We might be midway through March but I’ve been wanting to blog about one of my experiences of last year. And since better late than never, here we go.
As the title suggests, I made the audacious resolution of reading 52 books in 2015. And somehow, I managed to keep that resolution and read 52 new books last year. A lot of people found this goal to be extremely lofty. After all, who has time to set aside every weekend to read? And while it wasn’t easy, it’s definitely doable.
So why did I set this goal? A few reasons. First, my list of books to read was growing exponentially so this was a way to at least make some progress on it. Second, I tend to read 25-35 books a year and since I’m all about step changes, a book a week had a nice ring to it. Third, there’s possibly nothing negative about reading a lot. There are a lot of articles that talk about the benefits and it’s well documented that most successful, intelligent people in the world read A LOT. Here’s one to get you motivated. And the final reason — I wanted to prove a point.
I’ve always enjoyed reading and read a lot in high school – easily 50-60 books a year. But when I got to college, I was barely able to read 10 a year. I promised myself that once I started work, I’d reactivate the habit. Naturally, I’d always ask people around me what they were reading and the answer shocked me – most of them couldn’t recall what they had read and many readily admitted to having read only one book in an entire year. One book! I found that absurd considering these were people I considered smart but couldn’t manage to devote some time to basic enrichment. So yes, I wanted to prove a point.
Now I have to admit, I read extremely fast. If the suggested reading time for a book is 4 hours, my actual reading time is 1-2 hours. I’ve always been a natural speed reader so I do have a “competitive advantage.” But there are a few tips I can suggest to up your reading levels:
- Become a speed reader. Consultants often take speed reading classes to help them process reports quickly and it’s really about training your eyes/brains to skip the important stuff. I promise that you still are able to comprehend the material, with the rare occasion that requires a reread.
- Get a Kindle. I blogged about this earlier but the Kindle has made my reading volume dramatically increase. I always have it on me just in case the fancy to read strikes me. And since I have my entire library (and Amazon’s) on my fingertips, I can easily switch books if I’m bored or need a change.
- Block out the distractions. Namely TV and your phone. I have an alarm on my phone at 9:40 pm that reminds me I’m not allowed to watch TV past 10 pm. So finish up your last show and then switch off your phone. Physically turning off your phone means you reduce the likelihood of “quickly” checking Facebook or Twitter. And since it’s very unlikely you’ll be ready to sleep at 10, you’ll manage to sneak in an hour of reading each night.
- Find a spot. I find the right spot makes reading 10x more enjoyable. I have a “reading nook” in my house plus a coffee shop that I’ve designated as my reading zones that gets me in the zone. I make it a point to only go to that coffee shop by myself to maintain the sanctity of that place.
- Use Goodreads. They have a reading challenge you can sign up for and it automatically shows you how ahead/behind you are. Plus, the infographics are really cool once you’ve completed your challenge.
- Talk about it. I think one of the reasons I finished the challenge – it got quite tough towards the end of the year – was because I had told so many people about it that if I didn’t completed it, t was going to be embarrassing.
- Keep a reading list. I haven’t been very organized at that but having a list of books you want to read make it easy to decide what to read next. Just look at your list and get going. One of my tricks is to send a sample of any book I want to read on the Kindle so when I’m looking for something new, I have multiple options at my fingertips.
- Quantity over quality. Reading War & Peace might be very rewarding but it’s far easier to get intimidated by that instead of 50 Shades of Grey. If you’re just trying to build a habit, make sure you’re consistently reading and don’t worry about the reading level. My personal trick is to alternate between one “fun” book (fiction, mystery novels) and one “work” book (classics, non-fiction).
- Be Prepared. You might not realize it at that time but you’re bound to sacrifice something else in your life to make time to read. For me it ended up being writing/blogging – which I had started to lose interest in anyways. And this year I’ve made an active decision to focus on writing again.
If you’re curious on what i ended up reading last year, you can see my full list here – along with my ratings. Some of my favorites last year include:
- The Girl on the Train
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things
- The Art of Hearing Heartbeats
- Becoming Steve Jobs
- Me Before You
- Flash Boys
- Modern Romance
- The Martian
- The Immortals of Meluha
I also ended up calculating how much this challenge cost me, which ended up being AED 1367 (USD 372) which also includes my monthly Kindle Unlimited membership ($9.99). I’m not saying you have to spend that much money but it didn’t seem like a high cost to me.
So there you go. If you haven’t read a book in the first three months of 2016, it’s not too late to start a challenge now. If you want me to nag you, let me know of your goals and I’d be happy to be your accountability coach! And do share your suggestions of what to read next.