How and Why I Read Over 100 Books In One Year

Let me be more clear: I read 45 print books (almost a book a week) — a few were as small as 140 pages and less than 10,000 words — whereas the average book that I read was 300 pages. (I’m currently reading Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr., a whopping 800 damn pages.)

The rest were free eBooks found on sites like Changethis.com, or if an author/blogger was giving an eBook or manifesto away.

Simply put, I learned a lot in 2012 and realized that I have more to learn.

As French writer Voltaire said:

The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.

Three years ago, during the phase in my life where frustration and self-sabotage were abundant, I had this reoccurring phrase where I constantly told myself that “knowledge is power.”

It was the act of reading a book — sitting down, in the quiet, alone, absorbing the author’s insight and worldview, while challenging myself and the context — that helped me take my self-education to a respectable and fruitful level.

I’m at a point in my life where if someone asked what I did to change, to turn my life around, I would credit most of it to reading — the idea of learning something you never knew, creating dots in your mind and being able to connect them. By reading a lot I learned a lot, and by learning a lot it helped me find clarity and direction in my own life.

Which brings me to my conclusion: if you’re stuck in your life, it’s mostly because 1) you are afraid and 2) you don’t know too much. Which is why I recommend reading so that you can broaden your worldview, challenge and educate yourself, and to reach your own ideas or conclusions.

Sometimes, the beliefs that brought us to where we are limited, possibly outdated. Sometimes, we need to change our beliefs to change as a person. It’s scary and risk, but it’s also why so many remain stuck.

I hope the following helps you on your own journey of devouring books and acquiring the kind of wisdom that is now available to all of us so that we can truly learn to embrace our best self.

Here’s how you can read over 100 books in one year:

1. Create the desire: 

Well the first thing I’d ask you is, what makes a person want to read books in the first place?

Is to to escape? To learn? There’s always a reason behind everything, and I believe defining that reason is critical. My reason was simply to learn. I kept telling myself that the more knowledgeable I became, the better chances of me getting out of this rut. I didn’t know if I was right, but it was better than nothing. Now, after having read so many books in the past years (about 10 the first year of this journey, 25-ish in the second, and now I finished 45 in 2012) I can confidently say that reading and implementing the insight helped me become a better person.

I was hesitant to title number 1 as “Find the desire” because the truth is you won’t find it. Most people don’t read and won’t ever. You have to create the desire.

You have to constantly tell yourself a story on how this will benefit you as a human being. Admitting that there are a lot of smart people — much smarter than you, no offense — out there willing to share valuable insight learned through their failures and successes and life experiences may be a good start.

2. “Finding” the time to read:

The truth is, you have the time to read. The reason why most don’t sit their butts down and read is because it’s challenging. Like going to the gym after a prolonged absence, it’s difficult to get our mind into a different rhythm that isn’t as effortless and comforting as watching a screen. It’s hard to challenge ourselves (or be challenged), irritating to look up words and understand the meaning and how it works in that sentence. But it helps us grow and learn and exercise our minds. How is that not worth the time investment?

Dedicate an hour a day. Start with that, and if necessary, do more. You can get a lot done in one hour.

3. With love and care:

I’m a bit old-school, so understand that this method doesn’t have to be yours.

When I read, I have the book in front of me like an entree, a pen and highlighter and post-its on the side as my utensils to help me devour the content.

When I read something that resonates with me, something that confuses or challenges or inspires me, I highlight it, break it down, question it, and then move on. I put a post-it on the top of the page that contains writing and highlights, and I categorize it into keywords, i.e., Stoicism, Finance, Art, Business, Marketing, Psychology, etc.

If you don’t know a word, look it up.

If you don’t understand what you read, sit there it until you do. Make sure it clicks.

When I’m done with the book, I transfer all my notes to Evernote and organize them under the main keyword i.e., Stoicism or Motivation or Finance or Happiness. At any moment, I can slide my thumb across my phone screen, tap on Evernote, and have an archive of wisdom and insight.

4. What should I read? 

For me, reading consists of two means to an end: learning or escaping. But as a writer, I’m always learning — learning the style, vocabulary, metaphors, sentence structure, story structure, etc. When I watch a movie, I’m doing it for entertainment but I’m also trying to see how the writers created this scene or this character.

I’ve read mostly non-fiction books simply because I was always looking for insight on a particular subject, say, psychology and persuasion or social media and the change in the internet, whatever. Needless to say, you can learn a lot by reading fiction books as well; it just depends what lessons you decide to extract, i.e., The Alchemist or The Hunger Games.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you just read. The idea is to start somewhere, build up the desire to self-educate, and turn it into a daily habit.

5. And if the book sucks?

Then move on. This particular book may not be right for you in this particular time — some books are timeless, of course. I remember when I first tried to read The 50th Law by Robert Greene and my favorite rap artist 50 Cent. It’s a phenomenal book, but at the time, I just couldn’t read it. I would read the words and they would just bounce off my forehead.

I came back to that book a year later and finished it in a week. Why couldn’t I read it before? I have no idea. Maybe my mind wasn’t ready, maybe I was making up an excuse. Regardless, you can always return to the books that you once considered shitty but later found out that it was exactly what you needed in that exact moment.

6. Application:

The most difficult part is implementing what you learned.

