I happened to finish reading my 300th book in June, ironically on a book that teaches how to learn - literally, "Learn Like a Pro". After reading all that content and material, I don't feel like a pro. I guess there's a difference between learning like a pro and being a pro, but maybe that lesson will be found in the next book. I'm still reading, and I'm still learning where I can.
I only stumbled upon how many books I read as I was curious to sum the list of books I've tracked since 2014. So this isn't even lifetime number of books read, but whatever I read seven years ago. This list includes audiobooks and books that I've read more than once, and I have also included some fiction (~10% of what I read is fiction).
Many books are nice to read once, where I learn a couple of new concepts, but they fail to have a lasting effect. There is only a small number of books that I like enough to revisit, but I find that this is unique to each person. Read negative reviews about your favorite book on Amazon and you'll understand what I mean. I think of it like listening to a favorite song: there's an additional emotional connection to it that only you can relate to.
I've noticed I also have a preference toward certain authors, I usually try to read their other books. However, I am also cautious when I come across an author (non-fiction) that has written too many books, as I feel that they are just reading a lot of material and putting it in their own words. I feel original content is sometimes lost in the interpretation, but there are times when a broad summary is preferred, especially when I'm approaching a new subject.
I have enjoyed books from Ryan Holiday, and though some may disagree with me, I find it a great introduction to modern Stoicism. I have read "The Obstacle is the Way", "Ego is the Enemy", and "Stillness is the Key" multiple times, and I find myself constantly returning to "The Daily Stoic", which features an entry for each day of the year. Though some may think that it would be simply best to read the works of the Stoics themselves, including Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, I would never have gotten to that point if it weren't for a bit of curiosity and enjoying the works of Ryan Holiday. Similar with Robert Greene, it was something that I never expected after reading "The 48 Laws of Power", and then following up with his other books including "Mastery", "The 50th Law" (with 50 Cent/Curtis Jackson), and "The 33 Strategies of War". After reading the books once, I've enjoyed reviewing it over Audible at a faster speed.
My current top 10 list (which will likely change) includes:
- "Influence" - Robert Cialdini
- "The Obstacle is the Way" - Ryan Holiday
- "Ego is the Enemy" - Ryan Holiday
- "The Daily Stoic" - Ryan Holiday
- "Peak" - Anders Ericsson & Robert Poole
- "The 48 Laws of Power" - Robert Greene
- "Happy" - Derren Brown
- "Deep Work" - Cal Newport
- "Antifragile" - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- "Thinking, Fast & Slow" - Daniel Kahneman
These are books I like to read again every so often, because I'm trying to practice the idea of re-reading books. Each time you read a book should feel slightly different from before, because you'll have come across new experiences. In a way, you're reading the book again as a new person. I would also like to read more books that stood the test of time, because there's probably a good reason why they've lasted so long.
Why do I read so much? It's probably based on an irrational fear that if I'm not improving myself, I will be rendered obsolete. If I don't keep learning, how will I keep up with other people? But the truth of the matter is more insidious.
What I really learned from reading 300 books is that I often procrastinate. And one of the things I do when I procrastinate is to read. If anything, the amount of books I've read is a small scale of how much I procrastinate.
Reading is equivalent to planning, because there's likely something else I need to do, but because I'm reading (or making a plan), it feels like I'm being productive and doing something. However, the mistake is evident: I'm being busy, not productive.
Perhaps this awareness will help me focus my efforts on the right tasks, but knowing myself as well as I do, I think I will continue to read in this haphazard fashion. However, I am trying to actively take notes while I read in order to link concepts together so that I can practice writing more. Maybe there's some hope for me, but I'm sure you'll read about it in another blog article after another 300 books. I started writing this article in June, and after reading many books in between, I've finally had the courage to overcome my procrastination and finish writing.
Reading 300 books is nothing special if I cannot make use of any of the information I learned. So why do I read so much? Because it's better to learn from someone else's mistakes. Someone painstakingly made the effort to write about it, and taking the time to read is often better than taking the time to recover from a preventable mistake.
Thank you for reading this, and I hope you have learned something as well. At the very least, you can take a book recommendation and learn something from the authors that have shared their wisdom. Then, put that wisdom into practice.
"Don't just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents." - Epictetus
In that case, I hope that reading has shaped me to become a better person over the past seven years.
But, that's not for me to judge.