Keeping on top of things is losing game

Petr Zaparka
3 min readFeb 28, 2020

…especially if you try to read every highly recommended book that just comes out.

But what can you do about it? More and more people talk about reading only old books or re-reading books from the past. Let’s look at why you might consider doing the same.

50% of the time it’s better to read one of your “top 10” books than it is to read something new — Eben Pegan

Re-reading books

This is a decision that people who read a lot might make. It’s about limiting the number of books you consume without really understanding them. I liked how Tim Ferris put it in his chat with Ryan Holiday:

Keeping on top of things is losing the game…it’s better to get to the bottom of things.

If you feel like you are constantly searching for newly released books to read. One recommendation is replacing another and your list, of books to read, is getting bigger and bigger.

That’s the time you might think about re-reading what you already read in the past. You will find new things to think about. You will see the text from a new perspective, and you will rediscover forgotten gems that some of the books hold.

But If you are someone that still didn’t read the classics or doesn’t have his “top ten” books that can return to, then the next approach to reading books is for you.

If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. But, and that is the main difference, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years. — Nassim Taleb

Reading only old books

This is for anyone who wants to get the most out of his reading. Or just want to filter his books to read. Read books that are at least ten years old and are still highly recommended. These books are proven by time. It’s not a fluke that they are still highly recommended. And they will most likely be still recommended in the next decade too. This rule is called the Lindy effect.

The Lindy Effect says that the observed lifespan of a non-perishable item like a business is most likely to be at its half-life.

When you think about it, it makes sense. Take a Shakespeare, his plays have been referenced and talk about for the last 400 years. Do you think that in next decades people will change their mind?

How to choose books that You will read?

This article is not about telling you that you shouldn’t buy new books or that you need to read only books that are 10+ years old.

But if you have the choice between classics and a brand new book. You are most likely to be better off with the books that have been proven by time. The knowledge in them is rarer and because of it also more valuable.

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Petr Zaparka

I love wine, self-improvement, chocolate and running. I do web development for a living. You can visit zaparka.cz or drop me an email petr@zaparka.cz