A New Year's Reading Challenge

In the end of December 2014, I had been reading some posts on Reddit where people were talking about their New Year's resolutions. One of the individuals wrote about their journey of aiming to read a book a week for the entire year. They succeeded too! This really resonated, not only because I love reading good books but also because I have stack of them that seems to grow faster than I can get through it. In order to get through it I would have to have a challenge such as this in place. And so I decided in that moment that I would challenge myself to get through a book a week for all of 2015. That would get me through 52 books but could I really get that much reading done?

Well, the year went by and I have to admit I failed the challenge but am not disappointed at getting through 41 books in total. I learned a lot through the experience, not only from the content of the books, but also about how to manage a goal such as this.

There were times I had planned to get lots of reading done, such as my summer holidays, but I barely got any reading done then—only one book over the course of a month. I was too busy sailing and exploring Italian & Greek villages (not that I minded that!) The key to getting through so many books is reading every day. If you read five pages a day then in a year you’ll have read 1825 pages. How many books is that? A lot. It’s 1825 pages 99% of people won’t ever read. Most people don’t pick up a book after age 20. It’s also important to focus on reading books. It’s so easy to get caught up reading junk on the Internet…this blog doesn’t count ;) So stay focused and read quality writing worth your time rather than something that hasn’t even been met by an editor. If you want a place to start just pick up one of the “classics” you’ve heard about. There’s a reason they stand the test of time.

Most of what I read is non-fiction. Throughout the year I read seven fiction books. There were also a handful of audiobooks that I “read”. Most of them were quite enjoyable and helped pass the many hours I spent on the treadmill while training for my ultramarathon that I ran in October. Additionally there were six books that I started but never finished, either because I lost interest or priorities changed. I intend to finish some of them. The others will be forgotten and I'm okay with that.

I kept a record of all the books I read on a spreadsheet. I gave the books all ratings on a scale of 10 and usually included a few notes about the books and why I chose to read them. This felt like a tedious process most of the time but it was good to have for reference afterwards.

I’m not going to post the entire list of books here but if you’re interested to know more about what I read then feel free to ask me. I will share a few of my favourites though…

My favourite fiction book was The Martian by Andy Weir. I had heard all kinds of great things about this book and listened to some podcast interviews with the author beforehand. I had high expectations for the book and it fulfilled them. I read the book at the end of March. I was looking forward to the movie that came out later in the year but was really disappointed. If you haven’t seen it yet then save yourself a couple of hours and read the book instead. If you like science and adventure with a bit of humour thrown in it will be a pleasure.

My favourite non-fiction was An Astronaut's Guide To Life On Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Chris Hadfield. This was the second book of the year I read and was a Christmas gift from my parents who got to see Chris’s public presentation, meet him afterwards and get me a signed copy! How lucky I am! He’s one of my personal heroes and an all-around incredible guy. I would recommend this book to anybody.

Another book that I would recommend to anybody is Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life - Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Wayne Dyer. This one I took my time to read, as suggested by the author, reading one chapter a day for each of the 81 verses they focus on. Most books on religion bore the hell out of me (pun intended) and while this book isn’t “religious” it is completely spiritually-oriented. That’s a genre one has to be wary of but I can tell you that Wayne Dyer is one of the authors that really can be trusted. During the time I was reading this book Wayne Dyer passed away and the world lost a great human being. If more people read this book the world would be a better, kinder place.

I also really enjoyed reading The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure by Jacques Cousteau. It was published in 1953 and is a fantastic telling of how Cousteau and his comrades developed the aqualung and other advancements in scuba diving, discovering the incredible world below the surface of our oceans.

My favourite audiobook was Revolution by Russell Brand. As I listened to this running on the treadmill in the gym it had me laughing out loud and I’m sure the people around me thought I was crazy. I didn’t care though, I was enjoying Russell’s comical telling of how the system isn’t working and the corrupt governments behind it. This is one of those books where the audiobook is better than the written version because you get to experience the comedic voice of the author himself. My second favourite audiobook would have to be Mad, Bad, & Dangerous to Know. It’s the autobiography of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, one of the great world explorers who is still alive. The adventures he tells of and even his current challenges he undertakes in his 70’s will inspire you to never stop. Age is just a number.

One last book I’d like to include is the one I finished the year with; The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life — Master Any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process by Thomas Sterner. I’m always trying to improve my discipline and focus and this book is full of great advice on how to change your outlook for your benefit and achieve mastery. Recommended for anyone interested in self-development.

So this year I’m tackling the challenge again. So far the books I’m reading are amazing and I look forward to successfully completing the challenge! If you have any amazing books you'd like to recommend, please let me know. :)

Dale NicholsComment