Last year, in 2018, I read 50 books–mostly business, neuroscience, and self-help books. And that’s just nonfiction; I also read a few fiction books here and there, but I didn’t count them in the total.
Why 50 books?
I’m not sure why I settled on 50 as the number that I wanted to reach. It just seemed like a nice, round number. It also seemed reasonable–about a book week. Since I am a fast reader, I figured I could do it. However, I reached this goal through a combination of reading e-books online, buying physical books, and also audiobooks (during my commute to work).
On top of it all, I was also reading blogs and magazine articles online, listening to podcasts, and watching TV.
Looking back now, it seems like a lot of information. I wonder how I am not overdosing on all this stuff.
It does make me wonder whether I really did process all the information that I’ve taken in. To be quite honest, I was consumed with accomplishing this goal that I didn’t really take the time to fully appreciate all the information that I’ve learned. It just seemed more important to hit the 50-books target–without really applying the knowledge I’ve gained to my daily life.
After finishing one book, I would quickly move on to the next one on my list. There was no time to digest information. Because I was borrowing a lot of the books from the library, they needed to be returned within a three-week or even a two-week period. This might be why I felt like I needed to finish the books as quickly as I could. I don’t think this is the most conducive way to actually learn anything. In reality, I enjoy taking the time to savor my books–to actually pause and internalize the information that I’m reading.
There were a few books that galvanized me immediately into action. Dr. Greger’s How Not to Die was one of those books. The book advocated mostly a plant-based diet for optimum health. Since I am so focused on healthy living right now, it was easy to follow. I just couldn’t wait to try out the recipes and food recommendations.
When it came to the business books though, it was a little bit more difficult to follow the actionable steps mentioned. For one thing, the sheer volume of information was too much. It was all about how to get started with a business, how to run a business, what makes great businesses work, and how to stay motivated at work. It felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again–which I probably was because I found all of it fascinating.
It also feels like I was confirming a lot of my biases by reading the same types of books all the time. I wonder whether this is keeping me from expanding my horizons since I was stuck in the same information mode all the time.
I also wondered whether I was wasting my time. In consuming all these books and not processing the information or applying it to my life, I might have actually wasted more time reading instead of doing something with my time. I could have been going to networking events and talking to people already in the field I wanted to work in. I could have been creating a physical product to sell on Etsy. Or more importantly, I might have spent all that time teaching a private lesson and increasing my income. These are all physical things I could have done–instead of reading.
But to be quite honest, I don’t really think it’s a waste of my time because I did learn a lot of things. The problem is, I just don’t remember. I just remember the pleasure of reading and feeling like I’ve accomplished a lot after I’m done with a book.
Fortunately, I kept a list of the books I’ve read last year and also what I’m currently reading now. I can always go back and summarize or re-hash the major takeaways from these books. This way, I feel like I haven’t really wasted all that time consuming that information. There’s still some time for me to apply the lessons this year.
What is the point of all of this? I wonder whether it really is productive to be reading so much and taking it so much information. Wasting time and money on information that is unnecessary is just as bad for me as eating a lot of junk food. Since time is a resource that I cannot get back, I need to be just as efficient with the use of my time and also my attention.
So consumerism–in all it’s forms–is something that we all need to think about. We’re not just consuming physical products and experience with money, we’re also consuming lots of information. Sometimes that needs to be filtered out. Sometimes we need to keep the bad stuff out and focus on the positive information that makes our lives better.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really proud of the fact that I read 50 nonfiction books last year, considering the average American doesn’t spend a lot of time reading. Reading is still fundamentally a good thing. There is always value in a good book. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t process all the information properly and so short-changed the experience. The whole point of reading was to get information that will help me develop as a person, but I feel like consuming so much prevented me from fully accomplishing the goal.
This year, I’ve decided to slow down and actually read more slowly. I will only read the books that I already have in my shelves–and not add anything else. I will analyze the information and apply the knowledge to my daily life. I won’t be able to read 50 books this year, but I’ll be happy with at least 10–as long as I’ve also done something with the information I’ve just acquired.