Book 100 of the 100 Book Challenge

Book 100 of the 100 Book Challenge

Last New Years Eve, I was having dinner with Dan Rossi and our wives and we were talking about a blog post I had read where the author had read 200 books in a year. At the time, we both discussed the fact that we were active readers, but didn’t have a goal to target a specific number of books annually. That discussion ended up in the “100 book challenge in 2017” a goal that I finished a couple of days ago. I posted about the halfway point here.

Here are some observations for finishing the goal – albeit slightly early and I’m going to keep going through the end of the year. I’m still learning.

  • Goodreads.com is amazing – just saying! I have my 2017 self as well as my list of 100 books finished on the reading challenge. I started tracking them on a GSheet. “There’s an app for that”
    • I don’t put a book on the list unless it has “4 stars” with the pace of reading, it’s a great filter to get to some great books. This includes reading some books on the list of “top 2017” reads which I’ve never really participated in prior years
    • It’s great to see what other folks are reading and ranking high – it’s one click to add them to my “want to read” list.
  • If I’m not hooked in the first 50 pages – I’m done. Because I need to finish the book, I don’t languish with books that aren’t great.
  • I love well-written books regardless of genre. It makes me want to be a better writer. Just to be clear, however, I don’t yet know what I mean by “well-written”, but like the Supreme Courts definition of porn, you know it when you see it! I’ll keep reading until I refine my definition.
  • I’m more interesting to other people than I remember – I was at an event where someone introduced me to their friend with “this is Dave, he’s reading 100 books this year”. I’ve been known by any number of descriptors – but that one made me smile.
  • There are a bunch of things on my schedule that weren’t as important as reading a great book (sorry to the Seattle Mariners)
  • Accomplishing any large goal requires that you think about it every day – without that type of obsessiveness, you won’t achieve the goal
  • I love being surprised by constraints – “The Art of Racing in the Rain” was written from a dog’s perspective. “A Gentlemen in Moscow” was the story of a man that was under house arrest and lives in a hotel while surrounded by the changes from Czarist Russia to the Soviet Union. Both books highlight a constraint of perspective while being surrounded by what happens in the world around them. Like all of us. We live with constraints and sometimes are aware of our context, but often are not.

So what book was number 100? Well, I actually gave it some thought before choosing from the growing list of “Want to Read”. I ended on two books, #100 & #101. Cosmos – by Carl Sagan and The Odyssey – Homer. When Sagan launched the PBS special in 1978, Cosmos was outright heretical around my house. Astronomy, math, science and the Cosmos was hard to reconcile with other belief systems. On October 17, this year, an observatory in Hawaii discovered the first interstellar asteroid: `Oumuamua… how things have changed. Sagan makes the point late in the book that if you read a book every day, over your entire life, you would get to <10% of the 1979 published books in the library. Imagine how that has changed with the Internet! I need to pick up my pace. 

By contrast, The Odyssey has so many Greek gods that’s it’s easy to get lost in character development. It’s the second oldest work of literature behind the prequel of the Iliad and is thought to be written around the 8th Century BC. Why such a wide contrast of the two choices? Well, it’s been a journey! And it’s just the start of a journey. I’m not done yet, you aren’t either. As the opening line describing The Odyssey, it’s “Literature’s grandest evocation of life’s journey”. We are all on a journey. I’d like to make my part of it a better journey and I’m glad you’ve joined me in even a small way. 

The journey for me is how I think and learn. We don’t yet know everything we should know and discovery and science continues to expose us to new facts and data if we are willing to set aside our fixed mindsets and have a Growth Mindset. Like Ray Dalia’s, Principals points out, I believe being radically open-minded is a good thing. If you read and learn only with the intent to validate your idea, it’s not really learning, you’re reality is “inside the hotel” like A Gentlemen in Moscow and you won’t have the context of what’s happening in the world around you.

This fixed mindset approach has extended into our political environment. A place where we can’t be bothered by facts and data. As a friend of mine, Dan Price recently wrote

Democrat vs Republican is not helping us. Horrible behavior and scandal are not limited to either party. Neither is competent governance or good policy. When you pick a team, your blinders go up. We need to work much harder at overcoming those biases and seeing things clearly.

Or in a more profound commentary on Medium from Caitlin Johnstone about how people politicize what’s in the news to scream why their side is correct. We need to move past screaming and into listening and learning. Listening with an intent to understand, not just to listen so you build your argument in your head and wait for a pause in the dialog.
Reading 100 books took time. Listening to understand will take time. It’s a journey.
Happy Thankgiving!

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