I Tried 4 Reading Hacks In An Effort To Learn More About Inspiring Women In Less Time

Warren Buffet famously spends up to 80 percent of his day reading. But we can't all be Warren Buffet.

LifeTrial is an original A Plus series where we try our hand at lifestyle trends, new and tried-and-true, that promise to have a positive impact. Whether it's the latest and greatest in technology or a wacky new fitness trend, we're excited to give it a go and report back on if it helped make life even better. 

Icon, investment genius, and the fourth richest person in the world, Warren Buffet famously spends as much as 80 percent of his day reading. Eighty percent. Now that's what I call luxury, my friends. Can you imagine? 

I can't. 

As a native New Yorker and journalist with zero investments and a bank account that would make Buffet weep, I don't have the great pleasure of spending 80 percent of my days doing any one single activity. 


But it's not just Buffet who touts his privileged reading habits in interviews about his success. Other richest people in the world, such as Zuckie, Lord Gates, and Shark Cuban, are always bragging about how many books they get to read each year, as if we weren't jealous of them enough. We get it — you have time and money and a home library bibliophiles dream of. 

Unfortunately, most of us plebs don't have time to finish more than one or two books a month, let alone complete the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. But that doesn't mean we can't try to spend a little more of our valuable time in a good book. To get more reading into my own day, I challenged myself for two weeks to try something a little different.

I tried four reading hacks to make digesting books a more efficient process for people with no time to spare.

When I thought about the kinds of books I wanted to include in this challenge, female empowerment was at the forefront of my mind. There are so many inspiring women whose autobiographies I'd love to read, but don't have the time to. So, I created a list of 10 influential women in activism, business, politics, and the arts who have published books about their experiences. 

Here are the books I chose: 

1. Malala Yousafzai's I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban   2. Hillary Clinton's What Happened 3. Gabrielle Union's We're Going to Need More Wine 4. Gloria Steinem's How I Became a Writer 5. Tina Fey's Bossypants 

Reading Hack #1: I read a one-page summary of one book per day.

Each weekday morning for two weeks, I searched online to find one-page reviews, summaries, or articles written about my chosen book of the day to learn about the scope of that woman's impact. Think the SparkNotes version of the SparkNotes of their memoirs. 

Pros: I learned a little about a lot of women quickly with this method. Reading snippets about inspiring women's experiences and accomplishments made me feel motivated throughout the day. For example, reading an article about Rhimes's Year of Yes had me thinking about all the things I say "no" to throughout the day. I realized saying "yes" more often could open up a lot of new positive experiences. You never know what you might learn or who you might meet if you just say "yes" to things. 

Cons: I didn't learn nearly enough. Reading reviews meant that I was reading the opinions of others before I could form one myself which sometimes detracted from an author's messages. Also, it was time-consuming to find valuable summaries and reviews.

Takeaway: This method was an interesting way to efficiently learn more about 10 inspiring women, but it's not at all a replacement for reading their books. Some days, I spent more time looking for a good summary than I did actually reading it. Doing this made me realize I could, and should, be putting in extra effort to read women's stories more often. 

While I definitely felt more motivated when I started my mornings with a strong female lead in mind, I didn't learn as much about them as I wanted to. It was a better-than-nothing start, but a one-page summary just wasn't enough.

Reading Hack #2: I used an app that turns books into 15-minute reads.

A Plus / Ari Marini 

Sourcing my own one-page summaries and reviews was time-consuming and not comprehensive enough. But when I heard about Joosr — an app that condenses inspiring nonfiction into 20-minute "bitesized" book summaries — I thought it might be a better alternative. Signing up for free sans paid subscription got me four book summaries a month. 

According to Joosr's website, the app has more than 250 titles, though very few of my chosen books were available. I was only able to find Thrive and Lean In

Pros: The two summaries I read gave me a decent overview. I felt like I learned a condensed version of the messages Huffington and Sandberg were trying to convey and picked up some useful tips and tidbits about their lives. For example, I read about Huffington's collapse from exhaustion which inspired her to look at success differently. 

