50 Book Challenge

[via McGee] David Harris writes about the 50 book challenge: “The idea is to read 50 books in a year and, in some versions, blog about them.”

Interesting. I was thinking a few days ago that I needed to set up a discipline of reading something different and educating myself via a few books for 1-1.5 hours a day. I identified a few areas in which I need to learn more and starting books (and guides):

– Psychology: Influence by Cialdini
– Economics and Finance: Samuelson and Raghuram Rajan
– Marketing: Kotler
– History: Jared Diamond and David Landes
– Management: Magretta’s What Management Is

Its almost like doing a semester of learning in school…in this one has to pick the right teachers. Maybe I should take up the challenge…

In case you decide to do so too, David has some suggestions:

1) Don’t read to hit the target: Reading just to hit a target is silly. However, reading to hit a target is a very useful excuse to have when your life is busy, you generally want to get through some decent reading, but the rest of life is dragging you away. In other words, in the absence of good time management, the 50 book challenge could be a worthwhile approach.

2) No filler: This is a really a corollary to rule 1. There shouldn’t be any books on the list that are merely there to increase your count. You should want to read the books, independently of the challenge existing.

3) Re-reads can count (sometimes): Re-reading a book doesn’t count if it is done to add something to your count quickly. However, there are plenty of books that are worth re-reading and they should count. Roughly speaking, it should count if a) you haven’t read it for a long time, b) you can’t remember much about it, or c) it’s a book that you get more out of on each re-reading.

4) No genre domination: The list should be somewhat diverse. Of course, the rules shouldn’t prescribe or proscribe particular books but it seems sensible that you shouldn’t be able to fill your list with trashy sci-fi or fantasy. Good sci-fi or fantasy belongs on the list but you won’t find 50 good titles anyway.

5) No planning: You shouldn’t plan the list beforehand. You can have some general guidelines that satisfy your personal desires but there should be enough flexibility to read new releases, or to cover a new interest, or follow up on something inspired by a title you just read.

6) Ignore the rules: You should not pay attention to any of the rules. After all, this is really about reading for enjoyment, so read whatever the hell you want. Keeping a list can be useful if you have a terrible memory (like me) or you just want to share your reading experience – but it shouldn’t be about the list.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.