Challenge completed! How to Read 50+ Books a Year

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.- Desiderius Erasmus.

This year I set a challenge for myself to read 50 books and I just finished it!

I started reading books to fight mediocrity and to improve myself. I just wanted to be a better person. The most important thing today is to enrich yourself spiritually and intellectually which means that you should invest your time in the people you love and books you read.

Last year  I came across this message by reading an article of Ryan Holiday where the author Robert Greene is advising him about time management:

while people wait for the right moment, there are two types of time: Dead time—where they are passive and biding and Alive time—where they are learning and acting and leveraging every second towards their intended future.

Which will this be for you?

I am a big fan of Robert Greene, I have read all of his books in the past years and they’ve helped me a lot. I printed up this message and put it on my door. Its purpose is to remember me how to use my dead time in the everyday life.

On January 2016 I created a book list and started reading them. My goal was to read 50+ books by the end of this year and doing it during my “dead time”.

I had planned to recycle all dead minutes from the day and use them to read books.

  • 5 minutes during the morning breakfast
  • 20 minutes while commuting to work
  • when waiting in a grocery store
  • on the bus, on the train, on a plane.
  • while stuck in traffic jams
  • 5 to 15 minutes before going to sleep

I don’t know when all this became a habit but the list of books I was finishing was growing each month.

I realized that you don’t have to sit down and spend hours on reading books to achieve these results. You just have to recycle and use your “dead time” to do this.

Let me put it in this way: It takes only a few minutes of reading a day and a good dose of persistence to achieve this goal.

Lessons I’ve learned from reading 50+ books this year?

Understanding the ultimate goal is very important

Reading books means learning but to achieve this you have to put all that knowledge in practice to work for you and get results. You can measure your achievements only results.

E-books are cost effective, especially when you are living outside US.

I may agree with reading physical books over e-books but there are also territorial limitations. Some publishing houses don’t engage in global trade. And even if they do, it takes a lot of time to have the physical book internationally published. This may also increase costs while shipping books overseas.

All these obstacles can be only bypassed  when you buy eBooks. I spent € 404,71 which is the equivalent of 444,95 U.S. dollars to read 50+ E-books this year. This is the equivalent of a an Italian espresso which is less than 2 dollars per day.

It would have cost me a lot more buying physical books written in English since I’m living outside the United States.

Reading improves your English.

I’m not a native English speaker but while reading  English books I’ve noticed a great improvement in language.

Reading English books can  boost your English  writing and speaking skill as well, and it does at a greater speed than you may think.

Another benefit for those who are not native speakers is the fact that you don’t need to wait for books to be translated in your language.

Knowing what other say and being able to express your own feelings is very important. The language you speak is the only correct way to build an effective conversation.

Your brain needs time to process what you read.

The trick is to try to read multiple books a little at time then give your brain time to process and digest the information.

By reading three books at time for about 20 – 40 minutes a day you can read up to 5-6 books a month. A page may take you 1 minute to read but it takes longer to take notes and digest the information so be sure to  leave enough time for digestion.

The more you learn the less you know.

The more you learn, the more you’ll want to read and the more you read you’ll come to realize you know nothing.

At some point you will discover your own limits and you will become aware of the fact that you are the smallest creature in this huge world.

If you do not take notes, you will forget everything.

Taking notes is the best way to begin memorizing what you have read. A book must be read, questioned, criticized and all those important ideas must be put into practice. The best way to do this is to build your own commonplace book.

You need to diversify.

There are book written in all ages. Writing styles may change for old books but this does not take away the book value although I found that many contemporary books are copies made from other books written long time ago.

A book requires more than one reading to understand it.

You should read at least 2-3 times the same book. The first time to understand it, the second time to grasp the concepts and the third time to get the big ideas and put them into practice.

Avoid dogmatism.

When you read two books on the same subject, buy two more that contradict what you have just read.

Here is Charlie Munger’s advice:

if you’re young, it’s particularly easy to drift into intense and foolish ideology and never get out. You’re ruining your mind, sometimes with startling speed. So you want to be very careful with intense ideology. It presents a big danger for the only mind you’re ever going to have.

What you read impacts what you do.

Reading changes your way of thinking because the books push you to act.

When I read a particular book I see the world through the eyes of the author.

Some of them are inviting me to solve a problem, to be more attentive to details, to avoid an error while some other are inviting me to transform the obstacles into opportunities , to change myself into a better person or to accept some harsh truth about life.

Reading books may change your perspective on life.

When you live your life normally you create  a subjective point of view in your mind but when you begin to observe life instead of living it normally you get disconnected from your living and you acquire an objective point of view. At this point your life begins to taste differently.

You may want to become a minimalist.

I am convinced that living with only 150 tangibles and more people who are close to you has a greater impact on happiness.

Here is Charlie on Reducing the material needs:

Most people will see declining returns [due to inflation]. One of the great defenses if you’re worried about inflation is not to have a lot of silly needs in your life – you don’t need a lot of material goods.

