? -“Hmmm.