HOW TO: Read 26 Books A Year

Late in 2009, Julien Smith’s fantastic approach to reading inspired me to set an ambitious target for this year: to read one book every two weeks throughout the year. I even published my target list of books so people could hold me to account.

Well, the year is almost up and despite a crazy year, I’m happy to say I hit my goal. In fact, I’m on my 28th book of 2010.

Why you should try it

Implementing a structured approach to reading can be extremely rewarding. It can be tough to keep up with the daily schedule, but the rewards far exceed the effort.

Reading this many books will let you:

  • Expand your worldview by reading beyond your normal topics
  • Learn new skills and make you better at your job
  • Become more interesting – you’ll have more things to talk about
  • Come up with new ideas

On top of that, I found that this year was the year I’ve finally started to work through a whole bunch of books that I should have read a long time ago.

I thoroughly recommend trying this approach.

26 books per year… how?

How do you go about reading a book every two weeks, all year?

It’s simple – 20 pages per day.

That equates to 140 pages per week, or 280 every two weeks – roughly the length of the average book. For me, I fit in 10 pages on my commute to work, and another 10 on the way home. You might prefer instead to read for 30 minutes in the evenings, or do all your reading over coffee in the morning. Either way, once you break it down like this, it’s not so bad.

What to read?

I started 2010 with a list of books I aimed to read, but the beauty of this kind of project is its flexibility and the list changed substantially throughout the year. Here are the books I read in 2010 (Amazon links are affiliate links):

Non-Fiction

  1. Feeding Frenzy by John Harmon — read my review here
  2. The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business by Tara Hunt
  3. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
  4. The Fall Of Advertising And The Rise Of PR by Al Ries & Laura Ries
  5. Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini
  6. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath — read my review here
  7. Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web by Brian Solis — read my review here
  8. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh
  9. Persuasion: The art of influencing people by James Borg — read my review here
  10. Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
  11. When the Headline Is You: An Insider’s Guide to Handling the Media by Jeff Ansell
  12. Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content by Mark Levy —read my review here
  13. UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging. by Scott Stratten — read my review here
  14. Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Robert Cialdini and Noah Goldstein
  15. The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter and More Social
  16. The Communicators: Leadership in a Crisis by Richard Levick and Charlie Slack
  17. All Employees are Marketers by Richard Parkes Cordock
  18. Reading now: They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers by Romeo Dallaire

Fiction

  1. 1984by George Orwell
  2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  3. Historical Tweets: The Completely Unabridged and Ridiculously Brief History of the World by Alan Beard and Alec McNayr — read my review here
  4. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
  5. Black Order by James Rollins
  6. Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clarke
  7. The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry
  8. Deception Point by Dan Brown
  9. The High Road by Terry Fallis
  10. Cross Fire by James Patterson

Looking ahead to 2011

The other day I asked my Twitter friends what I should read in 2011. I’ll post those suggestions in an upcoming post soon.

Which books would you suggest I put on that list?

  • Okay Mr. Fleet…I’m in! See you at the end of 2011! 😉

    • Great – let me know which books you read/like!

  • Anonymous

    I guess another good reason to read books is to be able to suggest good ones when someone asks! I’ve got ‘it’s not about the coffee’ audiobook on my iPhone right now – haven’t started listening but it’s by an owner at Starbucks I think.

    I like your list on why I should read more books – going to get on that for this year. Thanks!

    • I’d love to hear how the book works out – please stop back here and let me know if you like it!

  • I remember reading Julien’s post last year, Dave, and was similarly inspired. However, unlike you, I didn’t follow through. I aim to correct that this year. In fact, I already have four books on the wait list (a few of which I got as Xmas gifts). Thanks for sharing your list of books read in 2010–see a few in there I might add to my 2011 list.

    • Sounds like you’re already set up to accomplish it too, Arik! Would love to hear which books you received, and any others you’d recommend I take a look at.

  • Bryan Vartabedian

    This is easy. I’ll do it. Bring it on.

  • Gbaron

    From Eternity To Here by Sean Carroll

  • Pingback: Read a Book You Idiot()

  • Here are some great books that I’ve read: 1) Writing with Style by John R. Trimble 2) Groundswell 3) Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell 4) Why We Buy by Paco Underhill.

    I’m also coming up with a list of 12 books to read in 2011. That seems like a more realistic goal to me, but 24 sounds a little more interesting after reading this post. I’ll be posting my list sometime next week.

  • Michelle Kostya

    All right I’m going to try too! I see a few on your list I still need to read. If you need some fiction recommendations I would suggest the Girl who had the Dragon Tattoo (but it is considerably longer than 280 pages…)

    • I’m toying with that one for 2011.

      It all averages out in the end. Some books will be longer; some shorter.

  • Last year going into 2010, I decided to do 1 resolution for each month. One month I decided to finally look into volunteering in my beloved town (I did and became actively involved in the GED tutoring program), another month I decided to get a handle on my finances (this, I am sorry to say, will be repeated in 2011) and commit to reading 1 chapter per day of something.

