What I Learned Reading 53 Books in a Year

Last year at this time, I set a goal to read or listen to one book a week in 2016. That’s 53 if you round up.

I’m surprised to say that I met that goal. 

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I’m not one of those people who always achieves his New Year’s resolutions—quite the opposite actually. 

Despite my dismal history with them, this year I did it, and I want to share three things I learned from my experience.


You won't Succeed without Persistence

At one point this summer I was 15 books behind. That meant I had to read two books a week for 15 weeks to catch up.

In past years, when I’ve fallen behind on a resolution, I’ve given up. But this year was different. I stopped and thought about the purpose of the goal.

There’s nothing special about reading 53 books. The point was to read more, learn more and enjoy books. So I set out to do just that, and as I did, I crept closer and closer to my goal.

I only succeeded because I was persistent in the face of failure.


You don't have to Finish Everything You Start

It's hard for me to stop reading a book I've started, even if I don't enjoy it. This was especially true this year because I wanted to reach my goal. I slogged through more than one book so I could check it off my list, but I shouldn't have. 

This may seem to contradict my last point, but it doesn't. The purpose of the reading goal wasn't just to read a lot of books. It was to learn from them and enjoy them along the way. Sometimes I just don't jive with a book, and that's OK.

I learned that putting down a book isn't failure. It might just be the wrong time for it.

A friend explained this very well the other day on Twitter.

The essential thing for me in giving up a book: don't blame the book. It might be my fault. The book might be great. I'm just not ready for it. When I return to it, I often find that future me loves it.—@chrisrshockley


You’ll Find Value in Variety

After reading the books I already owned, I began asking friends and family for advice about what to read next. They directed me to their favorite books, books that had helped them in the past and books they found fascinating. 

I didn't begin the year with a list of all 53 books segmented by type or subject matter, but I ended up reading 29 non-fiction books and 24 fiction books. I read biographies, histories, science books, full series of fiction, books of poetry, essays and more.

This variety kept me engaged. It made it possible for me to meet my goal, and I believe it added value to the process

If you're interested in my full reading list or my favorites from this year, you're in luck. You can find both here.

Header image from Unsplash.