Books are a personal preference for me. Since touching my first hard-cover encyclopedia I knew that I am getting much more out of books than other mediums. I acquire knowledge faster, I immerse myself in new worlds and I am entertained sometimes at the same time.
But reading without a goal (or in our case: a list) in mind can leave you astray. If you don’t have a plan, others will make one for you. You can read about how television and social media are influencing our choices. But the same is present and sometimes amplified in the world of books.
- Read the upcoming novel of a given famous writer.
- Read the bestseller non-fiction book of 2021.
- Get some discounted books.
None of those forces are considering:
- Why are you reading in the first place?
By having a reading list you can make the best choices for yourself and get the most out of reading.
What are Reading Lists?
Reading lists have a bad vibe. They are resources a teacher in school gives you to learn from. Reading lists can contain research papers, articles, poems, and books as well.
But we are not in school.
In the context of this article, we are discussing a specific type of reading list: books you plan to read.
The Benefits of Having a Reading List
During my reading journey, I often felt that I don’t get much out of reading. I didn’t become more knowledgeable, didn’t particularly enjoy the chosen books and I eventually picked up other mediums.
A Reading List is not a definite answer.
You can cross bad books and feel lost with a list in your hand as well, but keeping track of books helped me in several different ways.
1. You will read better books
Under better books, I don’t mean books with better amazon reviews or books with certain prizes.
A reading list can help you read books that are better for you.
Books aligned with your goals, books you like and may like.
To have a list of books you probably enjoy, you need to track book recommendations. You need to collect book ideas. Topics you are interested in, authors your peers recommended to you, books from articles, podcasts, or from any resources. Then you should select the most interesting ones for you.
I won’t finish every book I start. A bad book for me is one that didn’t catch my attention during its first 100 pages. With a reading list in hand, I still have books I haven't finished, but the number of them dramatically decreased.
Reading lists helps you find better books.
2. You will read more without extra effort
Having a reading list makes reading a sort of challenge for me. I have an enemy to defeat. You can call this gamification, habit design, or anything else, but it helps me to read more for sure.
Also, I can stop a bad book without giving up on reading. I don’t have to think about what to read next, because I have strong candidates. I have a list to fall back on.
3. You will be immune to marketing
Without a reading list, life for me is like going to the supermarket when you are extremely hungry. You will naturally gravitate towards candy, chips, and unhealthy foods.
Books stores, webshops, and the most available content on the internet are encouraging you to read the newest titles, the soon-to-be bestsellers, the books which are trendy now. They are using a fair bit of FOMO to get those books into your cart. They are organizing bookshelves to lead you to buy the new titles.
And I can not blame them.
Buying books I didn’t plan to read is a guilty pleasure for me. I can even rationalize it. We can call it serendipity or accidental discovery, but most of the time it's pure marketing.
The problem with buying mostly new titles is that they didn’t pass the test of time yet. Some of them are good, but in the ocean of books, there are much better alternatives.
A reading list makes me prioritize what I want to read. If I buy a new title, another from the list is getting banished. So the new book must be really good.
4. You will be a Better Book Buddy
If you always have a book in your hand in your spare time then probably you got the question fairly often:
You read a lot, right? Can you suggest a good book to me?
Without keeping track of the books I read, probably I would gravitate towards my latest reads. They are fresh, they aren't bad, but they are not the best recommendation I can give to anyone.
You don’t need a written note from every book you read through the years. Most of the time the title is completely enough to recall the experience you had.
Maintain a reading list and give the best book recommendations.
How do you make a good reading list?
A good reading list is aligned with your reading goals. Why are you reading?
To learn? To have a broader understanding of the world around us? To be entertained? To be recharged? To develop skills through books?
All of these can be valid reading goals and the books added to your reading list should be relevant for your goals.
There are several ways of putting together a reading list.
Below I share my 2022 reading list and the logic behind the chosen books.
My Reading List for 2022
I use Notion to collect book recommendations during the year. When the time comes I have a fairly long list of candidates to choose from. Since I am tracking my reading habits for a while I know I usually read between 25-30 books a year.
I am making this competitive and I take into consideration that I probably will impulse-buy some books (as I do every year) not present on the lust. Also, I leave a buffer for changing priorities.
So I am counting on 20 books for 2022.
Probably there will be some which I start and abandon. This is part of the process and I am not worried about it.
I categorize books by genre which are mostly aligned with my reading goals. I plan to grow professionally, expand my horizons, and relax / be lost in other worlds.
Books for professional growth
My main thing is SEO, but I have always felt useful to have at least a basic understanding of areas connected to my niche.
In today's digital landscape everything is connected. Writing, UX, marketing, psychology, and analytics are not just sibling disciplines but they are an integral part of search engine optimization as well.
For this year I collected some theoretical reads, story-rich books, and light-weight marketing books.
- The Cold Start Problem by Andrew Chen
- INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
- Mastering the Craft of Writing by Stephen Wilbers
- Made to Stick by Chip Heath
- Measure What Matters by John Doerr
- Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries
Non-fiction books to explore new topics
There is so much to learn I am not even aware of. I am curious by nature and like to read non-fiction books to go deep into topics previously unknown to me.
Sometimes I get ideas from these books which are fundamentally impacting my life choices, other times I use these books simply for productive procrastination.
- A Perfect Mess by Erc Abrahamson
- Token Economy by Shermin Voshmgir
- Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley
- Courage Is Calling by Ryan Holiday
- Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
- Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Novels and fiction
I like non-fiction books, but I get inspired mostly by made-up worlds and fictional characters.
Dune has been on my reading list for a long-time, so I plan to start reading it. Since I discovered Haruki Murakami’s books, I read one or two every year. 2022 is not different.
While in school everyone hated the recommended books, some resonated with me. The classics stand the test of time and since I started to read more of them I appreciate these books even more. Often they are hard reads. They force you to think, to appreciate complex characters. These stories have great depth.
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Drawing from the lessons of A Perfect Mess I am inviting randomization this year into my reading list.
I know I live in a filter bubble. My friends' recommendations, the content that I see, and the books I encounter are filtered based on my preferences. Putting effort into creating a reading list does not solve this problem.
To discover new authors, genres and stories I opened the Random Book Generator. This site has a database of 1250 of the most highly rated books and the most popular books by year since 2000.
I give a chance to it this year and read:
- Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin
You read my 2022 reading list and my take on the benefits of having a reading list.
The supposed benefits are based on my biased opinion.