A Year of Reading

In September of last year, I caught a post by Jon Acuff on Twitter describing a book that he had just finished, followed up with a link to his website for those interested in learning how to finally start reading more. Always wishing I had read more, I went to his website and quickly went through his list. It was simple, common sense stuff, that made reading more feel within my reach. What I liked most about his list was the control it gave me.  My rules and my goals.

I also knew that I shouldn’t wait until January of 2018. The desire was there and I knew if I waited that I would never start. I thought about all the times where I had wandered into a book store, bought a few books, and declared that was the moment I would be reading more.  And it never happened that way.  The books ended up being sold at a yard sale, given away, or donated to a library.

I did not have a specific goal of the number of books I wanted to read. I figured that if I had said that I wanted to read 100 books in a year and didn’t come close to that, then I would feel like I had failed. The reality is that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Had I finished 15 books, it still would have been a success because it would have been more than I read before.  My goal was just to read, to keep books handy, and to keep going and see where I landed in a year.

How much did I read?

Over the course of a year, I finished 88 books (75 of them in 2018). One of the many points Jon made that held true for me was tracking progress.  When I got started, I dropped certain information into a spreadsheet and updated it as I went along (I didn’t find Goodreads until later on).  Through the course of the year I read a total of 27,181 pages and it took me, on average, to finish a book in 4 days.

27,181 pages.  That number still blows my mind when I see it. That is a pretty astonishing number for someone that never considered themselves an avid reader.

Before I got started, I thought “I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on books” which is why I was thankful for Jon’s list as he recommended the local library.  As crazy as it sounds, I had never considered that.  Our local library (Louisville Free Public Library) is a fantastic resource.  In fact, 59 books that I read came from the library.

How did you find the time?

Almost always, when I tell someone that I have been trying to read more, I am usually met with “I just don’t have the time to read more” or “how do you find the time to read that much?”  As painful as it is to admit, social media consumption was draining so much of my time. Many mornings I had time before work and would find myself endlessly scrolling social media consuming absolutely nothing worthwhile. I would just sit there swapping between apps doing nothing at all.

I find it a little ironic that some of the same people that say they don’t have time to read are also some of the same people that post every couple of hours on Facebook.

Regardless, I started by first replacing that social media time with reading. Which carried over to wanting to read instead of watching TV or scrolling through my phone at night before bed. I was surprised at how much I could read in that amount of time.  The more I read, the less I wanted to scroll through Facebook.

One of Jon’s suggestions was to keep a book ready.  I quickly created and used a wish list.  As I got a few days out from finishing the book I was reading, I could easily go to our library’s website and request the next book that I wanted to read.  I usually timed it just right so that I could return what I had just finished reading and pick up the next book on my list.

What were your favorite books?

The next question I get is out of all the books I have read, which has been my favorite. Tough call, but “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakuer would have to top the list. My fascination with Everest and his superb writing style was a great match for me. I enjoyed Krakuer’s books so much that I continued to read more from him, all of which were worth a read.  To pick a top 5 from what I have read so far would be tough, but here is what I would go with:

  1. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakuer
  2. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  3. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
  4. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  5. Columbine by Dave Cullen

I want to put Red Platoon and The Devil’s Highway in the top 5 because that book was so amazing as well, but Columbine was just such an overwhelming and powerful book for me that I had to sneak it in there.  Here are all of my favorites so far on Goodreads. I also have to give a notable mention to trilogy from Justin Cronin (The Passage, The Twelve, and City of Mirrors).  I am such a critic of how books end and not only did he do such a fantastic job throughout each of the books, but the ending was one of the most perfect endings ever.

How did you pick what to read?

When my friends follow my Goodreads account, some have made comments about the darker nature of some of the books that I read.  I really don’t know where that comes from.  First, I believe that a trap many fall into with reading is that they feel some obligation to read books associated with their job.  “Oh, you are in marketing, so let’s grab a bunch of marketing and business books to read.”  But how much fun is that?  You spend all day doing something at work and then read about it in your free time?  For me, I purposely found books that were not related to my job and read those.

The darker nature of some of the books probably stems from my time as a police officer.  Non-fiction and true crime has always interested me.  Some of the true crime that I read was so far out there that at times it felt like fiction. Katherine Ramsland’s book about Dennis Rader, BTK, felt like something Stephen King would make up and write about, yet it was a true story.  More times than not, while reading one book, another topic or person would be introduced while reading so I would just make a note and add it to my “want to read” list.

The bottom line is that I knew I had to pick subjects that I wanted to read or else I would stop.  And I knew that I had to keep the next book on deck waiting so that I could keep the momentum going.

So next year, do you want to read more?

