I read between 80 and 120 books a year. Don’t worry if you read 1-2 books a month, that’s a lot of learning in just one year.
I didn’t use to read this much. During my first year at KPMG in the late 1980’s, I probably made it through 2-3 books a year. I guarantee that one or two of those titles was by Clive Cussler.
While heading to the office in downtown St. Louis, I heard a commercial on the mighty KMOX for a new thriller by an unknown author at the time, John Grisham. The title was The Firm. Does that count as a business book? If so, it was my first such business read near the start of an accounting and finance career.
During that same year, Ken Boyd and I were paired together on an audit of a TV station in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. You might recognize Ken’s name as he is a speaker, author, business owner, and course creator (you can find him at AccountingAccidentally.com).
Ken and I were talking about books, and I asked him for a recommendation. Ken mentioned that Barbarians at the Gate was one of his favorite business books. And so I bought it, read it, and loved it. Little did I know that narrative journalism would become my favorite genre, both business and non-business related.
I still didn’t read that much during my short stint at KPMG. I was either prepping for the CPA exam, or I was spending as much free time taking
Since I was now rich compared to living like a pauper in school, I read books on how to buy a car, life insurance, and personal finance. I suppose I should come clean and state the first personal finance book I ever read was authored by, ugh, Charles J. Givens. Millennials, authors like Robert Kiyosaki, Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, and Jane Bryant Quinn were unknowns at the time and even working in different careers.
After leaving KPMG, my next Ken Boyd was Melody Sparrow, a talented controller, CFO, and now a consultant. When I worked for Melody, she ran the Internal Audit department for a family-owned, diversified group of businesses. “Here Mark, read this,” she said while handing me one of the three best accounting books
Ultimately, the small reading snowball started. Some of the most memorable and influential books I would subsequently read included the following:
- The Goal by Eli Goldratt
- The Machine That Changed the World by James Womack
- Activity Based Costing for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses by Doug Hicks
- Reengineering the Corporation by Hammer and Champy
- Thriving on Chaos by Tom Peters
- The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack
I was hooked. The books above became foundational, almost like a business tapestry where every subsequent read somehow fit into what I was learning from the first dozen or so books I consumed.
I also developed a taste for books well beyond business, but helpful in growing as a young accounting and finance professional. I read all three of Dale Carnegie’s books (more like devoured them) and Principled-Centered Leadership which I like more than Covey’s popular and revered 7 Habits book.
However, I was getting frustrated. I had never heard of Mortimer Adler (yet) who wrote How to Read a Book. I had no one to teach me how to retain more of what I was reading.
Somehow, I got the bright idea to write a chapter summary while reading The Endurance,
I can’t explain it. Reading is like a drug. I can’t get enough. But I don’t read for quantity, I read for quality. I read to be entertained, to be informed, or to start a process of deep learning on a topic where I need help for future and current projects.
Perhaps you work long hours and have a family keeping you busy. Don’t have time to read? Then focus on the 1-2 titles that can help you this year in your career. Need help on book suggestions? Find someone you know, like, and trust who reads a lot. Ask them about their favorite 5-10 books. Ask them why they like those books.
Questions to Ponder
Sorry, I’m putting you to work. Now that I’ve been transparent with my origins of reading, it’s your turn, but keep it private. Write down the following answers in your favorite journal:
- Who was your Ken Boyd or Melody Sparrow before you developed a passion for reading? Are those people absent in your life? Find one or two people who can give you book suggestions.
- If you are a reader, can you remember those first 10 or so books leaving a strong impression on you? Were all titles business-related?
- Are you reading enough, or would you like to start adding a few more titles each year?
- Are you taking notes while you read? Should you?