When I moved to the Portland area from Thailand, all the books in my library were those I had with me in my backpack. In the last four years, this number of books has grown until it now takes more than 20 sizable boxes to move my library. I have read thousands of books and spent very little money doing it during this time. This is fortunate, as the money garnished from my paycheck to repay old college loans has significantly dampened my book-purchasing bud. Yet this has barely hindered my efforts to become a subject matter expert in many personal and professional interest areas.

I have published book reviews in numerous scholarly forums and acquired a reputation as a prolific book reviewer for several publishers. I have also written enough book reviews that some friends of mine keep bugging me to turn those reviews into book projects. Nor am I alone in this, as a friend of mine who is a homeschooling housewife and mother has parlayed a love of reading into expertise in the subgenre of Amish romance novels. How can you succeed as a recognized subject matter expert without spending a lot of money doing it?

Today I would like to share some tips from my own experience, in order of their ease of entry:

1. Become a Fan of Your Local Library

Developing a familiarity with many books is easy when one checks them out of the library for free.   Random browsing online for holds or in a branch library can be a source of new and exciting reads.

2. Use One’s Reading to Spur Further Reading.

Look at the bibliography sections of books to obtain information on what books to read next.

3. Join Blog Reviewing Programs

Committing to reading and reviewing books can help you become a recognized subject matter expert in genres one wants to read. This can help you develop your blog while also becoming recognized for your insights on current reading.

4. Query Scholarly Journals for Book Review Assignments

Many journals require books to be read and reviewed within 90 days of receipt. The rewards are worthwhile in developing a reputation for being a knowledgeable reader and writer.

5. Join Professional Societies

Many professional communities have regular meetings where they give away books and other materials. Additionally, the costs for joining such societies may be paid for through your job.


Do any of these tips resonate with you? Are you already engaging in activities that can turn into personal or professional development opportunities? If so, consider taking advantage of ways to become an expert in your areas of interest through asking for books or joining programs and societies to gain expertise and free research material. The results may exceed your wildest dreams.

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