2019 in Books

tags: reviews

2019 reading challenge results

I read 18 books to reasonable which to me means something like feeling like I got ~80% of value out of the book completion in 2019, out of a targeted 26. Applying the lessons from last year’s challenge, I wanted to focus on two things this year: finishing only the books I like and increasing retention of what I read.

In 2019 I read a lot more short-form articles than before — about 2-3 a day if I had to guess. I might even say that I always used to prefer reading articles versus books since most nonfiction books are padded with extraneous information. This is sometimes to improve the page count (e.g., Jason Fried said that Basecamp had to add a ton of pictures into *Rework* to make it meet the publisher's page count floor), and sometimes because the author isn't that good of a writer. The great thing about the internet is that now we have excellent access to written works of all lengths. Venkatesh Rao put it best when he said that “most books should probably be articles and most articles should probably be tweets”. This idea (and also less time in general for reading) explains why I read far fewer books this year.

How I’m trying to improve my reading

This year, I decided to adopt a few new tactics to improve:

  1. Stop reading books a lot faster. E.g. I got the main points of James Scott’s Seeing Like a State after a few chapters and didn’t want to go into the actual studies/examples.
  2. Have a ‘workflow’ for reading. I used to finish reading books and leave a ton of highlights. The problem was that these highlights were never revisited. Now, I spend extra time after finishing each book converting highlights into ideas to remember or actions to take.
  3. Read less and think more. My 52 book reading challenge in 2018 was like trying to drink from a firehose of information. By cutting the count to a more manageable level, I ended up with more headspace to think about what I’m reading.