Why I Read Over 100 books in 2019 & The Lessons I Learnt
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
At the beginning of the year, I decided to read a book a week for 2019 (i.e. 52 books). Straight forward and generic enough as a goal. However, it escalated somewhat...
The reason for this post is to basically share the experience, possibly inspire or re-inspire people to read and also give some tips on how I did it and how anyone can read more in general.
I found this process HUGELY beneficial, enlightening and my business has grown over the years apparently directly in proportion to the number of books in my library. I literally left full-time medical work in 2015. I had the first biz inflexion point in 2017. Then I attended my first Baby Bathwater and DCBKK in 2018 and the rest is history!
So for these reasons, I wanted to share this with you guys.
It also seems especially apt right now as I’m sure people are setting reading goals as their New Year's Resolutions so...
Here is a breakdown of the journey!
Sections below include:
Why I did this and how I got on?
Tips for reading more
Pros / Lessons learnt
What I will change going forward / reading goal for 2020.
My most influential books of 2019
Here is the whole list of books from Goodreads.
Why did I do this?
We don't really need an excuse to read more but these are the things which pushed me over the edge.
We've all heard that so many successful people read a lot. Setting a goal seemed like an obvious move to fast lane my success.
My Audible wishlist and Wunderlist reading lists were getting a bit silly from various book clubs and recommendations.
I was getting fed up of saying "No, I've not read it but it's on my list".
I found I got super pumped and motivated when I read a book so I figured by reading more I would be more pumped more of the time. Basically I was hacking motivation and inspiration (it worked!).
It would develop the habit of reading - a lifelong skill with potentially huge dividends down the line.
I wanted to reduce mindless time on my phone so replaced a lot of stupid scrolling with reading/learning/listening.
How Did I Do?
I started with the goal of a book a week but hit 52 books by August/September time.
Instead of extending my goal a little, I decided to double it to 104 books. So I ended up reading the same number of books again (another 52) in less time.
As it happens, I hit my new goal with hours to spare (travel day on the 31st helped) but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses and it got a little messy towards the end. This is why I wouldn't universally recommend setting such a crazy goal, but first off, the tips I’ve picked up.
Tips For Reading More
These are my top tips based on my experiences from the last 12 months:
Read books instead of going on social media
This is obvious and what kicked it off for me. I remember checking my screen time at the end of 2018 and realising I was spending like an hour a day on social media. Boom, imagine spending all that time reading instead. It was an absolute no brainer.
Have multiple formats available - audio, real books, kindle etc.
This means you can always read or listen in some format even if it’s noisy or you don’t have headphones or it’s dark or whatever.
Have plenty of books loaded up
The number of times I got bored of a book and started a new one was crazy. I constantly had 5 or more books on the go and just kept jumping between them or getting new ones.
Build a habit to read SOMETHING regularly
It could be 15 minutes a day or while you’re warming up in the gym or while you’re walking the dog. These little bits add up, especially at increased reading speeds. 15min a day at x2 speed is 3.5 hours of book per week which is around a book every 2 weeks. At just 15 minutes of listening per day.
Identify times or activities where you can read which would otherwise be 'wasted'
For me, travel (including wandering around airports), massage, walking places and before bed were all reading times. If I was ever waiting for anything (doctor, visa, plane, food) then I'd also automatically read. If you define these in advance then it’s an automatic reaction to get your book out.
Make reading easy to do
Place all your reading apps on the home screen. Place books/kindles in strategic locations in your environment. Minimise friction to reading. Conversely, bury social media apps in a folder on the 4th page of your home screen to make it more effort to get to them.
Join Goodreads (click here)
Set a reading challenge on there. It’s public and even though no one cares it makes you feel good when you add another to the list (there is an app too).
Not all reading has to be ‘productive’ (i.e. enjoy what you are reading)
I read 90% non-fiction but I used autobiographies and some history and fiction to keep me reading even when I couldn’t take on any more hard info for the day or wasn’t in the mood for learning. Stories are much easier to get into the flow with so I mixed it up. (As an aside, I also found world war 2 novels helped me HUGELY with perspective. Whatever my life or biz problems are and however insurmountable they may seem, reading about the conditions soldiers had to put up with just 70-80 years ago, brings me crashing back down to reality with huge gratitude).
Not all books have to be hardcore
I identified books or genres that I could listen to with say 70% focus (while shopping or when there was background noise or distraction) and books that required 100% focus (in silence while flying for example). For me, 70% books were those about health and fitness. The vast majority of the concepts were familiar to me. Additionally, once I’d read 5 or 6 books on a specific topic e.g. goal setting, I found that I wasn’t hearing much new information so this genre went into my ‘70%’ list.