I still want to keep reading.  I like the momentum and I have really enjoyed reading.  It becomes addictive and I have learned so many things about so many subjects that I had only previously heard about.  I never felt pressured to read a certain amount within a certain amount of time.  I never felt like I had to read a specific number of books in order to consider this a success.  I just wanted to read and enjoy it.

I have to admit that the more that I read, the more I want to write my own book.  After reading The Passage trilogy from Justin Cronin, that series more than anything else triggered a deep desire to write my own book.  I have started to spend time writing, but much like the goal to read more, I am hesitant to place a specific deadline on my own book because I don’t want to rush or force it.  Maybe in another year I will be able to write a blog post about how I started and finished my own book.  Who knows?

What were all the books you read?

Since I kept a list of everything that I read, here is the entire list:

  1. Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small by Mark Batterson
  2. Left For Dead: My Journey Home from Everest by Beck Weathers
  3. Waiting to Die: Life on Death Row by Richard M. Rossi
  4. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
  5. Unashamed by Lecrae
  6. Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
  7. 1984 by George Orwell
  8. 102 minutes : the untold story of the fight to survive inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer
  9. The triangle : a year on the ground with New York’s Bloods and Crips by Kevin Deutsch
  10. Hello Charlie : letters from a serial killer by Charlie Hess
  11. K2 : life and death on the world’s most dangerous mountain by Ed Viesturs
  12. Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer
  13. Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi
  14. The Darkest Night: The Rape and Murder of Innocence in a Small Town by Ron Franscell
  15. The Unknown Darkness: Profiling the Predators Among Us by Gregg McCrary
  16. 1776 by David McCullough
  17. Killers of the Flower Moon : the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI by David Grann
  18. Beyond the deep : the deadly descent into the world’s most treacherous cave by W.C. Stone
  19. The Lost City of Z by David Grann
  20. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley
  21. Libraries Through the Ages by Fred Lerner
  22. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
  23. A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston
  24. The Other Wes More: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
  25. Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas
  26. In The Belly of the Beast by Jack Henry Abbott
  27. The Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss by Russell Friedman
  28. My American Journey by Colin Powell
  29. Fire On the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster by John Konrad
  30. Confession of a serial killer : the untold story of Dennis Rader, the BTK killer by Katherine Ramsland
  31. Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World by Trevor Paglen
  32. No Easy Day by Mark Owen
  33. The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea
  34. The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks by Susan Casey
  35. Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff
  36. Crimes of the Father by Tom Keneally
  37. Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden
  38. The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Tyson
  39. Cold Zero by Christopher Whitcomb
  40. John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster by Sam Amirante
  41. Grace From the Cross by Kyle Idleman
  42. Fire & Fury: Inside The Trump White House by Michael Wolff
  43. The exile : the stunning inside story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in flight by Cathy Scott-Clark
  44. The stranger in the woods : the extraordinary story of the last true hermit by Michael Finkel
  45. Diving into darkness : a true story of death and survival by Phillip Finch
  46. My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King by Reymundo Sanchez
  47. Homicide : a year on the killing streets by David Simon
  48. Instagram Boot Camp for Ministry Resources by Jackson Garrell
  49. Louisville’s Allma Kellner by Shawn M. Herron
  50. Disability & Spirituality: Restoring Wholeness by Bill Gaventa
  51. Columbine by David Cullen
  52. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
  53. The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan
  54. Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
  55. The Corner by David Simon
  56. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  57. Night Triology by Elie Wiesel
  58. My Friends, My Teachers by Ryan Wolfe
  59. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
  60. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
  61. Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert Ressler
  62. The Anatomy of Motive by John Douglas
  63. Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden
  64. Commandant of Auschwitz by Rudolph Hoess
  65. Auschwitz by Laurence Rees
  66. Room by Emma Donoghue
  67. After the Holocaust by Howard Greenfeld
  68. The Buchenwald Report by David Hackett
  69. Horror in the East : Japan and the atrocities of World War II by Laurence Rees
  70. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  71. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
  72. Red Platoon by Clinton Romesha
  73. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
  74. Ruthless by Ron Miscavige
  75. The Passage by Justin Cronin
  76. The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  77. City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
  78. Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt
  79. If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien
  80. The Trigger: Narratives of the American Shooter by Daniel Patinkin
  81. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  82. Damnation Island by Stacy Horn
  83. The Long Road Home by Martha Raddatz
  84. Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK by Roy Wenzl
  85. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  86. Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly
  87. Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet
  88. Everybody Always by Bob Goff

Again, here are all of my favorites so far on Goodreads.

If you are still with me to the end of this post, I am curious.  What books have you read that you would recommend I read?

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