Here’s an email I recently sent to someone who is interested in starting a business within the next few years; he had asked me if I had any advice from having read a bunch of business (auto)biographies:
I’ve attached a list of some of the books I’ve read since graduating college. Note: I haven’t read all of those books cover-to-cover, but I only included books on that list where I read the “meat” of the book. I’ll explain:
I recommend you think about reading books like eating steaks at a restaurant or in your home. Sometimes you’ll get a steak served to you that has a little fat around the edges, and what I do is cut that part out and not eat it. Sometimes you’ll have a lot of fat, and you only end up eating half of what was given to you by weight. Books work the same way.
I recommend that if you decide to read business biographies, you focus on the first few chapters, where it is explained how the person went from being like anybody else to being more successful than other people. If those chapters make up only 1/10 of the book, I think it’s smarter to read those chapters 10 times than to read the entire book once.
Another analogy I use to explain how to read is Ikea furniture: when I’m assembling Ikea furniture, I don’t read the instruction manual cover-to-cover before I start. I just read the first step and do that step, and then I read the next step. Business biographies work the same way: most biographies spend the bulk of their pages talking about the subject once he/she was already successful, but that isn’t as useful to people like us because we haven’t yet gotten to the same level of success.
So instead of reading these books cover-to-cover, you’d be better off focusing on the beginning, which is more relevant to your current situation. If you follow that strategy you’ll also be able to get through more books, and you’ll develop a better sense of what other successful people have done early in their careers.