How to Figure Out the Most Important Book to Read Next

Just like you should start your day by doing the most important task, you should start your reading by reading the most important book. Take the book which is not just interesting, but also has the biggest potential impact on your life. Take the book which has the biggest potential return for your investment of time.

So how do you figure out the most important book to read next? Here are some steps:

  1. Find information about available books
    First of all, you should know what books are available. There are many ways to find a book to read. You might read book review in the newspaper, see a book mentioned in a web site, or get a book recommendation from a friend. You can also check the best seller list at Amazon and New York Times, or the new release list at Amazon. For old books, you can check Gutenberg’s Top 100 or Recent eBooks list. Whenever you find a book that might be interesting, find more information about it to help you decide whether or not you want to read it.
  2. Maintain a Someday list
    When you decide that you want to read a book, put it into your Someday list. As its name shows, the Someday list contains the titles you’d like to read someday. In my case, this list is actually part of the Someday/Maybe list in my GTD system. You could have as many titles as you want in the list. Just don’t forget to review the list regularly.
  3. Maintain a Candidate list
    When you review your Someday list, you might find that some of the books are more important than the others. You can then put those books into another list which I call Candidate list.
    This list contains the titles you seriously consider to read next. To make it easier for you to compare the titles, I’d suggest keeping the Candidate list short to less than 10 titles. Just like Someday list, you should also review your Candidate list regularly.
  4. Pick a book from the Candidate list
    Since there are less titles in the Candidate list, it should be easier for you to compare the relative importance of those titles. You can then decide which one is the most important book to read next.

Using these steps, it’s very likely that the book you eventually pick is indeed the most important book. Of course, you need to remain flexible. Sometimes, a book can quickly rise from the Someday and Candidate list to become the most important book. On the other hand, you might also find that some books are no longer of interest that you delete them from the lists.

The goal here is using your reading time in the best possible way. You should avoid impulse reading as you should avoid impulse buying. Just like a shopping list helps you prevent impulse buying, your Someday and Candidate lists help you prevent impulse reading.


  1. What a great take on this. I love the analogy between impulse buying and impulse reading. (They often take the same form with me 🙂
    My question is how can you figure out whether or not a book is worthy being on either your someday or candidate list? Lately I’ve really been disappointed with books that have had great reviews and seem to be what I am looking for; only to find a couple of chapters in that it isn’t worth reading further.

  2. Good question, LJ.

    For Someday list, I usually just read the book’s information page on Amazon or flip through it in the bookstore or library. If I find it’s interesting, I will put it in the list.

    For Candidate list, I usually choose the books based on my current topic of interest. If I’m currently interested in personal finance for example, books in that field will make it to the Candidate list.

    To avoid disappointment, I find more information about the book before reading it. Flipping through it is the best way. Another way is reading the book’s review from several reputable bloggers.

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  5. I’m most likely to read a book if it’s been recommended to me by someone I trust. Usually a friend, but also the New York Times Best Seller List, or classics.

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