Recent Posts

​Categories

Archive

Tags

Thoughts on Reading Books

November 12, 2021 

Reading books was a hobby of mine until I was about 18 years old, but I became so immersed in reading that it was cutting into my study time, and before I knew it, even my sleep. As a result, I completely stopped reading books that weren’t assigned or required from the time I was in college until my mid-30s.

From my mid-30s onward, however, I have had more opportunities to read again after going into business for myself. As an employee, it was okay for me to concentrate on my work with the singular goal of becoming an excellent accountant. But as a manager running a company, I was faced with a host of new issues that I hadn’t considered before, things like HR and business development. I often read books classified as philosophy, but I also read many “how-to” books. Many people have told me that “How-to books just don’t seem to work” for them, so I’ve decided to share some things about why that is and how I read books with my staff. Here is my approach: the kinds of books I read, how I select them, and the strategies I use to ensure that I can remember and apply them.

1. First, look at the table of contents

There are many books lined up at the bookstore, and it can be difficult to decide which book to pick out and read. Once a book in a particular area has caught my eye, I open it to the table of contents and review the entries. That way, I can see if it’s structured appropriately, if the keywords correspond to the information I’m looking for, and thus if it could be candidate selection for purchase.


2. Check whether the information that I’m most interested in is there

- Taking the keyword in which I’m most interested, I skim the corresponding chapter to see if the thing I want to know is presented in a way that’s easy to understand. If so, it’s a buy.

- I feel that the table of contents layout and its summary method indicate the author’s expertise and sensibility. If it’s apparent at that stage, I figure that the author must be pretty good.


3. Concentrate on reading the book

- Although this part depends on the individual, I personally try to finish each book within a week at the longest, mainly because I don’t have much confidence in my memory. I’m sure that some people prefer to take their time, but whichever way you prefer, I think it’s important to concentrate when you are reading and to make good progress to the end.


4. Write a summary

- Books for entertainment may be different, of course, but for the contents you want to remember, I feel that it’s almost as if you haven’t read the book unless you write a summary. This is because (as I mentioned) I don’t trust my memory, and later on, when I think to myself, “Ah, yes, it was in that book I read,” then I need the summary to refer back to. I generally do Evernote bullets, but I might create a mind map in MindMeister.com, depending on the subject. I might also jot down something like an organizational chart.


5. Put it into practice

- For books that are related to work, writing the summary is not the objective. Once you’ve written down the things you found important, you obviously have to translate those things into action. In doing so, you can read the summary over again and even go back repeatedly to the book itself to make progress.


6. Reflect and adjust

- Sometimes things go the way you want them to, and sometimes they don’t. Generally, I try not to rely exclusively on just one book, instead reading several books in the same field. With just one book, it can be challenging to appreciate the breadth of the subject, and there’s a risk that the action you take may be biased in some way. Conversely, if several books say essentially the same thing, then there may be a good agreement in that field. Also, I usually start with a book that offers a general treatment of the subject, and supplement that with other books that drill down on the specifics. First, I try to get a good grasp of the substance at hand, then move forward by reflecting on which actions worked well and which didn’t, and making adjustments accordingly.


7. Create structures

- Most things and processes require continuation. In our company, for example, it is crucial to align our actions with our managerial philosophy known as TOPC Axis. In order to promote greater understanding, we have a weekly “Beer Bash” gathering where we choose an Axis-related topic and have summary presentations in both English and Japanese. Based on that ongoing event, I write a monthly column called “From Management’s Point of View” that I share externally. This lets people know what we believe in our work while further propagating these topics within our company. Our staff is evaluated monthly on the Axis standards. Having this kind of structure results in a force towards continued, habitual action.


8. Ask the authors questions when warranted

- You might be surprised to know this, but when I think, “This author is amazing,” I look him or her up on the internet and send an email to each one. I introduce myself briefly, express my thoughts on the book, and ask questions about whatever I don’t understand or am having trouble putting into practice. I figure that such people are pretty busy, so I wouldn’t want to bug them for a reply, but they always seem to respond in a courteous manner.


When I feel that an author is particularly noteworthy, I may go and meet him or her. Whenever possible, I try to arrange other business to coincide with the date of a seminar or presentation that the author has planned. Especially friendly authors may even make time for a meal together after the event. These people are extremely busy, as demonstrated by the fact that they have written books that I could find out about and purchase. I am very thankful when such opportunities arise, and I express my heartfelt gratitude to them.

What I’ve written here is basically the process that I follow when reading a book. I start thinking that I may have to increase our sales, which gets to the question of how best to market our services in the first place. I’m a technically-oriented person who has focused on accounting work and related development, so I still don’t know what to do for sales and marketing. It may turn out that I wind up going to talk about that with somebody who is reading this column.