Ken Norton: "How I read 61 books last year"

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Now if I’m not enjoying a book, I quit and move on to the next one.

I get this to some extent, but sometimes a book that is a great deal of work to read can be very rewarding.


61 is a lot, I guess, but 6 is a pitiful number.


Even 6 a year beats the hell out of the count for the vast number of people who have not read a single book as an adult.


If you count actually reading (and leave out technical manuals, etc), I’m afraid I’d be close to that category. I just can’t find the time anymore.

I’ve taken up audiobooks, which I can “read” while driving as long as they’re not too boring or have huge numbers of poorly-defined characters dumped out in a short period. Even so, they’re still SO much slower than reading the words, tend to be much more expensive, and finding DRM-free copies of good ones can be a bit of a hunt.

If fully self-driving cars were a reality, I’d probably be tearing through books like crazy again…


Audiobooks have revitalized my reading list like nothing else. I’ve dedicated it to non-fiction selections (and The Great Courses) and I’ve found it much easier to focus on that sort of material when listening in my car or walking around town. That compels me to choose topics I likely would have avoided too.

In fact I’m currently listening to a book I bought many years ago but was never able to make a dent in: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. It’s 60+ hours in total and I’m probably 1/3 of the way through. I doubt I ever wound have read this without having it narrated.

But I should take his advice on spending more time reading rather than browsing. And taking notes would be useful.


Two thoughts, or examples, really.

  1. For the longest time I was loathe to not finish a book. Then I finally mustered the courage or determination to think “screw it, this book is stupid and I’m wasting my time.” It was so liberating! Now it’s still fairly rare (one advantage of wasting a lot of time reading dumb books is that I’ve become fairly discriminating before I commit to a book), but it does happen, and it saves so much.
    B) Trainspotting (the book, not the first movie) and Quartered Safe Out Here are both good examples of books that are initially hard work, but which are ultimately very rewarding.

1a) A corollary to the first point: I’m currently bumbling my way through a history degree extramurally. In the last couple of years I finally realised that I don’t have to actually read the books I’m quoting or referencing in essays. Now I write the essay, go back through and figure out which points should be referenced, then quote-mine or reference-mine through a stack of likely looking books, making liberal use of the indexes. Sometimes sections of the essay need revision when it turns out my initial thoughts were bollocks, but that’s fine. It still saves a TON of time compared to reading everything then trying to synthesise a coherent essay. It also seems to end up with more readable and tighter essays. I still feel vaguely guilty about it though …


“One smart thing he did was quickly abandon books that bored him.”

Oh absolutely. Because if there is one glaring flaw with books, is that they are not similar enough to twitter.


well when I was in my twenties I averaged a book a day. I blame employment and family for my downfall.


I probably average about 12-15 books a year, though I aspire to read more. I also suffer from the masochistic need to finish a book I start reading. My biggest hindrance is that I need to stop watching garbage on television. I’m watching much less than I once was, but I enjoy being up to date on at least some aspects of popular culture.

61 books is far more than the national average, but it isn’t a huge number. I know an outlier who has a realistic goal to read 1500 new books this year. She doesn’t have a job, and they certainly aren’t all classic literature, but still 1500 is insane to me.


Whether you think 61 is huge or not depends on what else you chose to do with your time. It also depends, I think, on what you read. I read probably … hmm … probably 12-24 a year, which tend to be fairly dense 3-500 page academic works, that each take quite a bit of reading and re-reading. If I did nothing else all year I could probably get through 61 of those. I doubt I could physically read 1,500 in a year, even if I never slept.

OTOH, I cut through both Heart of Darkness and The Man in the High Castle in a couple of days while tramping over the New Year’s period. So … shrug?


Yeah, I just don’t get that.

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I’ve read a couple of blog posts and articles like this one. Though this one doesn’t, most say that the easiest way to find the time to read more is to throw away your television and maybe even your computer.


I read around 100-200 books in a year. It takes me about three hours total to read an average-sized book, and there’s enough hurry up and wait in my life where I can get through that in a couple days. I’m still a little impressed that a principal at a major company can get through 61 books in a year, because he probably has very little downtime and several other obligations besides work.

His approach seems to be correct, regardless of the actual number of books read. Don’t waste time on books that aren’t interesting. These will not only waste time that could better be spent reading something else or doing literally anything else, but they will take longer because it will be harder to work up the motivation to read. Also always record your thoughts about what you read, otherwise stuff will blur together after a while. Reading books for quantity rather than trying to learn from what I read feels like binge-watching movies while drunk. There’s a lot of information coming in all at once, all of which requires more energy than I’m willing to devote to it. However, if I keep track of what I’m reading and what I learn from it, it sticks in my mind a lot better.


This gentleman has a different relationship to reading than I do.


Yay! The education system has broken another soul! :wink:


How I read 61 books last year


I waver, but I do know that I read between that when I was studying for comps. At least some of those were skimmed, as they had been read before.

I’ve actually never kept track of how much I read, though. I suspect that I’ll get a lot more reading done once my dissertation is finally put to bed.


Yeah, Little Golden Books were awesome!

Sorry, couldn’t resist. A book a day is pretty good. Best I could do was about 3 a week for a year. And most didn’t even have have pictures! :wink: Helped to live across from a library.


it took me 400 pages into “les miserables” before i decided i wanted to finish it. by the end i knew that i had read one of the 20-25 greatest books i’ve ever read. i’d never have had that experience if i had discarded it even 100 pages in.