The Reading Algorithm: How To Choose The Best Set of Books to Achieve Your Goal?

A few years ago, just like any other enthusiastic reader, I scrolled through every single reading list that came by my way. I was too paranoid that I might miss out on being aware of some of the most interesting books that are out in the universe. Especially this time of the year (the new year time). 

When I heard someone boast about the double-digit books they read in the preceding year or someone recommending a list of books or someone taking an oath to read a list of books in the following year, it sounded very intimidating.

I call this a pathological mindset. It led to anxiety, distress, and depression. I remained extremely disappointed whenever I could not find time to complete a book. I would set unrealistic reading goals that were against the time that I had. Honestly, this never fits into real life.

Real life also demands time for family, friends, career, colleagues, and a lot more.

This led me to create a rule which I call — ‘The Reading Algorithm’.

What is The Reading Algorithm?

Let me quickly define what an algorithm is before you anticipate too much out of it.

Techopedia explains Algorithm
“An algorithm is a detailed series of instructions for carrying out an operation or solving a problem. In a non-technical approach, we use algorithms in everyday tasks, such as a recipe to bake a cake or a do-it-yourself handbook.”

So, here is a reading algorithm that helps you learn better during a period, over a series of conscious choices you make in choosing your list of books. The algorithm is a set of step-by-step instructions that help you design a sane reading goal and choose the right combination of books for a given period.

You will also find a calculator at the end of this article that is configured with the algorithm that I use. Feel free to use it and share it with your friends.

You can also come up with the list without the calculator, and here is the process.

How To Choose The Best Set of Books to Achieve My Goal?

#Step 1: Define a Number as Your Reading Goal

This is the simplest of all. Calculate a few numbers and keep them handy or use the calculator at the end of this page.

  • The no.of hours you intend to cater to reading each day.
  • Your reading speed: pages per hour
  • The average book size that you read

Using these numbers you can calculate your monthly and annual reading target. My calculation led me to a target of 30 books for this year.

#Step 2: Choose Your Objective

This defines the type of books you end up reading. Are you doing this to entertain yourself, for career progression, educate yourself, research, self-development, or any other reason? Some of you may contest this. Because while choosing books you will have more than one objective.

If you intend to do a deliberate reading, then that is not true. For instance, you may choose to read for career progression. But, eventually, you realize that you need to educate yourself in a few areas, do some deep research and develop a few skills. This could be true. But, your primary objective has to be just one.

The next step is to figure out how you can choose books to consider multiple secondary objectives.

These two steps help you deliberate your reading and learning process. It becomes a conscious effort instead of a choice without a purpose.

#Step 3: Choose Your Preference

Here, you may have more than one preference as you are dealing with secondary objectives. The calculator includes parameters such as domain expertise, functional, technical, inspirational, futuristic, world’s best, industry’s best, favorite author, entertainment, and other.

Now, define a purpose against each parameter. This is how I did it.

You may choose just a few of those categories or all of them for your final list. I chose seven of them. Here is a definition of each category that is included in the calculator.

  • Domain expertise helps you know how your ecosystem functions and how the landscape is functioning.
  • Functional is what you are creating your work for. It is the sum of processes that are combined in your work.
  • Technical is what defines your work.
  • Inspirational, though it means anything that inspires. The ‘anything’ is different for different people.
  • Futuristic need not be just science fiction 10,000 years from now. It defines the goals that you have for yourself. Something that is long-term and you probably would not see any action related to it now.
  • World’s Best is a category that I included because you know there are some books that you don’t want to miss at all.
  • Industry’s Best lets you stay at pace with the contemporary.
  • Favorite Author also includes new releases and some re-reads.
  • Entertainment. This category simply includes fiction.
  • Other is to keep the category list flexible. There could be your personal needs that are not included in the list.

After this, I added a score to each preference. This is how it looks. Ensure that no matter how many categories you choose, the total score has to always sum up to 10.

Now, you have the number of books that you need to read by each category. I have a few book lists that you can choose from. This is how my category segregation looks like.

This year, my reading list does not include fiction books. But, I typically add them to the list.

With fiction, learning becomes multi-disciplinary and especially multi-dimensional. Fiction adds more than one perspective to your thinking. Fiction books enhance creative and imaginative perspectives. Which help you create more virtual dimensions in your brain.

Non-fiction books enhance perspectives that are very close to reality and scientific proof. They could be biographies, self-help books, anthology, textbooks, and so on. They constantly feed our brain with theories, socially shared ideas, and of course facts.

If your agenda drives you to read books, then this algorithm works. If you love reading and just want to pick anything that comes across, then it is best to leave your choice to your instincts and impulses.

Here is the reading calculator.

Here is a link to my book reading lists. Stored for reference. These are public Amazon lists, hence feel free to add your favorites to the list.

Reading Goals