Charlie Munger’s Reading Strategy Changed My Approach to Books

Jake Wilder
4 min readSep 5, 2022

Start Many, Finish a Few

Photo: iStock

Someone told me the other day, with a certain amount of pride, that he doesn’t read. He knows how, but he doesn’t. If it’s not required for his job, he has no interest in reading it.

Which is a shame. When Warren Buffet was asked about the keys to his success, he pointed to a pile of books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

Or, as Jim Rohn put it, “Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”

It’s such a simple idea. But it’s amazing how few people take advantage of it.

Years ago, I was in this same boat. I didn’t read much. I followed a couple authors but would rarely branch out into new areas.

Reading was a chore. It wasn’t fun. It was one more thing that I needed to do at the end of a busy day.

And then I heard some advice from Charlie Munger. He said, “Most books I don’t read past the first chapter. I’m not burdened by bad books.” It stuck with me. It changed how I started reading.

Most of us picked up the habit, likely in school, that we need to finish every book we start. Which quickly takes reading from an enjoyable hobby to an obligation. It encourages us to only start books that we know we’ll want to finish. It pushes us to stick to the same authors and the same topics, never trying something new.

Otherwise, the odds are good that we’ll be stuck reading something we don’t enjoy. Because most books, especially nonfiction books, are (a) longer than they need to be and (b) unlikely to connect with us.

The majority of nonfiction books have one or two key ideas, backed up by dozens of stories. Once you get the main idea down, you may not want to go through the ten different examples.

Measure What Matters by John Doerr has some great insights on focusing your team and driving accountability. It changed how I lead. But going through chapter after chapter of example is probably overkill. Sometimes you just need to grab the idea, put it into practice, and develop your own…

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Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.