The Book a Day Challenge!

My amazon order for books will end up taking a bit longer than expected. They are usually pretty consistent with delivery times so I failed to notice that this one was going to be shipped a lot later than usual. So, despite its small size, I decided to go our public library.

The librarian told me that I could rent out as many as eight books at a time. Immediately I began to wonder how long it would take me to read eight books if I put a little effort into it. Usually I read at a relaxed pace, taking about a book per week, sometimes two. I wonder whether or not it would be possible to read eight books in eight days.

In my own typical style I decided to make a goal out of it. So I proceeded to rent my limit of eight books which I intend to read over the next eight days. A book per day.

I’ve read entire books in one day before. Usually it is based on how much time I have and how well the author writes, rather than the number of pages. I finished both Blink and The Tipping point in a day each, which says something about Gladwell’s ability to write. But reading one book per day for eight days is a bit more of a challenge.

I don’t think this kind of habit would be sustainable in the long run seeing as there are many days when other commitments would only leave me with a half hour of reading. Still, I think it would be an interesting challenge to pursue over the next week. I’ll make a post when I’m done next Sunday cataloging what I thought of each book and my difficulties with the challenge.

So here are the books I picked out after a quick scan at the library:

How to Practice
– Dalai Lama

I had read the current Dalai Lama’s other book, The Art of Happiness, previously and found it to be very interesting read. What I found most surprising about the Dalai Lama was how humble he was. When asked a question he would give it serious thought, and when he couldn’t find an answer he would admit it. The Dalai Lama’s principle towards achieving happiness is to remove negative and destructive emotions and to focus on positive emotions. I personally find his approach to be more of a beginning of happiness rather than the encompassing view of it, but it was still a very enlightening read.

Darwin’s Ghost
– Steve Jones

This books is supposedly an updated version of Darwin’s original Origin of the Species. I have read several books on genetics, heredity and evolution. The history of life on this planet is one of the most remarkable tales I have ever heard. I personally believe in evolution primarily because I like the simple elegance of its mechanics. Unlike messy and complex philosophies involving a higher deity or greater intelligence, the evolution is so basic and simple. Despite such a basic driving force it is remarkably complex in its results.

The Advent of the Algorithm
– David Berlinski

Creating software and programming is a passion of mine. I have always loved using computers to create something. I use algorithms every day and I find that particular aspect of programming to be particularly fascinating. This should be a very interesting read from a more mathematical rather than computers perspective regarding a tool I use all the time.

Manifest Your Destiny
– Wayne W. Dyer

Wayne W. Dyer is an excellent personal development author. His focus is mostly on the ideas of peace, spirituality and thought. I personally find this style of personal development to be an interesting contrast to the more typical personal development focused on ambition, achievement and success.

Jump Start Your Brain – Doug Hall

Creativity is a hugely important part of my life. While some people like to solve problems with analysis and strategy, I’ve always found that the biggest improvements have come by creative thinking. This books is supposed to be about how you can increase your own creativity. Hopefully I can learn a few techniques to add to my own arsenal of creativity tools.

If you haven’t got the time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over? – Jeffrey J. Mayer

This is a short time-management book. I have become increasingly focused on learning more personal productivity and time-management techniques to use in my own life. Earlier I spent most of my time researching goal setting to create clarity and purpose for my life. Now that I have a lot more focus and clarity, I’ve spent more time focusing on time-management and personal productivity. Even one solid time management idea makes reading an entire book worth its value.

Time Management from the Inside Out – Julie Morgenstern

Another time management book. Once again, I hope reading this book can give me a few ideas to increase my productivity and give me a greater sense of efficiency and effectiveness.

The Google Story – David A. Vise

I love Google. Everyone loves Google. Besides, how can you not read up on the fastest growing company in history?

So I’ve got my work cut out for me. A quick tally reveals over 2,100 pages to be read over the course of these eight days. I’ll write another blog entry when I’m done to give a quick review of each book and the challenge itself. At the very least this should be a very enlightening week.

