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[CTQ Smartcast] Is Reading Overrated? A Conversation With Amit Varma

Amit Varma has done many things in life, from being editor of Cricinfo to winning the Bastiat Prize for journalism (twice!). He’s currently best known for his 'The Seen and the Unseen' podcast. 

In March 2020, Choose To Thinq met up online with podcaster/writer Amit Varma to discuss a variety of interesting topics ranging from reading and writing to habits, curiosity, managing an information diet and so much more.

This fascinating conversation (un)covered


  • Whether reading is overrated 

  • How Amit manages to read around 20 books a month

  • The opportunity cost of reading more


  • What Amit does that goes against ‘Indian Sanskaar’ (but makes him a better reader)

  • How to absorb knowledge faster while listening to podcasts

  • Amit’s experience of overcoming the Dunning-Kruger effect


  • Going down rabbit holes 

  • How to navigate the abundance of information 

  • A hilarious addiction Amit is struggling with (but to which he’s invited all the Reading Compound members)


  • What does prep for a podcast look like (and the mistakes to avoid)

  • Why Amit chooses to keep his podcast episodes 2 hours long

  • How Amit explores disagreements with guests

…And Amit’s own signature closing question: What gives him Despair? What gives him Hope?


Before ending the meet, we drudged up Amit’s ‘sordid past’ as a quizzer and put him under the scanner with a 3-part quiz. Despite his reservations, he did quite well (with some help from the CTQ Reading Compound members, of course). Good going, Amit! :)

Select picks of actionable insights for readers

  1. Read more to accumulate dots “We make sense of the world by connecting dots. It stands to reason then, the more dots you can join, the clearer the picture will be. Reading gives you more dots than anything else.”

  2. To read more, build a habit and mould your identity “The whole project of reading more comes down to building a habit. Make your habits and goals coincide.” “Think in terms of not what you want to do, but the person you want to be... Visualize yourself as an intellectual omnivore, and it will become easier for you to read more.”

  3. Adopt Amit’s useful techniques for reading better

  • Making notes of what you read can help you absorb the knowledge better.

  • Go to the footnotes to learn more about whatever you’re interested in learning more about.

  • Read different writers (even if you don’t agree with some). Don’t get drawn into an echo chamber. Get to the truth.


  • Marginal Revolution   A blog for building deeper knowledge and sharper perspectives on a variety of subjects.

  • TikTok An app for gaining sociological and anthropological insights. 

Those of us who attended this private event found it truly invigorating and rewarding. The hour just flew by! Our thanks to Amit for meeting with the CTQ Reading Compound. We hope to see (and quiz) him again soon.


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