Post quotes on your IG or FB story with screenshots of Audible/Kindle
It makes you feel good and enforces social accountability.
Here are just some of the benefits that I found of reading so much:
There is a lot of stuff we don’t know that we don’t know.
Reading opens your mind to these new concepts thereby opening the world up for you. I gained a lot of new knowledge and ideas and discovered things I didn’t even know existed before.
In the age of smartphones and instant gratification, sitting and doing one thing for an extended period of time is hard. The best way of getting better at focussing for longer (and thereby improving your whole life) is by doing more of it. I improved my focus IMMENSELY over the year and this translated into better work and productivity in general (my reading and comprehension speed also increased substantially and there were 1-2 books towards the end that I was listening to on x3.5 - noise-cancelling headphones, stimulants and closing your eyes helps).
Less time wasted.
My screentime reduced significantly and my mindless presence on social media almost disappeared entirely. I just had better things to do.
It confirmed theories through repetition.
Once you’ve heard something 13 times from 7 different authors you can be fairly certain that it’s worth considering. One of the things that kept coming up across multiple genres was: “There is only now, be present, that’s all that there is.”
It gave me clarity when there were differing opinions.
I could find commonalities even when there were opposing camps debating the best way to achieve something. This seemed prominent in both investing and health. Reading across the breadth of the topic allowed me to appreciate the whole picture instead of succumbing to confirmation bias by just reading what I agreed with. More often than not there were underlying themes where everyone was actually on the same page.
Because of this, I became more openminded.
Books (and media in general) are meant to be persuasive and reading within a single viewpoint will only enforce confirmation bias as noted above. By reading such a huge variety of literature covering wildly differing views in such a short time frame, I realised most sides of the debate will have some merit and the answer is rarely black or white.
My writing and speaking improved with knowledge of more concepts and a larger vocabulary to draw on.
I always have book recommendations.
Anyone who has seen me speak can vouch for this.
Cons [full transparency]:
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses. There were some negatives to setting a relatively ridiculous goal.
When I realised I had 20 books to read in a month, my ‘gaming’ hat went on and I optimised for completing my challenge. I chose short books. I chose books that I could read at higher speeds. Towards the end, there were one or two books where I missed bits because I was squeezing reading into every available second.
I didn’t stop and take notes or check out extra content or implement any single book in it's entirety. On one hand, I was going for volume and breadth this year but on the other, I missed a lot of the extra resources and benefits from individual books. There is also an inevitable loss of retention due to volume and I don't think we need to read SO many books, but rather, actually implement what we are learning for a few good ones. As the quote goes:
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Bruce Lee
How Am I Altering My Goals This Year?
I have identified books to re-read this year more slowly with a note pad and pen etc. and implement in their entirety.
I have set my goal to a much more manageable 52 books (including the re-reads).
I will be reflecting on the books of the last year to identify the ‘biggest takeaway’ and ‘point to implement’ and to remind me of some of the gems that I learnt.
I loved the process, I gained a hell of a lot but I wouldn't recommend it. I think the better balance would be fewer well-chosen books, read more slowly and reflected on/implemented. The counter to this is that you don't necessarily know what the good or relevant books but realistically there are enough recommendations out there from trusted sources to be able to identify a handful of "Must-reads". I will continue to avidly read but go for consistency and what I can gain from the books rather than sheer volume.
My Most Influential Books of 2019
Please note that these aren't THE BEST BOOKS IN THE WORLD EVAAA, it's just literally the ones from 2019. I previously read a lot of the classics (Mindset by Carol Dweck and Principles by Ray Dalio for example) albeit at a much slower pace. So here they are with a short sentence about each.
Core mindset for winning at life in general.
Upgraded how I thought about money.
Opened my eyes to investing, inflation and QE.
A staple for any behaviour change.
Opened my mind to how corrupt and broken medical science is.
A huge reassurance that my move from ‘stable job’ into entrepreneurship wasn’t dumb.
A lesson in spinning ALL the plates and winning at all of them.
Some very interesting ways to view thoughts and behaviour change.
Realised I had an integrator and we were Rocket Fuel.
What I needed to do in my business in a step by step plan.
A 180 turn vs modern ‘hustle’ culture. I needed this.
This guy is a MACHINE and just never gave up. So inspiring.
Step 1 in taking back my life. Everyone improved from here.
Another behaviour change staple.
A huge lesson in the presence and what really matters.
That's that! I hope you find some benefit here!
Happy New Year and here's to an epic 2020.