An added bonus is that Joosr donates 1 percent of all annual subscription income to the World Literacy Foundation

Cons: The app can only be downloaded on IOS devices, and there is a limited number of books available on it. The app wasn't as user friendly as I'd hoped, and this method only works if you're looking to read nonfiction titles.  

Takeaway: This is a much better option than the first reading hack I tried. The goal of the app is "to speed up personal and professional development for busy people" and it can be a great way to get more ideas-based reads into your day. That said, there aren't enough female autobiographies on the app.

I'm not sure if the information really sticks in the same way that it would if you were to actually read the full book, but this seems like a useful alternative when you don't have time to do that. 

Reading Hack #3: I used an app that sends you a book in 20-minute chunks each day.

Next, I wanted to see if I could hack actually reading books instead of merely getting summaries. I heard about an app that breaks down books into 20-minute chunks and sends them to your phone once a day at a time of your choosing. It's called Serial Reader and I wanted to give it a shot. The app has more than 450 books, but because it's free, it relies on works that have fallen out of copyright. That means I couldn't find any of the 10 autobiographies written by women I was interested in. 

Pros: Books on the app are free and easily accessible. It reminds you to take 20 minutes each day to read. The app keeps track of your reading percentages, showing you the progress you've made.

Cons: There aren't enough nonfiction titles available and you can't read more than the 20-minute section they send you each day if you want to. 

Takeaway: It's a useful way to get 20 more minutes of reading into your day. Thanks to the streak tracking feature, it makes your habits into a game that you'll want to improve and keep up with. However, due to its limited selection, this is only useful if you're looking to read classic literature. I didn't learn anything new about inspiring women because all of the titles in the biography section are about men. 

Reading Hack #4: Amazon's Alexa read to me from my Kindle while I checked off things on my to-do list.

A Plus / Ari Marini 

Did you know that you can have Amazon's Alexa read to you from your Kindle? I didn't before embarking on this challenge, but I'm glad I do now. I have the Amazon Echo and accompanying Echo Dots in various rooms around my home, so I asked Alexa to read from my Kindle while I cooked, cleaned, and folded laundry. 

My Kindle eBook library is already linked to my Amazon Echo, so all I had to do was say, "Alexa, play the Kindle book, '[title]'" and she started reading where I left off. During the first hack I tried, I read a review about Copeland's personal and professional struggles on her way to becoming the first Black female principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. I was so interested in hearing more, I bought her book on my Kindle and had Alexa read it to me.

Pros: It's convenient and allows you to multitask your heart out. The command controls are impressive; You can ask Alexa to pause, play, skip back paragraphs, and skip forward paragraphs. 

Cons: Alexa's voice is far from soothing and you can't navigate based on chapters. 

Takeaway: This is an excellent option if you already use both Amazon products. I like reading from my Kindle when I'm commuting, waiting, or getting in a few chapters before bed. So, this option works really well for me because it allows me to go back and forth between reading a book myself and listening to Alexa without ever losing my place. 

Of course, audiobooks are an alternative to this method, but the downside to that is that you don't also have the option to read it yourself. Plus, there are some books that don't have an audio version. Google Home recently started selling audiobooks in Google Play, so you can use it to listen to them, too. 

Niloo / 

Overall, testing different reading hacks was an interesting way to re-examine my habits and interests. I realized I should be spending more time reading nonfiction. My favorite reading hack of the four was probably having a robot lady read to me. I often feel like there's not enough time in the day (wow, turning into your mom happens sooner than you think, guys!), so I loved saving time through multitasking. The first two methods felt like a shortcut to actually reading the book, which is a disservice to the women who wrote them. And, of course, using the Serial Reader app meant that I couldn't get the books I wanted in the first place. 

My biggest takeaway? It is possible to get more reading into your day if you make a little effort and try some reading hacks. While you're at it, you might as well support female authors. Read the words they agonized over and perfected before their publishers' painful deadlines. Buy the book, check it out from the library, or borrow it from a friend. It feels like now, more than ever, we need to listen to every word women have to say about their own experiences. A summary is just not enough.

Most of us won't ever have the luxury to spend 80 percent of our day reading, but with a little creativity, willpower, and maybe some technology, we can all raise our daily percentages.

Cover image via Unsplash


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