As I begin this post, I have just been reading Jerry Seinfeld’s new book, Is This Anything? The entire book is just his stand-up comedy act jokes. For those of us who are Seinfeld fans, it is hilarious. It is also a trip down memory lane, as I remember seeing him delivering many of those jokes on talk shows and in concert.
I bring this up for two reasons: One is that this post is going to be about the books I read in the year 2020 and the importance of us reading if we want to be successful. The other is that right now, as I sit here typing, the tone in my mind is a very Seinfeldian, snarky, point-out-the-lunacy-in-things tone. Forgive me if I carry that on any further in here. I’m like a chameleon that changes its spots based on whatever is happening around me.
The title “40 Books in a Year” almost sounds like bragging and condemnation rolled up into one. “I read 40 books this past year. What did you and your feeble little mind do?” (See, there it is. Very Seinfeldian. Sorry about that.)
It is not intended to be either bragging or condemning. However, for those of you who have followed me for a while, you know that each year at the start of the year, I write about goals and the importance of goal-setting. I’m a huge fan of leadership guru, Michael Hyatt, and a few years ago I told you I took his online course, 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. Then the next year I bought his book Your Best Year Ever, and I told you about that, too. Both were excellent for helping me get on track with establishing and then fulfilling my goals for the year.
Those of you who have been with me for a while also know that I have written a few posts on the importance of reading for us to become the best we’re capable of becoming. I believe I stole the title “Leaders are Readers” from another leadership guru, Jim Rohn, for one of the posts a few years ago, in which I tried to convey to you that if you plan on being a leader of any kind of organization, it is critical that you become a reader.
I still wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. However, I think the value of reading extends far beyond just helping leaders lead. Everyone should read. Reading informs, excites, entertains, illustrates, persuades, and a variety of other verbs that all mean, “Good things happen to you when you read.”
Setting Reading Goals
Because of the importance I attach to reading, I started setting goals for myself at the beginning of the year two years ago to read a certain number of books. Because I had not been nearly focused enough on reading a certain number of books per year prior to that, I started with what I thought was a fairly manageable number – 24.
That goal amounted to reading two books per month. I had not been reading two books per month prior to that, so that number would stretch me a bit – something that goal-setting gurus tell us we should do – without being so difficult that I could not attain it.
At least, that’s what I thought. As October rolled around, I was not anywhere near my goal of 24 books read for the year. Rather than throw in the towel on it, I doubled down and eventually hit my goal on December 31st.
It was interesting the mindset that created in me. As a teacher and coach, I know the value of preparing early on. I know that when given an assignment, it is best to start it early, so you don’t have to cram at the end before the test or due date. Yet here I was, not following my own knowledge and understanding when it came to reading.
While it may sound like I powered through and did some kind of herculean task to get my 24 books in by the end of that year, the key to my success was something that I learned and then and wrote about in some posts that year – audiobooks.
Late that year, I downloaded the Chirp app to my phone. Chirp is a free app that allows you to download books on extremely cheap discounts – $0.99 – $5.99. Of course, I could have done what millions of people have done and downloaded Audible from Amazon. But that is not free, and I am extremely cheap!
Still, Chirp became my go-to for “reading.” I started downloading books that sounded interesting to me, and within four months, I had completed my goal of 24 books for the year.
Is That Really Reading?
Some would say, (myself included at the time) “Well, that’s not really reading.” I disagree. First, I disagree because I wouldn’t have achieved my goal if I agreed. But second, I consumed those books like anyone else; I just consumed them with my ears, not my eyes. The information and knowledge that the authors wrote still made its way into my brain.
Yet, I must admit, that I don’t 100% agree with myself that it’s the same thing as “reading” a book by, well, reading a book. There is something different about the process, and I imagine some scientists out there could tell us what the differences are. In fact, I feel different reading a book and listening to a book.
But you know what? They’re both good. They both work. Are they the same? Not exactly. Did I still consume that book and derive pleasure, knowledge, or inspiration from them? You bet!
Armed with my new friend, Chirp, this past year I decided to add another book per month. I was going to shoot for 36 books for the year. Wow! I’m amazing aren’t I? Not really. I just heard a woman on a podcast talking about her goal of reading 100 books this coming year, and she was so ho-hum about it that I thought, “Holy crap! What’s a normal year for her like?”
