How to read 50 books a year

And possibly a few other humble life tips

Do you want to know how to read 50 books a year?

Simple.

There are 52.14 weeks in a given year. (and an extra “bonus” day on leap years, making it 52.28 weeks). Read one book per week. Keep the 2.14 weeks as “margin”, for times when you really can’t or won’t read. If a book is really thick (>300 pages, and/or really dense), count it as two books.

Wait, I’m not done yet.

Tell a few friends about it. Commit to writing a very, very short review of the book (could be a single 280-characters tweet, or three sentences). Alternatively, you might want to pick a specific set of questions that you want to answer, once you’ve done with a book. Things like:

  • Why did I (dis)like the book?

  • Which friend(s) would really love reading this book?

  • What’s the most beautiful page in the book?

  • (if it’s a novel) What’s the story about?

  • (if it’s a non-fiction book, like a manual) What did I learn from the book?

That’s it. Having this small commitment to others will give you an incentive to stick to it.

You should also be allowed to drop a book after reading at least 1/10th of it, if you really don’t like it. At least, in your “review”, say why you didn’t like it. You are saving hours on the reading part, invest part of that time saved into writing about it.

Oh, I didn’t tell you: I have NOT read 50 books in 2020. Nor in 2019. I’m probably in the 20-25 books range, and I’ve dropped perhaps another 20 or so per year.

I also didn’t write any review, with the exception of this little weekend project that I’ve launched a few weeks ago, and left it there.

So, take my advice with a big grain of salt. I might be full of sh*t, and completely wrong about this. As it often happens for most things you read on the Internetz.

But this blog post / newsletter is my way of telling a few friends (you!) that I am committing to reading 50 books in 2021, following the above rules.

Here’s some extra “life” tips, applied to book reading, but feel free to use these for other parts of your life.

  • It’s easier to read books if you pick books you will like.

  • It’s easier also if you pick books that you know will give you something you need right now. See the picture above? There’s a novel (Norwegian wood) in Italian, a weird novel (Tralummescuro) in Italian, a really important novel (1984) in English, and a “manual” about learning languages, also in English. I’ve read two of these novels already, but I feel like I might want to re-read them again. The Norwegian wood novel is written by a Japanese author that I’m very curious about; and I am very curious about Japan at the moment. So here you go. I am also trying to learn the very basics of the Japanese language, so the manual might be interesting too.

  • It’s hard to read a book just because you want to show off later, or want to “advertise” to the outside world that you are a certain kind of person which reads a certain kind of book. In Silicon Valley or San Francisco, there’s always 1-2 books in any given year (e.g. Sapiens, Capital in the 21st century) that you HAVE to read to “fit in”, because everyone is talking about it and you would look weird if you didn’t know what the book is about.

So, let’s close with a quick recap of what I just told you:

  • I am going to read 50 books in 2021.

  • I will read one book per week.

  • I will write something about each book I’ve read.

  • I am allowed to drop a book after reading at least 1/10th of it. It still counts as one book.

  • A thick book can count as two.

At some point in my life I will need to discuss whether 50 books a year is a good thing or not; and whether bullet lists (like the one above) make any sense in life. But you know what? Just don’t take me too seriously, for now.

Hat tip to my wife for reminding me that it’s always important to commit to good things, and stick with these things if you can.

Enjoy 2021. I really hope it’s going to be great.