2020 Reading Challenge - January Update


Books Completed: 7 Books Completed in 2020: 7

A good start towards my goal of reading 52 books in 2020. I was able to finish 7 this month, on pace for 82 for the year. I’d expect January to be an outlier due to the cold weather making us spend more time indoors and the initial novelty of this reading challenge.

Favorite Book

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits was a surprisingly enjoyable self help book. The habit building framework described was thoughtful and easy to adapt to my current routine, and the repetitious chapter structure made the core ideas stick. In particular, the summary pages at the end of each chapter have been great to revisit when practicing some of Clear’s suggestions. I’m also glad to have read this book at the beginning of this year, and think it will be easier for some new personal habits to take hold.

Feedback and Iterations

Note Taking System

An issue I’ve run into is how to take notes about key topics and quotes. Another is how to attach these notes to my summary and rating on my books page

For eBooks, highlighting is simple enough on a Kindle, but personal summaries are much more painful using the on-screen keyboard. Luckily, the software automatically sends all of your highlights to an exportable file labeled “My Clippings”.

Paper books offer an even more basic problem of flagging highlights in the first place. I hesitate to markup physical books at the risk of biasing the next reader’s experience in case I loan one out. I’ve experimented with sticky notes and index cards, and while they work (and double as bookmarks), there’s still the problem of digitization. The best answer I have for now is downloading a digital copy of every print book I read, searching for the quotes I’ve made note of, and copy-pasting them to a text file.

Then there’s the problem of presentation. Derek Sivers does a good job of this in my opinion (and his reading list is the inspiration behind this one). It’s simple, and possibly lacks context for would be readers, but feels like a good arrangement for reflecting on books you’ve already read without needing to crack them open again.

Even with a more rigorous quotation tracking system, I’d still like to try and read each book more deeply, and increase retention. I’ve started experimenting with chapter summary bullet points (similar to those found in Atomic Habits) written on index cards for both print and digital books. We’ll see how this scales.

Read More Fiction

There’s not much to say here beyond my entire reading list being non-fiction in January. There aren’t many notes to take for fiction books, save for maybe world building details in the case of a book series, but I’d like to get more on my reading for February.

Currently Reading

Debugging Teams by Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins Sussman