Reading may have additional benefits.

Reading helps you become more sociable, it makes you more emphatic, it helps you overcome shyness, reduce anxiety and depression and become a better person.

My reading rules.

My goal was to read 50+ books but here I added some rules to complete this challenge.

Rule #1. Read at least one book over 500 pages.

The longest book I’ve read this year is  The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, sculptors and architects by Giorgio Vasari in 640 pages. I strongly recommend it to everybody. This is one of the best books on Italian Renaissance Art.

Rule #2.  Read books that challenge your believes and opinions.

As human beings we tend to consider only opinions or evidence that confirm what we already believe. This is bad. For the development of our critical thinking we should read books that challenge our point of view.

Rule #3  Read books derived from a previous reading.

The titles of some of the books I’ve read this year are the result of a previous reading. In my case the books concerning stoicism are derived from Marcus Aurelius.

From him I get to Epictetus, Seneca, Cato , Cicero, Montaigne and other books from contemporary writers such as The Obstacle Is The Way.

Rule #4 To read at least 3 books about other cultures

Here my picks are  Giorgio Vassari, Giulio Andreotti and Giorgio Armani. They all are related to Italy. Art, fashion and political history.

Rule 5#  To read at least two different books by the same author

I bought two great anthropology books written by Jared Mason Diamond and two books on personal growth written by Ryan Holiday

Rule #6. Read multiple books on the same topic.

Initially I forced myself to read at least two books by genre but then I  expanded the number of books to be read on the same genre.

I  have read 9 psychology books, 4 biographies , 7 books on stoicism, 10  business and marketing related books , 4 on writing and screenwriting.

Rule #7.  Re-read some books I’ve already read.

I have re-read Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and Mastery by Robert Greene and Cialdini.

My 2016 Challenge Reading List

November ( € 54,58)

Story: Style, structure, substance by Robert McKee (screenwriting)
Stealing Fire from the Gods by James Bonnet (screenwriting)
I cretini non sono mai eleganti by Giorgio Armani (Creativity)

Octomber ( € 56,58)

I will teach you to be rich by Ramith Sethi (Personal Finance)
Elevate: The three disciplines of advanced strategic thinking by Rich Horwath (Strategy)
A whole new mind: why right-brainers will rule the future by Daniel Pink (Psychology)
Laugh for no reason by Madan Kataria (Yoga)
How to write & sell simple information for fun and profit by Robert Bly (Writing)

September (€46,23)

FM 21-76 US army survival manual (Survival, Military)
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (Stoicism, Philosophy)
Testing Epictetus’s doctrines in a laboratory of human behaviour (Philosophy, Psychology, Military)
Why the Jews?: The reason for Antisemitism (Judaism,Religion,History)
The life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo (Minimalism)
Writing to change the world by Mary Phipher (Writing, Psychology)
Poke the box by Seth Godin (Business)
How rich people think by Steve Siebold (Business, Psychology)

August (€ 16,39)

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Philosophy)
Enchiridion by Epictetus (Stoicism)
Rome’s last citizen: The life and legacy of Cato (History)
Il potere logora by Giulio Andreotti (Politics Italy)

July (€ 39,04)

Influence: The psychology of persuation by Robert Cialdini (Psychology)
The gift of fear by Gavin de Becker (Psychology)
Mindfulness in plain English (Meditation, Buddhism)
Ego is the enemy by Ryan Holiday (Practical Philosophy)
Anything you want by Derek Sivers (Business)
The erotic mind  by Jack Morin (Sexuality)

June (€ 14,58)

The obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday (Philosophy, Stoicism)
Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charles T. Munger (Biography, Business)
The confidence game  by Maria Konnicova (Psychology)

May (€ 40,42)

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond ( History & Anthropology )
The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal by Jared Diamond(Science & Anthropology )
Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone (Plays Theatre)

April (€ 16,61)

A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy (Philosophy)
The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin ( Psychology)
Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinkingby Dennis Q. McInerny (  Psychology)

March (€ 17,55)

Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff (Journalism)
The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects  (Art & Biography)
Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Edward de Bono (Psychology)

February (€60,03)

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin (Content marketing)
Ogilvy on Advertising  by David Ogilvy(Content marketing)
This book will teach you how to write better by Neville Medhora (Content marketing)
Selling 101 by Zig Ziglar (Content marketing)
Web Copy That Sells by Maria Veloso (Content marketing)
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (Philosophy)
Discourse on Old Age M.T. Cicero (Philosophy)
Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero, by James Romm (Biography & History )

January (€36,70)

The Personal MBA (Business)
Never Eat Alone (Finances & Marketing)
Triggers: 30 Sales Tools you can use to Control the Mind (Finances & Marketing)
My life and work by Henry Ford (Biography)
Letters to Philip by Charlie W. Shedd (Relationship)
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (Psychology)

Constantin Minov
 

A Hardcore reader | Thinker | Explorer | Problem solver | Communicator | Analyst | Organizer | Minimalist