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How to read 52 books in 52 days

Each year I wanted to do a 52 book challenge, one book a week for a year. For ten years I convinced myself I'd chip away at my collection of unearned trophies (the books on my bookcase), one week at a time.

For a decade I lied to myself. Every year I’d say that I'll read a book a week, and each year I'd get bored of my resolution sometime in February.

If I was to succeed, this needed to be a trial by fire. If I wanted to get through this, it needed sacrifice.

I was once in Canada, and there was a church on a hill, a long stone staircase leading to the top. The most devout worshippers climbed those stone steps on their knees, suffering for salvation. After hours of devout pain, they’d meet God on the way up.

On a bet, I once did a plank for five minutes without any previous training, just will power. Somewhere after the fourth painful, shaking minute, I saw God.

To finish this book challenge, I’d need to climb the 52 steps on my knees. I would need to dance with the heavens to cross that finish line. Sacrifice comfort to earn my book trophies.

I'd only get through 52 books if I did it in 52 days. A book a day keeps the demons away. It wasn't a resolution, it was a spiritual journey.

Some days were effortless: you caught a beautiful page turner, like a fish on the hook of your first cast. The Alchemist by Pablo Coelho (I rated it 9/10). Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (9/10). But some days were a long fishy battle. The Art of Strategy (4/10).

Shorter books helped. Funny books helped. Biographies of people I admired. A sprinkling of self help. A dance with a topic I'd only flirted with before.

I hit the wall at book 43, what a stupid challenge, not even worth it! But eventually book 46 (Never Split the Difference, 9/10) pulled me out of the funk and fueled me across the finish line.

After 49 days of being an insufferable husband and aloof friend, I got to the final stone step.

On February 19th, 2022, I earned my 52nd trophy.

So here's the list of 10 ideas:

    1. Start first thing in the morning. Save physical books for weekends.

    2. Lots of audio books and learn to listen at 2x + playback speed. You acclimate quickly to the faster text. And with that:

    3. Plan lots of chores and mindless work. The best accompaniment to listening.

    4. Prepare to say no to most calls, meetings and social functions.

    5. Have an infant whom you spend 3-4 hours a day rocking to sleep. Prime listening time. Read your books to her as her story time. She’s five months old, she doesn’t care.

    6. Stick to physical books under 150 pages.

    7. If you finish a book early, start the next one that day. Better to be ahead with a buffer than behind playing catch-up.

    8. Write a mini book report after finishing each book. A short paragraph and a rating. Gives a moment of closure in between the breakneck pace.

    9. Load up on books ahead of time. You'll quickly start to run out and will waste precious hours looking for new ones.

    10. Get Scribd membership, where all books are included for less than 10 bucks a month.

    11. Take lots of notes in the margins, it will help with retention. Also, marking a book with your thoughts creates a unique inheritance hidden in your bookcase.

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