Five Years of Reading

Four years ago, I began keeping a log of all the books I read, which I cleverly titled Book of Books. Last night, I closed out my 2015 entries and have just about filled the entire journal. It might seem silly, but I’m proud of it. Because I like to record my thoughts about the book as soon as I finish it, the Book of Books has traveled with me to seven countries across three continents, and reading back over it today was a trip down memory lane. (Of course, my memory must be getting faulty, because I realized that the book I finished last night, just under the wire, I had already read back in 2013. Oops!)

I also noticed that the number of books I’ve read each year has declined somewhat from a high of 50 in 2011. I did start off the New Year on the right foot, though, spending this morning lost in a new book—one of the very best ways to spend a morning, if you ask me. (A long, lingering brunch is another, as is a big steaming mug of tea or hot chocolate around a campfire… but those are posts for another time.)

Reading is a priority for me, and I try to make time for reading every day, but I don’t always succeed–so I’m going to try something new. Last night, as I was catching up on blogs, I came across this from Farnam Street, reflecting on the daunting task of reading Robert Caro’s 1100-word tome The Power Broker:

The solution I devised for myself is a simple one I wanted to share. It’s 25 pages a day. That’s it. Just commit to that, and then do it. What will 25 pages a day get you?

Let’s say that two days out of each month, you probably won’t have time to read. Plus Christmas. That gives you 340 days a year of solid reading time. 25 pages a day for 340 days is 8,400 pages. 8,400. What I have also found is that, when I commit to a minimum of 25 pages, I almost always read more. So let’s call the 8,400 pages 10,000. (I’d only need to extend that 25 pages into 30 to get there.)

With 10,000 pages a year, at a general pace of 25/day, what can we get done?

Well, The Power Broker is 1,100 pages. The four LBJ books are collectively 3,552 pages. Tolstoy’s two masterpieces come in at a combined 2,160. Gibbons is six volumes and runs to about 3,660 pages. That’s 10,472 pages.

That means, in about one year, at a modest pace of 25 pages a day, I’ve knocked out 13 masterful works and learned an enormous amount about the history of the world. In one year!

I worry that setting a specific page goal for myself might make reading feel more like work—just another thing to be crossed off the to-do list each day—but I would like to find away to hold myself accountable. So I’m going to try to make a habit of posting the number of pages I’ve read on a regular (at least weekly) basis, even if that number is zero. I’m also hoping that this will help me log in here more frequently and encourage me to write more (one of my resolutions for 2016).

And, for the curious, here are the books I read in 2015:

Garrett Keizer, Getting Schooled
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman, NurtureShock
Julian Barnes, A Sense of an Ending
A.J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically
Justin Fox, Whoever Fears the Sea
John Coski, The Confederate Battle Flag
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland
Dan Brown, Inferno
Mike Matheny, The Matheny Manifesto
Laurence Steinberg, Age of Opportunity
Ted Sizer, The New American High School
Brad Snyder, In the Shadow of the Senators
H.W. Brands, American Dreams
Brad Parks, The Girl Next Door
Douglas Stone et al., Difficult Conversations
Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto
Neil Postman, Building a Bridge to the 18th Century
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
Jeff Hobbs, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Fareed Zakaria, In Defense of a Liberal Education
Frank Bruni, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be
David Brooks, The Road to Character
Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Laura & Malcolm Gauld, The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have
Robert Coles, The Call of Stories
Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Steve Estes, I Am a Man!
Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage
Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train
Claude Steele, Whistling Vivaldi
Stephen Breyer, Active Liberty
Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation
Melton McLaurin, Celia, a Slave
Brad Parks, The Good Cop
Howard Gardner, Intelligence Reframed


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