Lifelong Learning
The Obstacles to Reading Books and How to Overcome Them
9 minutes read

If you were one of my colleagues, you probably heard me repeating this message over and over: Read, Read, Read! 

As much as it hurts to admit it, I wasn’t able to convert many people into readers. 

That tells you a lot about my persuasion skills! 

That said, I believe the main reason for my failure is this: books had a great impact on me and I wanted the same for everyone I knew.  

But my enthusiasm made me blind to the difficulties that some people might face when it comes to reading. 

This article is my mea culpa. So, before tackling the most common obstacles to reading and how to overcome them, let’s go through some benefits of reading first.  

Why you should read books 

The famous motivational speaker Jim Rohn used to say:  

“Miss a meal, but don’t miss your reading”. 

This quote motivates only me. I used it on my friends with little success. 

Why reading is so important? Why amazing leaders have strong reading habits? 

There are many reasons for that. Some of them are: 

  1. Reading brings novelty to your day-to-day routine. It gets you inspired. It gives you new ideas. It allows you to step back and gain a new perspective. 
  1. Reading saves you time…and future troubles!! In your lifetime, you can only have a limited number of experiences to learn from. The process is slow and challenging. Reading allows you to learn from other people’s experiences and download them into our brain in a short period. 
  1. Reading allows you to spend time with smart people. The same Jim Rohn said:” You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. You may never have the chance to converse with successful people from the past and the present. But you can easily access to them through reading and get influenced by their attitudes, accomplishments and way of thinking. 
  1. Reading ignites your imagination and gives you a break from this crazy world. Being able to disconnect yourself will preserve your sanity and give you a pleasant way to recharge. 



Can you survive without reading books? 

Absolutely. And you can even live a long life.  

No one should feel bad because he doesn’t read books. 

Today we are lucky (or cursed) to have access to information from a wide variety of sources – articles, audio and video. We can also gain practical knowledge from our life experience. Yes, but wait… 

No one should stay away from books just because he labeled himself “I’m not the type of person who reads books”. 

That’s depriving oneself from a precious source of knowledge. That’s being underequipped to face future challenges. It can impact your income, well-being, health, relation to others, and so on. 

Just as a disclaimer, here my thoughts were more about the non-fiction books that teach you a skill or help you gain a new perspective. But ultimately, you can find teachings that helps you grow in all kinds of books. 

What are the most common obstacles to reading books?


Reading is a burden 

I feel your pain.  

Most people develop an allergy to reading at school. It is like those school assignments were precisely selected to make us suffer. 

In high school, I remember we had those classics of the French literature to read. Books like “Father Goriot” of Balzac were absolute torture for me. 

Welcome to the bottom world! We don’t always do what we like. 

My best sleep happens while I’m reading 

You can get sleepy while reading a book even if you had a good night of 10 hours sleep.  

It is normal. It might happen because of how, when, what and where you read. 

How: your position matters. Laying down on a sofa or sitting inclined on a chair is way too comfortable for reading and more appropriate for sleeping. 

What: the content is important. Reading something irrelevant to you makes it hard to stay awake. 

When: the time of the day. If you start reading when your energy level is low, after a hard day at work or before bedtime, you probably won’t make it through the first page. 

Where: some people can read in bed. Not me. Bed triggers sleeping. Libraries as well when they are too quiet. So picking the right environment that keeps you alert is important to avoid sleeping. 

I don’t remember what I read a minute ago 

When you read a book that doesn’t interest you, your mind starts wandering. You lose focus and concentration. You come back 10 times to the same page to realize you still understand nothing. In this situation, both retention and comprehension are minimal. 

I can’t remember what I read years ago 

Me neither. Reading and memorizing are two distinct activities. The purpose of reading is comprehension. The purpose of memorizing is retention. Both of them required a different set of action. 

I can barely remember most of the materials I read during my university time. I used to highlight everything in the books and take generous notes. Today, I have a vague idea about what I read back then. 

Surprisingly, I can remember a book that I read when I was 12 years old – “Around the world in 80 days” of Jules Verne. This book sparked my imagination like no other and planted the seed of my love for traveling. 

Information + Emotion = long-term memory. 

I start a book and never finish it 

No law that stipulates you should read a book cover to cover. It is ok to drop a book down after the first chapter. You shouldn’t feel guilty about it.  

