2020. What a year, right?
But on the bright side…after binging through every conceivable movie and tv show, I still found quite a lot of time left to read.
What about you? Read anything good? I know I did. In fact, my year was full of tons of what I like to call “gateway books.” You know, books that unlock a corner of the universe you didn’t know about before.
Anyway, as a fun exercise, I went back through every book I bought, started, reread, listened to, browsed, shelved, was gifted. I rated them. Tallied up my costs. Then built a spreadsheet. Which you can browse here.
Investing In Yourself
All-in this year, I spent something like $1,200 on books. Which is amazing, because I actually budget about $100 per month for learning and reading. (And technically, I was under budget by about $50, so hooray for that too.)
But – the reason I like to review costs, not just what I read, is because I like to double check I’m actually investing in my education. Not just spending money to spend money or fill up bookshelves or appear smart. If the books I buy aren’t improving my life, then what the hell am I doing?
And yes, I know. “Improving my life” is quite the generality. Basically, for a book to improve my life, I want it to do entertain me, educate me, inspire me, inform me, piss me off, make me cry, make me feel something, level up my thinking, make me better at business, make me better with money, make me a better writer…or any other reason I damn well please in the moment.
But this year, I’d say I did pretty well, too. Because of all the books I read enough to review, I only rated a single title with a lowly “one star.”
Here’s a fun, detailed breakdown:
Okay, so my star rating doesn’t necessarily correspond to my ROI from a given book. Occasionally I’ll read a book I don’t love but still find value out of. So my start rating is somewhat arbitrary – aside from denoting how well it delivered on whatever function it served for me.
When Ideas Have Sex
I love discovering connections between different, seemingly unrelated ideas. In fact, I’d wager it’s one of my favorite things. Plus, I love going down new rabbit holes with ideas. So, I often read broadly across multiple categories, then explore subjects deeply that fascinate me.
This year, I had several big monomaniacal stints. Here are a few of the categories that delivered all-expenses paid vacations to visit Alice in Wonderland:
Fiction (Especially J.D. Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut)
Business (Especially Accounting, Finance, and Management)
Marketing + Copywriting
Personal Finance + Real Estate + Investing + Passive Income + Taxes
Faith + Spirituality + Moral Philosophy + Christian Hedonism
And there were others, too. But those were some of the big ones. As an added layer of fun, I wanted to word cloud the various topics I read most. Here’s a fun image of those:
Keeping My Head Full
In 2020, I also decided to write a book (expected to publish in spring/summer 2021). It’s primarily about how to navigate your education, career, and finances in order to get the most out of life.
The first draft is finished and I’m in the 2nd draft / editing phase. Which is exciting. Because I’ve spent the last handful of years thinking about and talking about many of these ideas. But in December 2020, I decided to stop talking and start writing. And write I did. In fact, between the book, chapter outlines I wrote nearly 60,000 words in one month. Combine that with my regular newsletters, blog posts, social posts, and sales emails and we’re probably easily in the ballpark of 100,000+ words. In one single month.
Cranking away content like that can be tough. Let alone if your head isn’t already full of ideas. So fortunately, I lived the better part of this year like a sponge – absorbing ideas and soaking them up.
Which came in handy when it came time to sit down and spill my guts onto the blank page. And I can’t wait to share the final product.
A Final Word on Reading
There’s more data and information being created on a daily basis that was in existence for most of history. Think about that for a moment. We live in a time and era completely saturated with ideas.
Which is great. Except for when you consider how few people take advantage of the “right” kind of information. Books offer that in a way that social media, blogs, podcasts, and “the media” just cannot compete with.
And there’s good reason for that, too. Because not just anyone can (read: will) sit down and crank out a book. Let alone go to the trouble of editing it, publishing it, and ensuring its circulation.
In a sense, books act as a sort of high-fidelity information filter. Meaning that reading a book about a topic is very likely to be much more information than just browsing the web. Of course, there are still plenty of shit books out there.
But books are an incredible frontier of affordable and accessible knowledge. With books, you can educate yourself – and become an expert on anything. Without relying on college or credentials or anybody else. And if you don’t believe me, just ask my good friend, Will Hunting (Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting):
Anyway, in case you’re looking for some awesome books to add to your list, I’ve made my whole list available public here. All of the 3-5 star books, I’d most likely recommend.