How To Be A Bully Reader Like Teddy Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt never did anything half-assed, whether it was politics, conservation or even reading. Over the course of his lifetime, Roosevelt purportedly read tens of thousands of books in multiple languages, both fiction and nonfictions, covering a variety of subjects. And he still had time to do things like lead the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War and, you know, become President of the United States.

The average American adult reads 12 books per year. At that rate, we can expect that the average American will read around 1000 books in their lifetime. That sounds pretty good until you remember ol’ Teddy’s numbers are at least an order of magnitude greater. And in an age when we have an infinite amount of reading material at our fingertips at all times, we have no excuse for not being better readers. So what can we do?

It turns out Teddy has plenty of suggestions when it comes to reading in his very own Autobiography. The autobiography is public domain and free to download and should certainly be one of the first books you read on your journey to become a bully reader, but to help get you going, we’ve found some helpful quotes from Teddy all about reading and books in general.


Read What You Enjoy

“Personally the books by which I have profited infinitely more than by any others have been those in which profit was a by-product of the pleasure; that is, I read them because I enjoyed them, because I liked reading them, andthe profit came in as part of the enjoyment.”


Don’t Build A “Collector’s Library”

“Let me add that ours is in no sense a collector’s library. Each book was procured because some one of the family wished to read it. We could never afford to take overmuch thought for the outsides of books; we were too much interested in their insides.”


Don’t Focus On Reading Lists

“The room for choice is so limitless that to my mind it seems absurd to try to make catalogues which shall be supposed to appeal to all the best thinkers. This is why I have no sympathy whatever with writing lists of the One Hundred Best Books, or the FiveFoot Library. It is all right for a man to amuse himself by composing a list of a hundred very good books; and if he is to go off for a year or so where he cannot get many books, it is an excellent thing to choose a five-foot library of particular books which in that particular year and on that particular trip he would like to read. But there is no such thing as a hundred books that are best for all men, or for the majority of men, or for one man at all times; and there is no such thing as a five-foot library which will satisfy the needs of even one particular man on different occasions extending over a number of years.”


Don’t Read To Impress

“The reader, the booklover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be. He must not hypocritically pretend to like what he does not like. Yet at the same time he must avoid that most unpleasant of all the indications of puffed-up vanity which consists in treating mere individual, and perhaps unfortunate, idiosyncrasy as a matter of pride. I happen to be devoted to Macbeth, whereas I very seldom read Hamlet (though I like parts of it). Now I am humbly and sincerely conscious that this is a demerit in me and not in Hamlet; and yet it would not do me any good to pretend that I like Hamlet as much as Macbeth when, as a matter of fact, I don’t.”


Don’t Overlook Hidden Gems

“Aside from the masters of literature, there are all kinds of books which one person will find delightful, and which he certainly ought not to surrender just because nobody else is able to find as much in the beloved volume. There is on our bookshelves a little pre-Victorian novel or tale called “The Semi-Attached Couple.” It is told with much humor; it is a story of gentlefolk who are really gentlefolk; and to me it is altogether delightful. But outside the members of my own family I have never met a human being who had even heard of it, and I don’t suppose I ever shall meet one.”


So there you have it, read what you enjoy and don’t waste time on what you think you should be reading. Now we know that Teddy said not to concern yourself with book lists, but just in case you were wondering what Teddy himself liked to read, he mentioned quite a few titles in a 1903 letter to Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler. Free PDFs for your smartphone or tablet of many of the named classics are available: