2017 in Reading


I technically managed to finish my 2017 Reading Challenge (26 books) but not in its full spirit as I really only read about 13 regular sized books, the same as last year (using my improved metrics). This major discrepancy can be partially attributed to my counting the 6 audiobooks I listened to under the challenge just to keep track of them. Some imprecise stats from the challenge here.

Similar to last year, I believe the amount of content I read increased this year, even though I read and finished a relatively fewer number of books. I know because I have been keeping track of my focused reading since July ‘16 and this is what I see:

Year Duration Percent1 Daily Avg.
2016 322h 8m2 29% 52.8m
2017 325h 14m 38% 53.5m

These reading stats do not contain most of the academic reading that I did under ‘Research’ or for graduate coursework which I count under ‘Work’:

I read much fewer technical books this year as the focus of my studies had become more research-oriented, which was a nice change.

Public Libraries

One interesting development was that I learned about public libraries and immediately fell in love with them.

In fact, the 6 audiobooks that I mentioned before, they were all thanks due to the Mountain View Public Library (Note to self: Check out Chicago Public Library soon).


One conclusion that I could make from this experience was the amount of retention and comprehension reduces drastically if I listen to an audiobook vs read a book. For example, I can hardly recall the main ideas in two out of six audiobooks that I listened to (Grit and Barking Up the Wrong Tree). Further, taking notes is much harder, so much, that I didn’t even try! However, I have found them useful to finish the books I have been dragging on for years, such as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (and previously Atlas Shrugged). I can always read these books if I feel the need to understand them better. In future, I will avoid listening to an audiobook unless a book is really important to be familiar with and reading it is too much of a drag (Flow comes to mind).

Worth Remembering

Some of my favorite reads from 2016 (non-exhaustive, because I did not always keep track) and some that I would like to remember/revisit:

(Given the struggle it was to find even these links above, I feel it’s time I should invest in a long-term bookmarking service such as PinBoard)


Taking a broader view of my reading patterns, in 2017 I started consuming a lot of political news (totally unlike any year before and untracked in Stats above) primarily to be aware of how the chaotic US presidency may affect me or those around me. I feel it’s time to take a long pause on that and focus on research. In 2018, I plan to reduce my consumption of news and other low-value content and focus on reading more research literature. I have also pledged to read an-even-more-modest 20 books on the Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge.

  1. Percent indicates the fraction of tracked focused time I spent on reading alone (among Work, Research, and others). ↩︎

  2. The duration for 2016 is extrapolated as I only started tracking in the second half of the year. ↩︎