In the first post about this, I explained how I was graced by God to diligently read 100 books in 2017. And then I listed the 100 books, with some statistics about my reading. Then in the second post, I chose the books I liked most in different categories. In this final post, I want to detail out nine benefits and four downsides I found as I read 100 books. I do this to meditate on the experience, especially since I might not ever do it again (at least not in 2018!).
9 Benefits of Reading 100 Books in a Year
As I read the 100 books, here are some benefits I encountered.
1. I had the frequent joy of looking at a book and simply deciding to read it.
One of my favorite experiences throughout the year was picking out the books I decided to read. As you will see from the list below, the majority of my books were not new books from 2017 (although I read a handful of them). The reason for this is simple: for the most part I read books I already had on my shelf. I wanted to read old and new books, and I especially didn’t have the money to buy 100 new books from 2017! As a result, week in and week out, I would go to our bookshelves and just look around. Then I would grab a book, look at the contents, and if it looked good, I just decided to read it, knowing I would actually finish it and do so in the next few days.
So why did I enjoy this so aspect of it so much? Well, of course because there was a sense of accomplishment. But more so, it was because I was able to see a book, think it looked interesting, and just read it. I was able to immerse myself in it and learn from it. In a similar freeing way that people choose movies to watch, I was able to freely and without intimidation choose a book to read. This brings me to my second point.
2. Books became less intimidating.
Before this year, reading a book—even if it was only 150-200 pages—was quite intimidating to me. As I’ll talk about below, I’m a slower reader. And a book is so many pages! But as I kept reading and reading, and as the year went on, I started to look at the book and know I could enjoy it and read it in the next few days. This was a joy.
Now I’ll admit that when life got busier in the middle and end of the year (in the summer, my family and I relocated from Missouri to New Jersey, and I started a new job as a pastor; and in December my wife and I had our second baby girl), I often chose books that were shorter than others on purpose because life was more hectic and busy. But for the most part throughout the year, I wasn’t really intimidated by books anymore. I feel the freedom to read.
3. It increased my ability to sit down and read for longer periods of time
This then also led me to be a person who can sit and read for long periods of time. Before this year, I would hear people who said they could read for two hours and I’d think they were crazy. But now, I know that feeling and love it. In fact, my wife and I decided to put our television away this year (not mainly because of this 100 book challenge), which allowed me frequently at night to just sit and read. I am now no longer somebody who thinks that reading for hours is boring or difficult.
On this note, I discovered this year that one of my favorite things to do now on a day off is to have caffeinated coffee in the afternoon (which I usually don’t do) and read while caffeinated. It’s true that caffeine helps you focus! And what a joy it is to read while super focused. The pages turn much faster, and the mind is interested more easier. I love taking advantage of coffee like this!
4. It increased my reading speed slightly
One might think that doing challenge this means that I’m a pretty fast reader. But in fact, I am certainly not (my wife is for sure, however). I’ve always wanted to be a fast reader. In the years past I have read speed reading books because I wanted to be able to read super fast. I learned all the techniques with my eyes and fingers, but in the end, they only helped if I wanted to skim, and not if I wanted to actually read every word and focus. So I always wanted to read fast, but I was always a below average reader in speed. Specifically, beginning this year, I read anywhere between 180 to 230 words per minute.
As I kept reading and reading this year, however, I noticed I was reading a tad faster. I still am not a speed reader by any means, but because of the practice, I can now read well at anywhere from 250-350 words per minute. This alone makes reading more enjoyable in itself. I doubt I’ll ever get any faster than this, but that is okay. It isn’t about speed, but it is nice to be able to comprehend and think just as much at a faster speed.
5. It filled me with new ideas and sights of glory.
This one seems the most obvious. What happens when you read 15000+ pages in a year? Well for one, you gain many new thoughts and ideas you’ve never thought of before. This is where my reviewing the books on Goodreads came in. These ‘reviews’ were more just journaling thoughts and quotes from the books as I went. This allowed me to recount the main and transformative ideas I encountered.
But I say “sights of glory” on purpose as well. It didn’t just fill my head with ideas. Rather, since the majority were biblical, Christian books, they allowed me to see the glory of God in new ways. In this, my soul was energized and refreshed. If I read 100 non-Christian books, or just novels, I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it. But continually seeing new glories fueled me in a unique way.
6. It reminded me of glorious ideas.
I differentiate this one from #5 above for a purpose. I don’t think reading books, or even reading the Bible, is only or mainly about new ideas. Rather, God used the books this year probably to remind me of glorious I forgot more than he did to show me new ones. What I mean by this is that I had read books like Piper’s Spectacular Sins before. So why do it again? Well, to start, I definitely forget a lot of what I read. But mainly, I do it because as I read the book, Piper again used Scripture to remind me of the glorious truth that Jesus truly is central in all historical event. He reminded me of something I hadn’t seen as clearly in years, that is, that God is orchestrating every event in history (even bad, sinful events!) to bring the most glory to Christ. In this way, over and over the 100 books reminded me of glories.
