16 Books in 15 Weeks


“What’s life without a little challenge,” I said to myself 15 weeks ago.  It was then I decided I ought to read 52 books in 52 weeks (hence the section of this site titled “52 in 52”).  Earlier this week I completed my sixteenth book.  It’s been a time-consuming mission, much to my wife’s chagrin, but not the least bit burdensome.  Really it’s been thoroughly enjoyable, and a habit I look forward to strengthening.

When you break down the numbers, it feels rather impressive. Whether it truly is impressive I don’t care.  Personal victories not designed for the world are often the sweetest, after all.

The list of books finished to date are as follows:

1.  Blind Spot:  Why We Fail to See the Solution Right in Front of Us, Gordon Rugg, 304 pp.

2.  A Praying Life:  Connecting with God in a Distracting World, Paul E. Miller, 277 pp.

3.  The 4-Hour Work Week, Expanded and Updated, Timothy Ferris, 396 pp.

4.  The Weight of Glory and Other Essays, C. S. Lewis, 192 pp.

5.  Blink:  The Power of Thinking without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell, 296 pp.

6.  The New Coffeehouse Investor:  How to Build Wealth, Ignore Wall Street, and Get on with Your Life, Bill Schultheis, 236 pp.

7.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling, 310 pp.

8.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling, 341 pp.

9.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling, 435 pp.

10.  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling, 734 pp.

11.  Multiply, Francis Chan, 333 pp.

12.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling, 870 pp.

13.  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling, 652 pp.

14.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling, 759 pp.

15.  The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 180 pp.

16.  How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie, 288 pp.

I cracked open the first book on November 16, 2014.  103 days later (February 27, 2015), I’ve read a combined 6,603 pages.  For perspective, this would be similar to reading the entire Bible three times; or reading Les Miserables seven times.  That’s incredible! Like training for a marathon, or building a company from scratch, it’s amazing to see what can be done when you work towards something day-in and day-out.  In these 15 weeks, I’ve read an average of 64 pages a day, which, truthfully, does not sound like that many.  Traditionally, a published page holds roughly 250 words. So, if I read 64 pages a day, that means I read approximately 16,000 words a day.  Which also means I’ve read approximately 1,648,000 words in the last 15 weeks!

Of course, these numbers only reflect this particular bit of habitual reading.  I do marketing and social media for my company, so I’m often reading roughly 2-dozen articles a day in addition to this.  Many of you reading this, I’m sure, are in similar positions where you read constantly throughout the day, even if it doesn’t fit between formal bindings.

Do you read articles on your phone? Maybe it would be beneficial for you, if you’re interested in something similar, to read a certain number of articles a day for an extended period, or to research a particular topic of interest.  I think it’s always beneficial to take something you have an affinity for, and strengthen it. I also believe, because research says so, that, in addition to improving mental stamina, reading has a multitude of calming qualities.

A lot of people like and appreciate words, syntax, vocabulary, or something of the sort.  If you’re someone who wants to learn a new word a day (or five words a day), as many do, try reading instead of studying a dictionary or downloading “word-a-day” apps.  Whether it’s in a blog, newspaper, novel, or textbook, if you read 16,000 words a day you’re bound to find at least one you don’t already know!

I realize I’m not doing anything special by flipping a few pages.  But I do find it amazing how determination and perseverance towards a goal build over time.  Rather than thinking me arrogant for sharing, use this as motivation to start working towards something you want to accomplish.  Paint a masterpiece, build a race car, create a new business – utilize time and habits to do something you’ve always wanted!


Kenneth D. Burke

The Power of Thinking Without Thinking


“Decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”

“The difference between good decision-making and bad has less to do with how much information we take in and process than with our ability to focus on only a few particular details.”

Number eight on my voyage to read 52 books in 52 weeks is Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Sounds like a contradictory title, doesn’t it?  It’s not.  What Gladwell discusses in his #1 National Bestseller is what happens in the brain, in our thoughts, during the first two seconds of a situation. He prefers to use the term “unconscious.”  To avoid negative connotation and any confusion with the Freudian subconscious, I believe the term “implicit” would be better.

Blink is about implicit knowledge and associations that affect the way we process items and situations before we begin to consciously think about them.  What we do with these implicit reflexes is critical to daily decision-making.

Studying psychology as an undergrad., this was one of my favorite areas of research, so Blink was a marvelous read for me.  But this book is not intended for me. The New Yorker journalist does well to address a much broader audience than those who’ve explicitly studied neuroscience and psychology.  Thus, the #1 National Bestseller.

Gladwell uses wonderfully told stories and anecdotes to explain how our minds quickly process information by associating or comparing what is in front of us with prior experiences.  This is what, for example, allows expert historians to spot a fake artifact, or social relations experts to know which married couples will still be together in 15 years, within the blink of an eye.  It’s incredible.

It’s not that you should always go with your “gut” reaction.  We’re still capable of misperceptions.  But learning why we have those “gut” reactions helps us to make better decisions.  What good is being better informed if we only get lost in the sea of information? A goal of this book is to help the reader see that sometimes less is more.  Another goal is to help the reader utilize these phenomena to aid their own decision-making.

In college, for my senior thesis, I wrote about what happens in the brain and body when lying, determining if someone is lying, and how that plays out in our corrupt society.  A key component in my research had to do with very small facial expressions, called microexpressions, that elude to a particular response or mental status.  One thing I loved about Blink was Gladwell’s intertwining of research by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen on facial microexpressions – research that was pivotal in my senior thesis.  It’s amazing what can be known when one knows what to look for.

Reading this book will help you understand daily actions and reactions you and others have – like how easy it is for a police officer to make a mistake in a high-intensity situation, or why you have a bad feeling about the man passing you on the street, or why you like some of the things you like.  It’s all very interesting.

On top of that, it’s a very enjoyable and relaxing read – similar to a novel.  Blink is a captivating introduction to a realm many are unfamiliar with.  I highly recommend.


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Kenneth D. Burke