In the first three months of 2011, I read one book. In the last two months alone, I’ve read seven. Going from one book in three months to seven books in two months is a significant increase. So what changed? The amazing power of an hour a day.
Two months ago, I got a new job and for the first time in my career, I started taking public transportation. Freed from the burden of driving, I was able to devote my commuting time--roughly an hour a day--to other pursuits, namely reading. Depending on the book, the traffic, and my state of mind, I read 40-50 pages a day, 200-250 pages a week. Even factoring in a few bus rides to write (like I am now) or just listen to music, it’s easy to see how I was able to read so many books in such a short time.
This simply wasn’t possible before. With a thirteen-month-old, I have virtually no time to read at home. When she's awake, we're running around constantly. When she's sleeping, we're trying to pick up the house, make dinner, etc. After all that's done, I’m either too tired or too unmotivated to read. But taking public transportation has given me an opportunity to read again and I’ve seized it. Having that hour each day has allowed me to produce remarkable results.
I thought I would share a running list of the books I've read in 2011. It's my testament to the amazing power of an hour a day. Hopefully, if you're a busy parent, it inspires you to find an hour a day to devote to something important. If nothing else, maybe you'll find a book or two to enjoy.
1. Content Rules, Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman - A good practical guide to creating marketing content. My only criticism is that it felt like a stitched together series of blog posts. Grade B+
2. The New Rules of Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott - A great overview of how the Web and social media have changed the rules of marketing, and why businesses must adapt. Grade: A
3. Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore - If you market high tech products, then this book is a must-read. The tech references are
4. Selling to VITO the Very Important Top Officer, Tony Parinello - There are a few good points about C-suite selling, but they're buried among constant cliches and cheesy writing. Grade: C
5. Emperor of the Air, Ethan Canin - A solid collection of short stories that I first read in college because one of my English professors knew the author. The title story is the best. Grade: A-
6. A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway - While I prefer Hemingway's short stories, this is one of his classic novels. It powerfully captures the disillusionment with WWI. Grade: A
7. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald - Another classic from the 1920's. Jay Gatsby's great design is so tragically flawed, but in a way, you can't blame him for trying. Grade: A
8. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien - My favorite book. Ever. It's about war, yes, but also peace, death and life, hate and love, confusion, pride, shame, anger, and so much more--all in one unforgettable book. Grade: A+
9. The Long Tail, Chris Anderson - Fascinating theory that has revolutionized markets from music, media, and entertainment, to traditional retail. However, I felt the book could have been more succinct. Grade: B+
10. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell - Great analysis of social epidemics, i.e. what causes ideas, products, or messages to spread like viruses. I love the examples he uses to make his points. Grade: A
11. Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson - Had high hopes, since Anderson was a big Hemingway influence, so was a little disappointed. Great characters but the writing didn't blow me away. Grade: B
12. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe - Haven't read this book since college. It's a good look at pride/hubris and the often destructive influence of Western "civilization". Grade: B+
13. Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell - Ok, I'm officially a huge Gladwell fan. Another great book, this one looking at the keys to success, using examples like Bill Gates and the Beatles. Grade: A