For a few years, I have had this personal theory that by reading 5 books on a specific topic you become an expert in the matter.

Of course, that will sound hugely problematic to some of you who see themselves as experts in some sort of field. And perhaps it is problematic. But just think about it. If you read one single book about botanical gardens, you probably know more than 99% of the world about this topic. Certainly more than anyone in your immediate circle.

But your knowledge might be one-dimensional after reading just one book. It might have been a very nuanced book, trying to shed light on all aspects of botanical gardening. Trying to involve all sorts of different opinions and styles, but in the end, you will still have consumed the information through the lens of the author and the publisher.


Now imagine reading a second book about botanical gardening. Preferably a book from an author that has different views on the matter than the previous book you have read. Wow, now you have increased your knowledge by 100%. You are now an expert belonging to the top 0,01 of the world.

Now repeat this step 3 more times and you are unofficially a top 0,0001% expert on the matter of botanical gardening. You are a garden wizard. A green-fingered oracle. A brilliant big-brain botanical bobo. You get the gist. You probably know more than anyone you’ll ever meet on the topic. Apart from actual experts that study the matter for years and have a Ph.D. to show for it. But let’s just call you an amateur expert now.

How I use the ‘five book’-rule in my own life

This has been my personal philosophy now for a couple of years. I try to get the gist of a topic by reading a minimum of 5 books on the topic. Examples: last year I read 10 books on the topic of feminism, this year I came up with the diversity reading challenge and I’m reading 5 books per continent. Same with my studies into work/leisure/freedom that I started last year.

It gives you a solid knowledge base to work from when you are at parties and you want to engage in the conversation. But it also gives you plenty of tools to help you think critically when other people start to speak about certain topics.

In the end, the premise of this blog post is really simple. Read more about topic = know more about topic. But attaching a very tangible ‘5 book’ norm to this idea helps me to materialise it. It brings it one step closer to making a structured SMART-goal. And that is quite nice and practical. And people that know me well, know that I love practical things.

Logo of the website

A platform for five expert book recommendations

Anyway, there is a reason that I’m actually writing this little ‘theory’ of mine down today. It is because I was using this cool website called It kind of flirts with the same idea. But it’s even cooler. They interview actual top-of-the-bill experts. Think professors, philosophers, and doctors. And during the interview, they ask them to recommend five books about their topic of expertise.

This makes becoming an expert so much easier! You get high-quality recommendations from actual, professional experts. How great is that?!

Just be aware… the five recommended books might keep you inprisoned in the same bubble as that expert. So don’t be afraid to investigate the expert and gather more different sources 🙂