That was the goal, and on December 26, I finished Oil by Upton Sinclair, my 50th book of 2010.
I shared this goal a while back as a way to motivate myself to keep learning. It worked. I learned, for example, about
- The 14th Century (A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuckman)
- Running (ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer)
- Randomness (The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb)
- Lewis and Clark (Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose)
- Ebola (The Hot Zone by Richard Preston)
- Leadership (Next Generation Leadership by Andy Stanley, among others)
- Philosophy (Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar... by Cathcart and Klein)
- Social networking, childhood disorders, personal finance, communication, trans-racial adoption, evolving definitions of manhood, etc.
The fastest reads took only a day. The longest was about 10 months. The average, obviously, was about a week. Many of the books were in audio form, allowing me to make good use of commute time. One was on a Kindle. Most were borrowed from the library.
When I set the goal of 50 books, I wasn't sure if it was reasonable, or even possible, what with three kids and all. I'm a fast reader, though, and having the goal kept me focused on continuing to read. Like any discipline, just keeping at it is the most helpful thing.
The thing that struck me toward the end of the year, though, was how many more books I haven't read than those I have. 50 is a small number next to the 10 on my bedside table, the 87 on my library list, and the 130+ on my Amazon list. Taleb (in The Black Swan), talks about the importance of the unread books. So I'm OK with having more unread books than read ones, but for 2011, I am making more specific goals than a simple number. In the interest of public accountability, here are 2011's book goals:
- 25 books by dead people. This will force me out of my tendency to read fluffy business books and encourage a little more intensity of material. (Note that while this does allow me to count Peter Drucker and Robert Jordan, I am counting on my good faith to not abuse them for the sake of the goal.) Specifically, I'd like to include at least
- The Old and New Testaments (counts as 2 books, not 66)
- One Shakespearean play
- One classic Greek drama/tragedy/comedy
- One 19th Century British
- One Russian
- One Southern writer (I may not actually be able to stomach this)
- One famous philosopher
- One church father
- 3 books on personal finance
- 3 books on parenting
- 3 books on energy
- 3 books on marriage
- All the books currently on my nightstand
That totals to 47, though there will be some overlap between categories. The rules are the same, I have to "read" the whole book, and finish it during 2011's calendar year. Audio books are encouraged, and the Kindle will play a much bigger role now that I have one of my very own. The clock starts in 90 minutes. Game on.
This post has been pretty self-centered, and there's probably not much here for others to actually read. With a quarterly posting schedule, I don't count on many readers anyway. If you've made it this far, though, I'd love to hear what your read in 2010, what your plans are for 2011, and if you've got any recommendations for my list. Happy New Year, and happy reading.
PS - For those who are curious, the complete list in order of completion can be found here. I've put my top five recommendations in italics, though there are plenty of good ones on there (and a few I'd skip). If you'd like additional thoughts on any of them, let me know.