Three Ways to Get the Most out of the Next Business Book You Read

By Les McGehee, President and Master Coach, Rialto Academy

3 ways to read a business book

It’s no surprise that one thing the most successful people have in common is that they read. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and Oprah Winfrey (to name a few entrepreneurs) are all avid readers—and each of them attribute the knowledge gained to their success.

In fact, Warren Buffet, who spends 80 percent of each day reading, once said, “Read 500 pages […] every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”

We might not all have the time to take our reading habits to that extreme, but we can all agree that reading books about business or leadership can be rewarding, inspiring, and educational. And there isn’t just one way to do it. Here are three ways to read a business book and how each is strategically different in terms of the type and degree of benefit you can gain from it. As you’ll see, you may choose one, two, or all three of these styles depending on your goals with any particular book.

Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.

1. Digest it!

Get that book and read it cover to cover, now—all at once. You may have enjoyed this experience before while devouring a book on a plane or in a single weekend, or even done an all-nighter of reading after an inspiring presentation, encounter, or epiphany.

A benefit of this style of reading is that it is often enjoyably obsessive. It gives you an understanding of the message quickly and allows you to include it in your thinking immediately. A detriment to this style of reading is that you may not get much more effect than that. This is a great method for getting a blink of a book or reaping the fastest reward, yet it isn’t the best method if your goal is depth, retention, or lasting change.

2. Work it!

Read that book armed with a pencil, highlighter, and some post-its! Work in that book as you read and reread sections. Absorb it by marking it up as if you were preparing to teach it. Write on the pages, use post-its to mark pages, underline key sentences or passages. Make it an easy tool for referencing. One benefit is that your notes create a timeline for you, so that when you reread, you can see how the content influenced you before and if that has evolved—opening up layers of learning. If you took notes in pencil the first time, maybe make any additional notes in pen on your next read. This is a great method for creating a “working book,” one that you can grab, go straight to a needed passage, and use as an on-demand reference.

3. Be influenced by it!

Read that book just a little each day for a month or two. Fewer people use this technique, yet it’s extremely powerful. You may have already digested the book using the first method, and maybe even marked it up in a deep-dive using the second. Yet with this third method, you are INVITING THE BOOK TO INFLUENCE YOU.

By reading a small amount of the book every day, you are training and aligning your thoughts on the subject matter daily. That repetition creates habitual thought. If there are actions recommended in the book, you’d be taking them as you move through it, living with that book over time and allowing it to influence you, get into your behavior, create new habits and thinking, draw its effect into your daily life. You may even want to consider reading it out loud to yourself! Let it get into your muscle memory and physical self instead of limiting it to mental work.


Do you have to read the whole thing? Maybe, and maybe not! This may be a controversial statement, but here it is anyway: Many business books don’t need to be read in their entirety.It depends on your goals. It depends on how they are written. Consider this story:

A famous No. 1 best-selling business author once shared his reading list in a class he was teaching. Not a list of his own books, but a list of the business books written by other authors that influenced him the most that year. One of his students was intrigued by a title, purchased the book immediately, and digested it. The student saw the teacher two weeks later and thanked him for the recommendation. The teacher asked which parts of the book had meant the most to the student. The student described that the game-changing premise of the book and the opening analogies were powerful and life-changing. The first half of the book had “blown him away,” but the student explained that the case studies that made up the second half of the book were repetitious.

Famous author/teacher: “Glad you enjoyed it! Good to know about the second half of the book, so I won’t read it.”

Student: “Wait, what? You haven’t read the books on your reading list?

Famous author/teacher: “Of course I have. I just didn’t read them all completely.”

Student: “You don’t read the entire books?”

Famous author/teacher: “Well, sometimes I do, but with most business books, all the important stuff is in the first half, or in certain sections; so sure, depending on the book, I may only read part of it. It’s not like it’s a novel or something, where I’d be waiting for the surprise ending.”

Lightbulb moment!

Tips like these can become a daily part of your life with a business coach. Your coach is an ally that will help you set goals, get clarity in your mindset, reach your potential, and live an abundant life. And there’s more than just one way to be coached.

> Explore our coaching options here.