    I tend to read 1 business book and 1 leisure book at the same time quite regularly. I have been able to commit to this reading schedule and if life interrupts and I miss a day, then I read 2 chapters the next day.

  • We have read many of the same books Dave – next time you are in Calif LMK and we should chat over coffee to discuss a few.

    • Hey Adam – absolutely… you should do the same if you’re ever up in Toronto!

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you for this idea! I love reading but have never set such a concrete reading goal like this. Will give it a try. Good luck to you for 2011!

  • I do think there should be nothing structured in reading a book, unless its for a professional examination or to further one’s career prospects. Other than that reading should only be to improve one’s mind and should be a leisure activity.
    That one must read, of course, is a sine qua non.
    He who thinks he is always right, with apologies to Mencius, not only does not think, but does not read either!

  • This is one of the best blog post I read the entire day.
    I gave myself so much excuses of not having the time to do much thing.
    Instead by just reading 20 pages a day I could read two books a month.
    No more excuses!!!!

  • Here are the list of books for 2011 (January and Feb)
    Books are slow in Malaysia lol..It should be in the list. I roughly start with few of them)

    -The new rules of marketing & PR
    -Real time marketing & PR
    -Big book of social media
    -Content Rules

    • Awesome! I read the first one of those this year, and Real Time Marketing & Content Rules will be on the 2011 list (looking forward to catching up with C.C. early in Jan 2011, too).

      Thanks for the list!

  • Puleen

    Count me in as well!

  • Pingback: On Reading « DCBigPappa's Blog()

  • As of your blog post and Julien Smith’s too I decided to make this as my new challenge for 2011 – http://florinabaciu.posterous.com/how-i-will-read-26-books-a-year.
    Thank you for the inspiration, David!

    Florina

  • I like the 20-pages per day approach! I read at least one book each week (all non-fiction), sometimes more. To keep the momentum going I use a combination of audio books in the car and at the gym, and my Kindle, which has become a constant companion. Reading gets easier once it becomes part of the routine (like brushing your teeth). If I go a few days without learning something new, I start to get a little restless! I’m also an entrepreneur, author, speaker and mom so if I can read a book each week, anyone can!

  • Pingback: My 2011 not-resolutions :()

  • Guest

    Put Leslie Gelb’s Power Rules on your list for this year. Starred Review. Gelb, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times, sets out guidelines for stewarding American power through the 21st century in this thoughtful, comprehensive and engaging examination. Drawing on Machiavelli’s The Prince, the author addresses current leaders and their real-world choices, aiming his critiques at the soft and hard powerites, America’s premature gravediggers, the world-is-flat globalization crowd, and the usually triumphant schemers who make up the typical U.S. foreign policy roundtable. Gelb writes that America remains the world’s most powerful single nation, but this does not mean that the U.S. has absolute or even dominant global hegemony. Along with other major nations, it must accept the principle of mutual indispensability, and work toward global objectives with the full cooperation of Russia, China and other emerging powers. Gelb’s bulleted rules and clear advice to President Obama distill his moderate strategic thinking on the future of America: a poised, posed, and credible sword, wrapped in diplomacy and economic power. It is a vision of a pragmatic but responsible global U.S. presence that eschews partisan politics and should find favor in the coming political clime. (Apr.)
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Review
    Les Gelb, one of America’s most distinguished practitioner-observers of foreign policy, brilliantly explains how a series of administrations weakened our nation’s security, and shows how we can reverse this trend. . . . Power Rules is an indispensable book for the new era. –Richard Holbrooke

  • Last year I read only 18 books, but in 2011 I hope to get even to 25. Reading is a relaxing activity to help you develop your personality

  • Pingback: How to read more books « Strengthened by Grace()

  • Pingback: The 26 book challenge | Navigating the Social Web()

  • liz

    Hey,
    I appreciate this new attempt you are making at creating the breakdown of the blog-sphere.
    On a slightly different note thought, I am very interested in the Social Media developments as of late.Location based apps are the next step and not that Facebook did not go in the right direction with Places, but every social network needs to step it up a bit and make location relevant in real time. It is more than knowing what places are nearby, its also about knowing what types of services are available for use right then and there. It’s about putting people directly in contact with the event/place/product they seek when they seek it. Please let me know if there are any developments happening in this field right now, what can we expect in 2011 from location based applications.

  • liz

    ps, totally excited about the list of books, try reading “The Shaping of The Modern World”, its not relevant to social media, its just an awesome book about Genghis Khan.

  • Pingback: BOOKS! « London Meets DC()

  • Pingback: My 2011 goal: Read a book a week for the year » Through the Looking Glass()

  • fantastic thoughts to increase reading books….

  • Pingback: List: Books « Heather Schoegler()

  • Pingback: Newsflash: PR is Not Easy, Cheap or Quick | davefleet.com()

  • Pingback: J Puddy.net » All the wisdom in the world()

  • Pingback: This is the end, beautiful friends. @PostADay 2011′s 365th Post. Beginning A New Challenge For 2012… « LNN: Levy News Network()

  • Pingback: My Two-Books-a-Month Resolution | Erin Bury()