The notion is simple: Whatever you read, you will either look up to this author and their insight, or you think of them as an idiot, or maybe a little bit of both. The idea isn’t so that you agree with everything, but if you do, then that’s fine too. The idea is to challenge yourself and to learn.

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie would say something like: “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” And then he would quote renown individuals like Henry Ford, where he once said: “If there’s any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get in the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

The question is, do you believe in that?

If not, chances are you will rarely be empathetic. In times where this tactic may prove beneficial, you might instead be close-minded or stonewall — and in order to understand if something works, one must fail and learn the hard way. If you do believe it and are motivated by someone as famous and successful as Henry Ford, you may feel more compelled to do so because Henry Ford and Dale Carnegie said so.

The reason why I was drawn to Marcus Aurelius’s teachings is because he was a considered one of the greatest Roman emperors who served their country. He was untainted by wealth, praise, or power. To someone else, they might not find that amazing. But to me, it sure does. Which is why I am more drawn to his insights, and in turn, more likely to practice them. The real question worth asking ourselves is, Has this made my life better? If the answer is yes, then why worry about right or wrong?

At the end of the day, reading books may or may not influence your beliefs. But if you’re stuck, if you’re seeking direction or clarity, it’s probably best to be open-minded and willing to fix what is broken.

7. Read it again:

I’ve probably read The War of Art and Turning Pro by Steve Pressfield 4 or 5 times in one year. The book was that good for me. Every time I went back to it, I learned something new — a new idea, a new story that I somehow missed the last time, a new set of words that moved me in a way that challenged my perception.

There’s nothing wrong with re-reading the same book in the same year. In fact, I recommend you do so.

Long-term Benefits

Reading is so profoundly important and productive to one’s life.

Reading helps you become a better talker, which in turn, makes you more likable or interesting. Both are very good qualities.

Reading helps you learn new words and vocabulary. It’s not about speaking like Shakespeare, it’s about learning to use the right words at the right time to deliver what you’re saying in a less painless and roundabout way.

Reading makes you smarter. It seems that  people nowadays would choose sexy over smart. That’s sad. That’s, in essence, the cause of fear.

Reading helps you find meaning in your life. It motivates and inspires you. It helps you acquire knowledge, different thoughts, ideas, stories, characters, etc.

Reading helps (me) become a better writer.

Reading opens you up. It opens up your worldview and (hopefully) makes you less ethnocentric.

There are a lot of benefits to reading. Yes, it will be hard when you start. Your mind will wander and the thought of catching up with the latest T.V shows will sound great.

But when you’re busy Instagramming or Facebooking your life away, just ask yourself: What knowledge am I acquiring by doing this, and is it helping me be a better person? Am I using my time efficiently? Is uploading this complaint on Facebook or this picture of sushi on Instagram helping me? Or am I better off reading a book and learning something entirely new?

It’s always worth asking ourselves the hardest questions.

I hope you rediscover the power of reading. If you need any recommendations on a particular subject, feel free to ask.

13 Comments How and Why I Read Over 100 Books In One Year

  1. Praveen

    Totally agree to each point you have said Paul.In 2012 I also managed to read around 31 books (Taking out 8 months I was busy preparing for an Exam – I think 31 books in 4 months was pretty good).Though I wanted to read more & expand my knowledge.This year again I have to study for around the same time but I have made a resolution of reading 50book atleast. :)
    The best parts are the moments you just lay there & start imagining and connecting all the stuff

    Reply
  2. Lawson Omoruyi

    Well said Paul. Readers are Leaders. I acquire books(diff formats) now the way I acquired clothes back then in college. One book that keeps me coming back for more is “Linchpin” by Seth Godin. I Hv re-read it over 8 times cover to cover(was blessed to get Linchpin print copy as a gift from a friend). The effects of long term consistent broad reading is simply magical …

    Reply
  3. Zell Liew

    I agree with you wholeheartedly regarding the awesomeness of books.

    I’ll have to admint I have not been an avid reader and I’m still guilty of that now. However those Aha moments when I sit down for an hour a week to read a book has changed by viewpoints drastically over the last few months. I’m still not done with my first book yet though.

    Reply
  4. Janine

    Hi Paul. You are singing my song! Love your description of how you glean useful information and how you apply it, the true test of value in my book (pardon the pun). I believe that innate curiosity is a vital quality to enjoying a rich and diverse life. Handy when dinner conversation bogs down too.

    I read fiction most often on an e-reader. Consumed in great gulps, often in the wee hours of the night when my hamster brain needs something to do. Non-fiction is my world though and just like treasured friends I want to return again and again to the authors and content that stretches my thinking.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Why Awareness Assists in Change, Happiness, And Not Feeling Stuck | Motivated Mastery

  6. Irfan Three

    Hi Paul, thanks for sharing this great post with us. I’m so glad that I found people who prefer to educate themselves with books instead of something else. Books are compelling source of insights and wisdom, and the best of them is that we can read them whenever and wherever we want.

    I’m looking forward to read many books (including your two books) this year while I’m adapting to University life. :)

    Reply
  7. Francis G.

    Thank you Paul for making this article, everything you said was on point with me. I will always refer back to this article when i think about why we should read books. I feel the excact same way as you. Keep doing what your doing. I feel like books is the best way to gain knowledge and wisdom because the words are timeless. Very Powerful. Do you have an Email to keep in contact?

    -Francis G.

    Reply

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