Someone asked me yesterday "how do you find the time to read so much?". This post is an attempted answer. It always starts with books. I read around 2/3 of them per month on average. I started posting lists of all of them for a given year. Here are the books I've read in 2022 typically. There is no secret. I make time for reading on an everyday basis. It's usually the last thing I do before going to bed. I don't read in bed though. I read in our living room - often with a hot tea - until I feel my body just wants to go to sleep. I usually read for an hour. Sometimes way less, sometimes more. I don't put any pressure on myself. The goal here is just to relax, and read. Across the day, I look forward to that moment.
I read a wonderful - sometimes disturbing - article about history; more precisely about how storytellers (and their biases) crafted our history. I highly recommend it. It also made me realise there is 'story' in the word 'history'. Never really paid attention. By the way, in french, these are the same word: 'histoire' [pronounced his-too-ar]. So we could say 'raconte moi une histoire' [which would translate into 'tell me a story'] and when we're talking about history add something like 'l'histoire avec un grand 'H'' [history with a big H]. I realise now - deeply rooted in our language - how history is only a story of the past we collectively agreed upon.
I promised the list of books I've read in 2022 so here we are. If you'd want to dig into them, I've made such a list for 2021, 2020 and 2019. Interestingly, and while I stand behind a '2 books a month pace is kinda perfect for me' I kept reading slightly more books year after year: 21 in 2019, 26 in 2020, 28 in 2021 and 30 in 2022. We'll see what'll happen this year, I've read 25 books so far.
As far as I remember, I always loved magazines. I read them methodically from the first cover to the very end. And I read everything that's been written; readers letters sections included. I grew up in the 90s so back then, magazines were really THE medium to follow your passion, and dig even deeper into it. TV - at least in France - was way too mainstream.
Let's wrap up the list of books I've read in 2021. And yep, you guessed it already, the list of 2022 is coming shortly.
I think I've found my perfect reading rythm: 2 books a month. I might read more but I don't want to feel any pressure to do so. Moreover, I do enjoy reading stuff online so I spend a fair amount of time on Feedly to go through my 170+ sources - be it blogs, newsletters, publications, mags. If you feel we might have some common interests by the way, feel free to reach out, I'd be happy to share them.
On the other hand, I don't want to read way less than that. Reading long-form content like books puts me in a deeper, thoughtful and slower state that I enjoy tremendously. Hence I kept that yearly goal of 2 a month for 2021. Since I did my own tail end, I realized I'd still have 1350+ books to read during my entire lifetime [at least if I read until my 90th birthday] which is not too bad.
So after reading 21 books in 2019, below are my 26 ones of 2020 [from the first I read to the last]:
- Libres [fr]
- Ce livre devrait me permettre de resoudre le conflit au Proche-Orient, d'avoir mon diplome et de trouver une femme - Tome 1 [fr]
- Ce livre devrait me permettre de resoudre le conflit au Proche-Orient, d'avoir mon diplome et de trouver une femme - Tome 2 [fr]
- Le petit livre rock [fr]
- Boxe [fr]
- Le bonheur etait pour demain [fr]
- Une autre fin du monde est possible [fr]
- Human machine [fr]
- Une vie choisie [fr]
- Deployer [fr]
- This could be our future [en]
- Confessions d'un assassin economique [fr]
- Le gout de Lisbonne [fr]
- Propos de O.L. Barenton - Confiseur [fr]
- The Startup Playbook [en]
- Startup Guide Lisbon [en]
- Silo [fr]
- Essentialism [en]
- Silo Origines [fr]
- Silo Generations [fr]
- L'art de la simplicite [fr]
- Le gout du vrai [fr]
- Lecture rapide [fr]
- Rayures et ratures [fr]
- The consolations of philosophy [en]
- Everything that remains [en]
I only read 6 books in english. I'm always surprised by this; even though it's still 3 times more than the year before. I read 4 comics. I haven't read comic books for a while and I actually enjoyed it a lot. Since most of the books I read are non-fiction it makes it harder to get on comics. I definitely want to read the Sapiens version by the way. 5 books are novels; compare to 6 in 2019. 3 of them are among the books I enjoyed the most: the Silo trilogy.
I use a french website named SensCritique to keep track of everything and give a rate out of 10. My average rate last year is 7.03; which is way better than the year before, 6.33. I rated only one book below 5: Une autre fin du monde est possible with a 3/10. I distributed 11 rates at 8 & higher [which is why the average got so high]. I gave one 10/10: Silo Origines & four 9/10: Propos de O.L. Barenton - Confiseurs; Silo; Essentialism and The consolations of philosophy.
If I had to choose my top 3 recommendation, I'd say: (1) the whole Silo trilogy (2) The consolations of philosophy (3) Essentialism.
I typically added Essentialism to our Objet Library; along with some other titles I did enjoy a lot like This could be our future. And since I decided to own 30 books maximum at any given time, if you'd like to get one of these, ping me. I found that donating books was a very joyful experience.
I started last summer to count my stuff. As beautifully written by Mathilde here "[...] knowing I have too much is something, knowing what is too much is something else". At that point, I was able to put an exact number: I had 187 books. It felt too much.