It is important to read at least the first chapter. Most authors will put a tremendous effort to craft this one. So, if you are not hooked after finishing the first chapter, move to the next book on your list. 

5 steps to overcome reading obstacles 

1. Have a Reason to Read 

Why you should read this or that book? Reading should respond to your personal needs. If you have a strong reason for reading, you won’t need motivation to do so. 

Do you read to solve a problem? To learn a new skill? To gain a new perspective? To dive into someone else’s world? 

We don’t read just for the sake of reading. So first start by defining your reason for reading. 

2. Be Selective

There are plenty of books out there. More than you can read in your lifetime. Not all of them are the right fit for you.  

Reading randomly is the best way to have a mediocre reading experience. You want to choose your future book carefully depending on your most urgent needs.  

For example, when I stepped up at work as a manager, I wanted to be efficient as fast as possible. So I grabbed a book to know what the common mistakes that managers make and how I can avoid them. I had other interests at the same time – books about speaking and writing to prepare for a competition. But my most urgent need at that particular moment was to lead a team efficiently. So I wanted my focus to be on the leadership book first. 

Selecting a book is often overlooked. But it’s a critical step. You need to do some researches before picking a book. Why? Because you will dedicate time to your future book. 

Just think of it as an investment. You won’t throw your money to every project that crosses your way. Same for reading. You want to invest your time in the most profitable books- the ones you will gain something out of it. 

Once you made a list of the books responding to your needs, check the Ted Talk about them or the YouTube videos that grasp their essence. Also, reading reviews of other readers can be helpful sometimes. 

This simple step can make the difference between enjoying your future book or not. Don’t skip it. 

3. Set a Plan to Win 

Do you know why people abandon the gym after a short time? They never set a realistic plan. They workout at the worst moment of the day when they are tired. They focus more on the results they want and less on how to get them. They end up failing. 

A realistic plan is a well-thought plan. It respects your schedule, obligations, and levels of energy. You want to set the plan in a way that you won’t face any resistance. 

When your system is in place, you won’t have to worry about the results. They will follow naturally. 

Before the pandemic, I used to read during my commuting time. It’s an hour a day. All I have to do, is to put my phone on silent. My system is in place. I don’t have to think about it anymore. 

Make it a habit 

The best strategy for anything that you want to implement in your life or to do regularly is to turn it into a habit.  

Consistency is everything. To make progress, you want to choose the best place and the best time of the day for reading. Your ‘When’ and ‘Where’ should be free of distractions – a moment and a place where you are by yourself with a decent amount of energy. 

Once done, you need to set a target. If you are not used to reading, your target should be so low that you can’t possibly procrastinate. It can be 1 page or 10 minutes a day. It’s up to you. Then, you start building from there.

(Check out the article “Why Habits are important to Change Your Life”

Engage with the book 

The book that you picked carefully and set a whole plan to read it deserves your undivided attention. Focus works exactly like a muscle. The more you practice it, the better you’ll be in the future. 

Engaging with your book means you are not a passive learner. Ask yourself questions while you’re learning something new: How can I use this? How can I adapt it to my circumstances? 

Looking for ways to convert the acquired knowledge into practice will make you fall in love with reading – it becomes something practical that responds to your needs and benefit to you. 

When taking notes, instead of just highlighting, personalize your notes. Write your thoughts, your impressions, how you’re going to implement your learnings… 

You don’t have to worry about memorization if you engage with the book. By the end of it, go through your notes and reduce them to 3 main points per chapter (or 3 main points from the whole book). 

When the book answers your needs, when you focus on using your knowledge, you’ll rarely forget about it. But if it happens, come back to the book or your notes for a refresh. 

One last thing: be a Teacher. Talk about your book with family, friends, or colleagues. Being able to talk about a book without notes is an excellent way to make it stick. 


You probably heard this a thousand times: Leaders are Readers. If you want to lead yourself and others efficiently and have a life that you can be proud of, read, read, read books. Start reading today. 


  • 4 minutes to know why numbers don’t change: 10% will read, 90% won’t.
Why the numbers don’t change: 10% will read, 90% won’t
  • A quote to ponder on the magic of books:

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” 

Carl Sagan, scientist, astronomer and author of the book “Cosmos”

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