“I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything.”
– Steven Wright
When I decided to take part in the “2015 Reading Challenge” on Goodreads.com I felt like reading 100 books would be a real challenge for me.
I mean, 2 books per week? Come on. Where would I find the time?
Since this felt important to me, I took a look at what wasn’t giving me the value I wanted.
Skipping a few series that I was watching out of pure habit freed up a couple of hours per week. So grateful I did that, looking back I’d “wasted” about 50 hours of my life. Can’t change the past but the ones I could’ve still been wasting will be far better spent.
Although I go through the latest music releases every week, when I’m out and about or just hanging at home I listen to the same old stuff. So, I started putting on audiobooks instead.
Since I’m taking notes on interesting things it’s kind of distracting at times. Getting on the wrong subway, having to step away in the middle of doing the dishes etc.
I’m totally OK with that!
A while back when people noticed that I was 20+ books ahead of the schedule they started asking me how I did it.
And the audiobooks are probably the biggest “hack”. Being able to speed them up by 1,5x helps a lot.
Let’s say you’ve got a book that’s 7 hours long you can listen to it in something like 4 hours 45 minutes.
Congrats! You’ve just “saved” 2 hours 15 minutes. Do that with enough books and it’ll be a breeze.
Also, if I’m suddenly distracted it’s easy to pause or if my mind wanders it’s easy to rewind to the last thing I remember hearing.
Another thing is that I decided that I’d focus the first month on creating the habit of reading. It’s the same thing I did when I started blogging.
The first month I wrote each and every day. Writing became a habit.
The following month I decided to take it down to see if I’d get the feeling of missing it. And I did.
I increased it until I got to the point where I’d get fed up. I found that blogging 4-5 days a week is where I feel most comfortable.
One of the first books I read this year was “Moonwalking With Einstein” by Joshua Foer. In it he explores what it takes to become the World Memory Champion. Surprisingly he, a novice, learns the basic principles and goes on to win it.
I wanted to try this out for myself and before long I’d expanded my capacity to remember 7 words/objects/numbers in the correct order to 22.
I stopped there because I saw that it worked and didn’t want to dedicate any more time to it. No doubt I’d be back at 7 since I haven’t done it for about 6 months.
The interesting thing was that the techniques used were more than 2000 years old. We’d simply stopped using them. Back then if you’d come across a book you’d make damn sure to remember what it said.
All of a sudden along came Gutenberg and we could contain the information in books.
We just Google it.
That really stuck with me. The same principles have been in play for ages, we simply forget and rediscover.
This became very clear when I listened to “Plato, Socrates & The Dialogues” by Michael Sugrue.
All of a sudden I could draw lines between what was being said there and other books I’d read or later did read.
For example, one dialogue lead me to think about “The Filter Bubble” which argues that we should expose ourselves to ideas and people with views different from our own.
That in turn reminded me of “The Way Of Men” which really challenged me to consider how I feel about traditional gender roles and how we view masculinity.
Something that Brené Brown talks about in her recent book “Rising Strong”, which also talks about the importance of presence and breathing. Which was an important point in Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power Of Now”.
I could go on but it seemed like all the books I read were somehow connected.
Out of all the books there were only a dozen or so that really gave me something valuable, the rest felt like padding. Like those busywork sidequests you get that don’t really matter, you know?
Then I was reminded of a quote:
“There is creative reading as well as creative writing.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bag o’ crap.
I’d become so focused on finding patterns and leaning heavily on things that I already knew something about that I didn’t bring much diversity to the table.
If I’d read more things that really challenged me and my beliefs then maybe I would’ve gotten a lot more out the books.
Luckily, though not nearly enough, I did realize this in time to include several such titles before I finished the challenge.
So, what did I learn from reading 101 books in 250 days?
That I’ll probably never do it again. At least not in the same way.
If I’m going to do it I’ll have to make it a real challenge. Things that stretch my mind, make me do things in the real world that are outside my comfort zone.
Because the most rewarding books were precisely those that said “Let me explain all the ways in which you are mistaken about the world.”
They pissed me off. And I like that. In a “50 Shades”-kind of way.
Here are three ones that particularly irked my ire yet managed to teach me something.
“The 48 Laws Of Power” – Robert Greene
“The Way Of Men” – Jack Donovan
“Invisibles” – David Zweig
What books have you read this year that really challenged your beliefs?
Let me know in the comments & hit me up on Twitter.
Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!