Right away I decided to tidy this up and started to screen them all. Few questions were in my head to help me pick up which ones to discard: (a) do I think there is a 90%+ chance I'll re-read it again in the future? (b) am I even able right now to 'sell' that book to anyone? [i.e I remember enough what this is about and/or the emotion it created in me] (c) if one of my best friend were to visit me today and ask for a book to read, would I be proud enough to recommend that one? If the answer was anything else than an easy 'yes' [to all 3 of these questions], I'd discard the book.
Result's below. I today own 86.5 books [.5 because I co-own some of them with my other half]. And yep, I also love magazines and I do plan to sort them out next [even though I bought a new one 2 days ago].
To get rid of them in an easy & efficient way, I chose to give all of them away for free. I put few pictures on our local Buy Nothing group and few days later, 3/4 of them were out of the house.
The smiles and happy faces I got from people who came to our flat to pick up the books and the few minutes discussions downstairs to share few anecdotes [if any] made the whole experience very meaningful. Overall, I felt great. Almost 3 months later, I still feel great about this but I also don't really know how I should buy and deal with books in the future.
I decided that - going forward - a book should be either a learning or an entertaining experience. Period. So I literally said goodbye to the books as a piece of decoration or furniture at home. In other words, no such room for me as Karl's one below.
Donated a bunch of books tonight. So much feelings at the same time inside myself right now. Overall, I feel happy, lighter, proud & freer. First day of the rest of my life.— Kevin Straszburger (@k7vin) August 3, 2020
When people are putting a photo on Twitter or Instagram of ‘look at my pile of books that I’m reading’, it’s a show-off thing, it’s a signalling thing. The reality is I’d rather read the best 100 books over and over again until I absorb them rather than read all the books.Now - even though I stand behind that mindset 100% I still find challenging now and then not to pile up a new book [or magazine] and to give it away as soon as I finished reading it - unless that specific title should enter my top 100 of all time. Then I wonder what that number should be. Should I hold on to 10 books at home? 20? 50? 100? Few days ago I realised how space played a huge role in this answer [in my answer at least]. If I live in a tiny house or a van, my answer will literally be different compare to a few floors mansion. That lead me to think about my kinda perfect home in terms of space. Do I really want to live in a big flat for instance? Why? To pile up more stuff at the end cause I'd need to fill up all this space? Should I intentionally dramatically limit the size of where I live [at least the indoor size let's say; outdoor would be different; I'd use a garden to play or relax; not to pile up stuff]?
I played with the same sort of resolutions the past few years and it always looks liks this:
- spend more time with closed friends
- talk more to the family
- read more
- go back to writing
- more sport
I've tried to be more specific in 2019 and pretty much succeeded in 4 out of these 5 points. Yep, you could easily guess it by looking at the publishing dates on this blog, I haven't written for a while but hey, it's not what I want to talk about this time.
One thing I've nailed down is my reading habit. I told myself last year to read at least 1 book a month [total being 12 at the end of the year - yep I know, I'm good at maths indeed]. I finally read 21 books in total. It made me very happy so I decided to read at least 2 books a month in 2020 [spoiler: I'm heavily on track].
Below's the list [from the first one I read to the last]:
- Papa pour la premiere fois [fr]
- J'accouche bientot: que faire de la douleur? [fr]
- Les gens heureux lisent et boivent du cafe [fr]
- Le journal de moi... papa [fr]
- Men, Love & Birth [en]
- Revenir a Lisbonne [fr]
- Barbarian Days: a surfing life [en]
- Ce qu'il reste de nos reves [fr]
- L'ecologie en bas de chez moi [fr]
- Une colere noire: Lettre a mon fils [fr]
- Petite Poucette [fr]
- L'alchimiste [fr]
- L'espionne [fr]
- Le tour du monde du roi Zibeline [fr]
- Check-point [fr]
- L'aventure, le choix d'une vie [fr]
- Le rugissant [fr]
- Hotel International [fr]
- Le grand roman des maths [fr]
- Montessori a la maison [fr]
- Electrochoc [fr]
Yep there is something funny indeed looking at this list: 5 books are related to birth & parenthood. Quite easy to guess what we went through last year haha. I also realise that I actually read a lot in french - only 2 books were in english - way more than I would have thought first [and this is probably due to the fact I read in english mainly everyday on the web]. 6 books are novels, which isn't bad for someone who never read this type initially [this is changing though]. My family always makes fun of me because they think I only read biographies but this represents only 5 books last year. There is actually one main topic included in most of these titles [parenthood aside]: travel. It's in 10 of these books [including the highest grade I gave]. 2 books are related to music.
I use a french website called SensCritique to keep track of what I read and rate everything [out of 10]. Average of these 21 books is 6.33. I gave two 9/10: J'accouche bientot & Le tour du monde du roi Zibeline. And I gave two 2/10: Papa pour la premiere fois & Le journal de moi... papa. I'm really disappointed so far in everything written for dads anyway. It's like the only angle for men if you want to tackle parenthood somehow is to treat them like dummies. I've no doubt there are great stuff out there but I still have to dig.
So, my top 3 recommendations from last year would be [parenthood aside of course]: (1) Le tour du monde du roi Zibeline (2) L'alchimiste (3) Le grand roman des maths.