Book Review: Read to Lead by Jeff Brown and Jesse Wisnewski.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I just finished reading a book about reading. It made me think. It made me change some of my own behaviors. It made me want to share.

That book is Read to Lead: The Simple Habit That Expands Your Influence and Boosts Your Career by Jeff Brown and Jesse Wisnewski.

Read to Lead is aimed at two different audiences. If you are already a reader, this book will help you make reading more intentional and help you get more out of what you read. If you aren’t a reader (yet) this book will help explain why you should be and give you tips on how to jump into it painlessly.

For Non Readers: Why Read and How to Start

If I wasn’t someone who likes to read entire books, I might have skipped the first part of the book. After all, I’m already someone who reads…..a lot. But I’m glad that I jumped into the book at the beginning.

There are solid arguments here about why you should read and data on how people who do read are more successful in their career. Although I have a passion for reading, it was good to see that passion supported by clear and convincing arguments supported by research and data. The authors also explore some reasons people aren’t reading as much — can you say digital distractions? — and provide some tips on how to overcome the obstacles and excuses preventing us from reading more.

Again, not news to me, but having it laid out clearly provided the opportunity to think about reading, recognize the reasons I may not be spending as much time reading as I would like (or as much as I should). I came away with some ideas to change my own behaviors to make more time for more productive reading. They could teach this old dog a few new tricks.

For Current Readers: Making Your Reading More Intentional and Effective

I’m always reading something. Between the stack of books on my desk or the ever-expanding collection of e-books on my phone, I have endless options to read. I’m reading to be entertained, to be educated, or to be inspired. I found the greatest value in the latter two sections of this book.

In Part 2, the authors provide insights into planning your reading. As much as I do read, I have been little of a planner. I’ve been more… opportunistic. An interesting book (and there are lots of interesting books) ends up on my “holds” list at the local library and I read it when it becomes available. Or I add it to any of of the several lists I keep around. Sometimes I forget why I added the book to the list. Or I just grab the e-book and it sits in the cloud waiting for me to stumble on it again. What I haven’t done is plan. I haven’t planned what books I was going to read and I most definitely haven’t planned when I was going to read them.

Jeff and Jesse provide some simple guidelines for determining which books you want to read and why you want to read them. While they lay out some examples, I find the idea of articulating the reason to read a book to be the key principle here. The particular reason for reading a book isn’t important. Having a reason to read a book is. I’ve now revisited those various lists and collections, weeded out the things I don’t remember why I wanted to read, and brought them together in one place. Kind of scary, and very Getting-Things-Done of me, but I see the value. My list isn’t much smaller, but there is a structure to it and a way to see the forest for the trees. And to plan.

They also include some techniques to help you read faster and with more comprehension and intention. Like planning which books to read, I found the chapters on planning to read a book insightful. They took me back to my college days and my philosophy professor mentor explaining some of the same techniques to me. I probably should have listened to him then and I’m definitely going to revisit some of their suggestions as I work through that list I mentioned.

For Everyone: Why This Book Works

The book is very personal and engaging. The authors share their own disparate reading journeys with their readers. You are not being preached to by experts so much as being engaged by two fellow travelers who are using books, and what they find within them, to help improve themselves. You will find similarities to your own journey there and can sense their empathy.

They have also written a book that is very actionable. Each chapter ends with…I won’t call them exercises. Challenges? Questions to answer? Actions to perform? They provide an opportunity for you to reflect on what they discussed and apply it to your situation. As you might hope in a book about books and reading, each chapter also includes a list of recommended titles on the topics discussed. I came away with a few titles of which I was unaware and which I have added to my own reading journey.

No matter where you are on your journey, this is a book to read or browse or reference.

The Specifics

Title: Read to Lead: The Simple Habit That Expands Your Influence and Boosts Your Career

Author: Jeff Brown, Jesse Wisnewski

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Baker Books (August 31, 2021)

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1540901203

ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978–1540901200

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