Why Reading 50 Different Books a Year May Not Be a Great Idea.
The internet is filled with people gloating that they have read 50 books a year, more than 500 books and so on. It really is a great number of books to have read and trust me, it is better than spending 50 or 500 hours on your smartphone watching absolutely random videos recommended by sites wanting you to be glued to them ( and they do a good job at that ).
The Reading Challenge That Changed Everything
At the beginning of the last year, I became highly motivated for a brief period after watching a few videos on “How to read 50 books a year” and “The benefits of reading” (Yup, the internet is filled with a million such videos and guess what — the recommendations feed you with more of the same), I accepted a reading challenge and pledged to finish 50 books by the end of the year. One a week, easy stuff I thought.
And I started really well. The first book I picked to read was “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck ” by Mark Manson. A thought-provoking, practical book. Read it within a week, got a good feeling about it, 49 more to go. All good so far.
Next, I took up some more non-fiction, followed it up with some fiction, mixed it up for a couple of months, again, so far so good. I actually exceeded my own expectations. I managed to read 9 books in 3 months, knew I was behind schedule, but it wasn’t too bad and I was confident I could make up for the lag. I had even decided on what I was going to read next.
BUUUUT, something struck me, and when I thought further about it, it sort of struck me hard.
Just when I was updating my list, I realized I hardly remembered all the books I had read, and of those books, I could barely recall the important points I thought I would remember so that I could implement them later. But now — other than the genre of the book and a few random phrases, the book seemed totally new to me.
That day I did not read anything, in fact, I could not and I was worried whether I ended up with one of the many kinds of memory loss thing. And when you are in such a zone, you start remembering events that happened many years ago, when you forgot something important and that creeps you out further.
Wait, did I just say I remembered events that happened many years ago? Pheww, I am alright after all. But why could I not recall anything from what I had read a few weeks ago?
A quick Google search got me the answer to this, and to put it in brief
“ I had not saved whatever I wanted in my long term memory.”
That’s right, our brain’s got a short term and a long term memory (You might be smarter than me, but I was amazed when I read this — seemed sort of obvious later). And the only way of saving pieces of information to our long term memory is by using the information in our short term memory frequently.
What does that mean? That means — If you want to not forget a book you have read, you have got to re-read the book, and try to implement the learnings right away, and keep going back to the book or notes that you have made whenever you seemed to forget, because if you did not — you will not even know that you have forgotten something, and then whatever you had read is gone — the book just remains as an entry in your Goodreads account, but of absolutely no use whatsoever.
What’s Your Purpose For Reading 50 Books a Year?
So now, what is your purpose for reading 50 books a year? If it is merely to make up numbers and fill your list, go ahead, do it, if that is what makes you happy.
If you want to derive value from the books you have read, I highly recommend reading your selective books again, you will be surprised at how easily our brain forgets things. Rereading also gives you new perspectives about a thought or an idea, which you might not have seen clearly earlier. Taking time to think over those ideas might give you fresh ideas of your own. Trying to implement them in your day-to-day life can add a lot of value and can change the way you live.
Which means — you might not end up reading 50 different books a year, but the same book many times during the year (and later), and with greater satisfaction of deriving a lot more from them.
But What About The Reading Challenge?
Goodreads allows you to add multiple dates to your book, meaning re-reading is considered as another book read, which I think is super cool and motivates you to complete your reading challenge.
Goodreads or not, it’s best not to be worried about the length of your list at all, I can recommend quite a few books which you can finish in an hour to add them to your list. Try out Jonathan Livingston Seagull or As a Man Thinketh or even Animal Farm. In my opinion, All three books are worthy of being re-read anyway.
I have read “The Startup of You” twice again in the span of a year, some chapters seem very new, some ideas have helped me build better and different perspectives, but most importantly — has helped me save many important pieces of advice in my long term memory which I try to follow and build a better career. Writing this article, in a way, has been the outcome of the book.
Let me know what you think and which book you have re-read.