How I Read & Learn in 2019

Muhan Zhang
13 min readJul 12, 2019

I am a library addict.

At the time of this writing, I have 15 books checked out, 24 books on hold, and am still wondering where my copy of Thinking, Fast and Slow and Infinite Jest are.

Besides being a hopeless biblio-hoarder, my one redemption is a surprisingly high read-to-borrow ratio. In the last three months, I’ve finished 12 books, roughly 20% of the ~60 books I’ve borrowed this quarter. With a quarter equaling 13 weeks, this comes out to 4.65 books that I have simultaneously checked out at any given time, finishing on average 1 book a week.

This is not meant to be a brag, as I can think of few gloats more inane. Statistically speaking, however, this is quite uncommon.

According to the Pew Research Center, Americans are reading an average of 12 books per year, with the median American having read 4 books in the past 12 months. What is worth highlighting here is those who enjoy reading really enjoy reading, and are reading at such high volume that they skew the distribution to the right and create fatter tails at the extreme — dragging the average books read per American to three times the median.

On the first page of image search results for “lie with statistics”

To put that into perspective, making the gross oversimplification that 25% of Americans have not read a book in the last year, 50% read the median of 4, and the remaining 25% are reading enough to drag the average up to 12, that means the remaining 25% is reading 40 books a year. This is ten times the amount of the median, and matches closely to my experience extrapolated over a year.

(25(0)+50(4)+25(x))/100=12

(1200–0–200)/25=40

Why does this matter?

We want to read books more for various reasons. We feel it is “good for us.” Smart and successful people all seem to espouse it. And intuitively, we know that dedicating multiple hours to a single piece of work nets us a deeper understanding than most uses of our time.

So, why don’t we read books more? What’s the secret this 25% — America’s power readers — have figured out that the remaining 75% haven’t? A…

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Muhan Zhang

Founder of Startup Investing for All, for angel investors seeking better turns, together. 1st employee and COO @Yang2020. Subscribe at www.muhanzhang.com