Still, I’m proud and happy to announce that I hit my goal of 36 books in early December! And actually, by the end of the day on December 31st, I had finished 40 books.
The Real Goal
Why did I keep going since I had already hit my goal? I kept going because 36 is just a number. What is the real goal of a “Number of Books Read in a Year” goal? It’s to take what you learn or enjoy or find inspirational or entertaining and somehow have it help you in some way in your life.
Whether it’s the simple escapism of reading a great fiction story – like my new book Ultimate Team Player (shameless plug!) – or something motivational or informational to help you improve in some way, the reading of a certain number of books is not the goal. The goal is to stick something in your brain based on what you read.
And yet, as I was just typing that sentence, I realized that I don’t totally agree with that assessment. The reading itself can actually be the goal.
My site is called SlamDunk Success. I have said that one of my favorite quotes ever is “Success is a journey, not a destination.” Well, if that’s the case, then the reading of the book itself is success. It’s not only about whether or not I finished it and then gained some knowledge from it. The process of reading is as important, and maybe even more important, than the end result of finishing the book.
No matter where you stand on the concept of why we read, I encourage you to set a goal to read more books this year. No matter what you like, find something to read that will stir your soul. Find something that will stretch you and help you be a better you and have a better 2021.
And if you’re not a person that sits down to read books all that much, check out audiobooks on apps like Chirp or Audible.
(Full Disclosure – If you click on the Chirp link and sign up for it, you will get $5.00 off your first order, and I will get $5.00 off my next one. If you click on any of the book titles in blue above or below, and you buy the book, I will get a very small commission on it.)
Below is my reading list of the 40 books I read this year. You will notice a wide variety of genres represented here. Of course, as a coach I read a variety of coaching/athletic/leadership books. As an English teacher and writer, I read a variety of writing and communication books. As a business owner, I read some books about business, marketing, and productivity. And as a human being, there are just some books I thought would be interesting or fun to read.
How about you? What does your list from last year look like? More importantly, what will next year’s list look like?!
Books I Read in 2020
- Superfans – Pat Flynn (Kindle)
- Stretch – Scott Sonenshein (audio)
- Gridiron Genius – Michael Lombardi (Kindle)
- Developing the Leader Within You – John Maxwell (Hardcover)
- Beowulf – Anonymous (audio)
March – None
- Make it Stick – Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, Mark McDaniel (audio)
- The Writer’s Process – Anne Janzer (audio)
- Talk is Chief – Jack Modzelewski (audio)
- Think & Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill (both)
- The Greatest: The Quest for Sporting Perfection – Matthew Syed (audio)
- The Perfect Metabolism Plan – Sara Vance (audio)
- The Spell of the Yukon & Other Poems – Robert Service (Hardcover)
- If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? – Alan Alda (audio)
- The Solace of Open Spaces – Gretel Ehrlich (Paperback)
- Why Not Retire and Become a Writer? – Scott Smith (audio)
- The Art of Communication – Jim Stovall and Ray Hull (audio)
- The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business – Elaine Pofeldt (audio)
- Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl (audio)
- The Everything Martin Luther King, Jr. Book – Jessica McElrath (audio)
- How to Not Always Be Working – Marlee Grace (audio)
- I Don’t Have a Bucket List, but My F*#k-It List is a Mile Long – Ruby Rey (audio)
- How to Be Everything – Emilie Wapnick (audio)
- The Reading Life – C.S. Lewis (audio)
- Calypso – David Sedaris (audio)
- What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast – Laura Vanderkam (audio) All three in one book
- What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend – Laura Vanderkam (audio) All three in one book
- What the Most Successful People Do at Work – Laura Vanderkam (audio) All three in one book
- The Inner Game of Tennis -Timothy Gallwey (paperback)
- Shut Up & Listen – Tillman Fertitta (audio)
- 100 Things Successful People Do – Nigel Cumberland (audio)
- Creative Confidence – Tom Kelley & David Kelley (audio)
- How to Be a Bad Emperor – Suetonius (audio)
- Ultimate Team Player – Me! (read it numerous times in preparation for its release)