7. It gave me an appreciation of the differences between and benefits of newer and older books.
It was interesting as I read to go back and forth between books that are newer to ones from the 1600s through 1800s, and then throughout the early and mid 1900s. I got an appreciation for what different time periods brought. Specifically, I found some of the Puritan books I read (Bunyan, Owen, etc.) to be filled with deep meditations on God and Scripture. I then found the books in the early 1900s to be extremely devotional and spiritual in a great way. I loved reading Spurgeon, Bounds, Murray, and Tozer. And then as the books got later in the 20th and into the 21st century, they became easier to read and more polished. All were beneficial in their own right, but they were quite different.
8. It led me to find a better way to pray and read my Bible in the morning.
This is one of my favorite benefits from the whole process. As the year went on, and especially as I started to realize how hard it would be to keep it up during busier seasons, I decided to read a chapter of a book (on prayer, usually) at the beginning of my devotional time with God in the morning. And I started loving doing this! For one, it stirred me to pray because I was reading about prayer. But even more importantly I think, it jump started my mind so that afterwards when I read the Bible and prayed, I was more alert. I have continued to do this all year and plan on continuing.
As a side note on this, one might think that all this reading took away from my Bible reading. But I think it didn’t. In fact, I think it made reading the Bible easier and more interesting because 1) reading was becoming more normal, and so reading 3 chapters of the Bible wasn’t difficult; 2) I was reading other books about the Bible; and 3) as I read in the morning before my time in the Bible, my mind was jumpstarted by the time I got to the Word. All that being said, I was able to also read through the Bible again this year.
9. Reading now is clearly a habit.
This is maybe the most overarching and life-changing benefit of all. Reading now—and reading a decent amount—is somewhat habitual now. They say it takes around 30 days to establish a habit. And so, reading about 45 pages a day led me to seeing frequent reading as a habit. To prove this, I actually finished the reading challenge by Dec. 17th. And I immediately felt strange. I wasn’t officially reading anything! But habitually, I really wanted to read. And I still do. As of right now, I am reading (more slowly!) through Edwards’ Freedom of the Will.
4 Downsides of Reading 100 Books in a Year
With those said, here are the downsides I found of reading 100 books in a year.
1. I admittedly chose books sometimes due to size, rather than interest.
This is a small downside, but I did notice that especially when times were busy in the middle of the year, I started to prefer books based on size. After all, the goal was 100 books right? As a result, if I were to do something again, I would definitely do it according to page number. This way, I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed if I did choose the 300-400 page book, because it counted the same. I would then feel more free to choose 500 page books I’ve been wanting to read, but wasn’t able to this year because they count just as much as a small prayer book by E.M. Bounds.
2. There was sometimes a constant pressure to keep going.
I admit, at times (especially when we were moving) it was an added stress. I never gave up because I always felt the satisfaction outweighed the stress, but I would by lying if there wasn’t a few times where I was a tad overwhelmed with keeping up.
3. It was clearly a little too quick and too much.
This is illustrated by the fact that I honestly forgot about reading a couple whole books. Yes, you read that right. I looked at the list the other day, and forgot that I actually read two books. I had to go back and read my own reviews to see that I actually did read them. So why did this happen? Well I read too quick and too much. It’s that simple. Sure, it was good for me to read a lot. Sure, I got a lot of info. But I think I went over my personal threshold, and it showed by the fact that I forgot reading entire books.
4. I had less ability to dwell and think.
This was clearly and demonstrably the biggest downside. It builds off of #3 above. It was above my threshold, yes, but even more importantly, it really stifled my ability and desire to stop and dwell on an idea. I knew I had to finish the book in an average of three days. I’d underline and highlight, and I’d quickly review each book, but I knew I wouldn’t go back and really dwell on ideas—at least not frequently. Here on this blog, I was able to write some Quote Posts about some really good quotes, and some of my Articles are based off of things I read, but on the whole, even if a book had some really great ideas, I had to just move on to the next book.
I’ve heard John Piper say many times that colleges are teaching students to read wrong by assigning so many books. (In fact, I heard him say this in a recording this year as I was doing this!) Why does he say this? Because he says students are being taught to read a lot and not really think and dig. He says that if you rake, you get leaves. If you dig, you get diamonds.
And this is exactly what I would say is the greatest downside of reading 100 books in one year. I got a lot of leaves, and I missed numerous diamonds.
So what if I read just 30 of the best books of the 100, and spent roughly the same amount of time reading and thinking and journaling and blogging about them? I think I would be much better off.
Will I Be Doing It Again?
Will I be reading 100 books like this again? Most likely not. And here's why. This last downside, namely, #4 about having less ability to dwell and dig, is what I think dominates when I consider doing it again. I benefited much from reading 100 books in a year. I am now in an established, joyful habit of reading. Books really don’t intimidate me anymore. But I overdid it on the amount read. As a result, I got a lot of leaves when there were diamonds to be cherished. And so, my goal now is to still read habitually and a lot, but to think more. My plan is to spend the same amount of effort, but not to get through the same amount of material.
For in the end, the goal is to really behold the glory I see. Sadly, I know there were a lot of glories I saw in the moment when I was reading the page, but that I then left behind too quickly.
I want to read brilliant and different men and women and see and taste the glories they tasted. When I read 100 books in a year, I often skimmed when I could've been savoring. When I read this much, I ironically missed out on much. I, therefore, plan on doing less reading, but hopefully will spend equal amount of time on books (reading and thinking about them), and will be changed even more by seeing deeper glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) as I do this.