Want Them to Do Your Homework For You?
I have a confession to make.
In high school I hated English class. (The irony! I know.) I had a mental block against being forced to read a bunch of boring old books somebody decided I needed to read simply because they were part of a “canon.”
Finding out that Charles Dickens got paid by the word just added fuel to my fire: he got paid extra just to torture me by writing his stories in twice as many words as I thought should have been necessary to get the point across. Who had time to read all that?
Cliff’s Notes™ and I were extremely well acquainted.
I wished every textbook had a similar condensed version, or at least that I could pay someone to read the books for me and just tell me what they were about, without, you know, failing the class or getting expelled.
Well, old habits die hard.
The difference is that now my reading list is full of non-fiction books I genuinely WANT to read.
But it seems like for every book I get through, six more pop up in its place. It’s impossible to keep up.
If any of this is ringing a bell for you, I have good news: there’s hope!
I want to share three tools I absolutely love that help me plow through books and other resources in record time. (And no, I don’t have any affiliation with any of them.)
Blinkist is an app that summarizes books – both fiction and nonfiction – in around 15 minutes. The summaries are available in text and in audio format, both of which are referred to as “Blinks.”
I just finished “blinking” my way through Who Not How, and I’m looking forward to finally diving into Atomic Habits, which has been on my recommended list for years.
2. The 1440
What Blinkist is for books, “The 1440” is for news, but better. It’s a daily newsletter that comes to your inbox, not an app, but it curates news headlines on everything from current events and world affairs to arts and culture, sports, and all sorts of miscellany with one powerful differentiator:
The language is as “plain vanilla” as possible: no interpretation, no efforts to sway, no drama(!), nada. Just links to read up on the subject if you want more than the birds-eye view they provide.
In 5 minutes every day you can stay up to date on what happened… and that’s it.
And a bonus is that at the end there are lots of fun links (yes, a news outlet that actually shares HAPPY topics too) to things like winners of photography contests and this recent list of “popular songs that never won a Grammy.” (See how many times you say, “Oh, I loved that song!”)
Audible is the modern equivalent of “books on tape”… without the tape. Just about any book you can buy in hard copy on Amazon is available in audio format on Audible, and you can shift between listening on your phone, laptop, tablet, etc. all with the same account. You can even get great books like this.
It matters because with audiobooks, I can multitask. (Like I said – who has that kind of time to sit down and just read?)
And often I still want to “skim” through a book, which I can still do with Audible because I can adjust the listening/playback speed.
Somewhere between 1.2x and 1.5x is my typical “happy place.”
(Remember: I’m a Jersey Italian, so I probably speak around 1.2 or 1.5x faster than most people anyway, so audiobooks sound totally normal to me at that pace!)
Then again, if I’m listening to something in Spanish, I may want to slow it down to 0.8x speed just to make sure I’m catching everything, as my listening skills in Spanish aren’t as good as in English.
Oh – and the voice quality doesn’t change if you adjust the speed: no “chipmunks” narrating Good To Great for you!
Just think: a decade (or…two…?) after high school, we’re finally allowed to let someone else do our reading homework for us, and we still get all the benefits! Gotta love it.