  • Matthew Bennett

    My local library’s miles away so I don’t go there very often at all but I am starting to build up a bit of a personal library on certain topics. The next one, for which I have ordered about 20 books from amazon, is about economics, business and investing, so your idea of trying to read one a day is timed reallly nicely. This has happened to me with all of those great books that for some reason just ‘do it’ for you but I agree it’s a good little objective to try and consciously acheive. For most books, I find the knowledge comes from reading them again and again. One a day as a first read is a great idea 🙂 Then maybe choose which ones to read more in depth at the rate of one a week or with a bit more time.

  • Scott Young

    The point of the challenge isn’t really to set in a reading habit of one book per day. I don’t really think that would be sustainable. Maybe two books per week on most weeks, but 7 might be a bit much…

    I am personally doing it just as a personal stretch. Identifying areas of challenge to push yourself a little further leaves you expanded as a result. Besides, it will be interesting to see if I can pull it off. I still have 250 pages of Darwin’s Ghost to read today….

    Thanks for the comments

  • Matthew Bennett

    wouldn’t it be great to get into a habit like that though, constantly? A bit like your daily run or physical workout, to have a daily, or weekly or whatever reading or knowledge ‘workout’. I’ll have a think about how I could do something like that.

  • Scott Young

    The only problem with the idea is that a “book” is a widely varied amount of reading. It is an interesting challenge, but books are a hundred pages of light reading and others are a thousand pages of dense text. I would worry that such a specific goal as a “book a day” might make you avoid reading some of the denser material.

    Still, a goal for a specific amount of reading, like a total of an hour or two per day, or a certain amount of pages, would definitely be worthwhile.

    It would be cool to say you read a book every day, though? Imagine that. In ten years you will have read 3600 books!

  • Gleb Reys

    It would be great to be able to consume so much of information, but I agree that some books are light reading and others are not. So my personal realistic expectation would be more like 1 book a week. Even then I find it hard because depending on a book it takes me 8-12 hours to read it, and I can’t always get this much out of a planned ahead week.

    Do let us know how you progress, Scott!

  • Scott Young

    Yes, I agree that normally a book a day just wouldn’t be feasable given most of our schedules. My past habit was a book a week, but after going through this trial midway I think I can reasonably step that up to 2.

    I’m on schedule with the trial at 4 books over 4 days so far.

    I took two days to read the Google Story. So I suppose that might be considered a violation of the trial. I really liked the book, and I decided reading it a bit more slowly would do it justice. I caught up by reading another book later that day.

    I’m away from the internet for the next three days, so when I’m done I’ll update you guys on how the challenge went!


  • Kevin

    Something else to consider is to take a little time to digest the material. I find that when I write and try to summarize the chapter or the important points the book makes on different topics, I learn more from the book and notice more points overall than if I had just read it.

    I think a book a day is a great goal, but I wonder if the number of things a person can really learn from a book is proportional to the amount of time spent digesting and processing the points in the different topics the book brings up. I find that I learn more from the book on the second reading than on the first – ever thought about reading a really good book again?

  • SelpHelpSkeptic

    You are able to read a book-a-day because you are reading books for information (as opposed to recreation) that are rather “easy reads”.
    Try reading Dostoyevsky or my biochemistry textbook in one day. You can’t.

    Reading fiction in one day is pointless because fiction, good fiction, is designed for meaning, desription, word play, style, substance, themes, etc. All this is meant to be digested and read word-for-word to appreciate the prose.

    I am sorry, I can agree with you on this post. There is no point in trying to read fast unless you learning speed reading in order to gain information quickly, for example, on-the-job.

    This cultural bragging of “I read that book in two days” that seems popular, means that people aren’t really ‘reading’ – they are skimming.

    If you want to a cursory understanding of the detail of what you have read, then for sure, read it fast, however, reading for enrichment is almost never a fast thing.

  • Elina McGill

    I believe this to be false SelfHelpSkeptic. It depends on what you are reading. I firmly believe that you can read complicated subject matter very quickly. It all depends upon whether you have background knowledge int that field or not. The more background knowledge you have in that field the easer it is for you to connect the finer details to general concepts that you already possess.

    It all depends upon what we consider as reading. When we sit down and read a both thoroughly word for word, how much of it do we actually remember? The majority of us are not able to recall long sentences or paragraphs word for word. However, we are able to recall some examples and the overarching theme of the book especially for non-fiction.