New York Magazine

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

How to Read 31 Books in Four Minutes

Some lessons culled from a cross section of America’s self-help oeuvre.


Toward a Greater Greet:
How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less By Nicholas Boothman
A guide to making a lasting good impression, from teeth to breath to handshake to small talk.

• After greeting someone, immediately clap your hands, then raise your handshake hand toward their heart.

• Take deep, lingering breaths when nervous. Imagine your nostrils are below your navel and the breaths are beginning from there.

• Find moments during a conversation to say “Me, too” or to otherwise establish common interests.

• The next time you’re talking to someone, synchronize your body language with the other person for 30 seconds.

• Practice saying the word great in the mirror using various inflections until you’ve made yourself laugh.

Make a Difference in Under a Minute:
59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute By Richard Wiseman

Provides behavioral tweaks based on psychological research in an amount of time anyone can spare.

• During a date, bond over what you dislike.

• Let a smile slowly spread across your face and tilt your head toward the person you’re speaking to. It’ll make you appear more attractive.

• If you’re male, arrange to have a female friend accompany you on a night out to purposely laugh at your jokes.

• To be more creative at meetings, lean forward, grip the table, and pull against it. When your creativity is blocked, cross your arms.

Forget About It:
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business By Charles Duhigg

The secret of success may very well be mindless repetition.

• Make your bed every morning; other good habits may take hold.

• To start a new habit, pick a specific cue and a clear reward.

Do It the Hard Way:
Mastery By Robert Greene

Drawing on the lives and works of historical geniuses, Greene ­preaches nose-to-the-grindstone apprenticeship and mastery.

• Embrace tedium.

• Mastery is not genius; it is a function of concentration and time.

• Focus on five to ten years down the road, when benefits are truly reaped.

Succeed by Sitting Around in Your Underwear:
The 4-Hour Workweek By Timothy Ferriss

Self-help’s current version of “get rich quick.”

• To avoid wasting time, check e-mail twice a day: first at noon, and again at 4 p.m., the two busiest times for bingeing on e-mail.

• Instead of responding to voice-mail by phone, go through e-mail instead. This teaches you, and your contacts, to be concise.

• Eliminate reading magazines, newspapers, audiobooks, nonfiction books (except for his). TV is out of the question, as well as web surfing (unless it’s for work). And stop browsing Facebook.

Copy to Create:
Steal Like an Artist By Austin Kleon

Originality is not all it’s cracked up to be.

• Start copying. Copy your favorite writer, musician, painter. You’ll get a better sense of how they think and create.

Be Your Own CEO:
The Start-Up of You By Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

Live as if you were a tech start-up, by LinkedIn’s founder.

• Create an “interesting-people fund.” Use it to pay for coffee or ­lunches with people you find interesting.

• Who are the ten people you’d reach out to if you ever got laid off? Reach out to them now, when you don’t need anything from them.

• Set aside a full day to be a “yes day.” Say yes to everything all day.

Perfect the Ask:
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion By Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.

Business- and science-tested strategies for bending others to your will.

• Prepare the ground for making a request of someone by doing him a small favor.

• Ask for more than you want; once you’re turned down, ask for what you want.

• Before asking someone to give you something, ask them how they are feeling.

Get In Touch With Your Choices:
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It By Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

Stanford professor McGonigal makes self-control a science.

• Exercise your willpower brain muscles by planting temptations throughout the house—hiding candy bars in plain sight, etc.—then don’t have them.

• Chart your willpower for a week. Then plan your schedule strategically and limit temptation when you know your willpower will be at a low.

• Imagine your future self by, for example, writing a letter to that future you.

Embrace Your Urges:
How to Think More About Sex By Alain de Botton

Getting clean about dirty.

• See bad dates the way you see bad weather. Natural parts of life that can’t be prevented or controlled.

• Reframe your view on impotence—not as a sign of inability, but instead as a sign of evolved compassion and kindness.

Current Issue
Subscribe to New York

Give a Gift