Note: This is part of a weekend bucket list series I’m doing throughout 2015 that is focused on fun things to do during retirement (i.e. bucket list items). I hope you enjoy them and use them as inspiration for your own adventures.  I’m also doing a giveaway in conjunction with the series that you can read more about below.

One of the goals on my bucket list is to read 500 books between ages 40 and 50. Is reading on your bucket list? If not, it should be. Why is regular reading so important? How will you benefit from reading more? How can you make it through dozens of books in the typical year? What have I read so far on my way to 500 books in 10 years? Read on to find out. 🙂

Why You Should Read More

It keeps your mind sharp. Recent studies show that engaging your brain keeps it sharp, improves your vocabulary, improves your memory, helps improve your reasoning ability and might even help delay the symptoms or onset of dementia.

It inspires you to do interesting things. We all want to live full and interesting lives. Reading gives you ideas of things to do and then inspires you to do them. It’s difficult to read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, without being inspired to get up off the couch and plan your own hike. If you read My Life in France by Julia Child, you’ll probably want to sign up for cooking classes or maybe even plan a trip to Paris. Reading is a great way to get ideas and inspiration for your bucket list.

It gives you ideas for self-improvement. Getting Things Done helped me to bring some sanity to my To-Do list. The Power of Habit helped me to understand how I can get rid of bad habits and create good ones. On Writing helped me to improve my writing. Books can help make a better you. As Socrates once said: “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”

It’s fun and a low cost form of entertainment. I spend most Saturday mornings on the couch with a cup of coffee and whatever book I happen to be reading. Not only is it enjoyable and relaxing, but it’s cheap entertainment (I get most of what I read from either the library or Amazon).

So in summary, reading gives you a better vocabulary. It makes you smarter and more interesting. It helps keep your mind sharp and improves your memory. It makes you a better conversationalist. It inspires you to do fun and interesting things. It’s great entertainment.  That’s not a bad list of benefits.

How to Read More

Life is busy, so if you want to read more, you need to make it a priority. That said, here are a few tricks that helped me read more than 50 books last year.

Listen to audio books. I drive about 25 minutes to work every day (and 25 minutes home) and spend additional time driving to and from appointments. On average, I probably spend about 90 minutes in the car each day. Rather than listening to the radio, I listen to books. My local library has an App that allows me to download audio books for free, so I always have something to listen to. A little less than half of my reading list last year was audio books.

Speed-reading. I used to be a painfully slow reader, so a while back I did a learning challenge on speed-reading. Read through the article for ways to test and improve your reading speed.

Always take your book with you. I got this tip from Stephen King in his book On Writing. Everywhere I go I either have a book or my iPod with me. You’d be amazed at how much time you spend in waiting rooms, in line or otherwise standing around doing nothing. Take your book along and make use of the time.

Read stuff that you enjoy. If you want to read War and Peace, more power to you, but don’t feel pressure to read things just because they’re classics. Read what you enjoy. If you look through my list below you’ll see Steinbeck and Dickens, but you’ll also see about a half-dozen Jack Reacher novels, which are the literary equivalent of junk food. Who cares? I like them. I took a detective fiction class in college and since then I’ve always appreciated the genre. Read what you enjoy and you’ll read more.

Bucket List Books: What I’ve Read the Last Two Years

Below is a list of what I read during the first 2 years of my 10-year goal. I put Amazon links to each book in case you’d like to learn more about a particular book and possibly add it to your own reading list.

2013 (Age 40)

  1. Wool, Hugh Howey
  2. Do The Work, Steven Pressfield
  3. The Art of Non-Conformity, Chris Guillebeau
  4. Boomerang, Michael Lewis
  5. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand
  6. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity, David Allen
  7. Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, Tony Horwitz
  8. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
  9. The Big Short, Michael Lewis
  10. The Glass Castle: A Memoir, Jeannette Walls
  11. My Life in France, Julia Child
  12. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  13. The Four Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss
  14. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne
  15. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King
  16. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris
  17. The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern, Victor David Hansen
  18. World War Z, Max Brooks
  19. Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, Piers Paul Read
  20. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, Michael Pollan
  21. Grand Ambition, G. Bruce Knecht
  22. Child of God, Cormack McCarthy
  23. Everyman, Phillip Roth
  24. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Anthony Bordain
  25. Tuesdays With Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man and Life’s Greatest Lesson, Mitch Albom
  26. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Missions That Killed Osama Bin Laden, Mark Owen

2014 (Age 41)

  1. Jack London: An American Life, Earle Labor
  2. The Graveyard Book, Niel Gaiman
  3. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, Rolf Potts
  4. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
  5. Walden, Henry David Thoreau
  6. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, Nathaniel Philbrick
  7. The Sea Wolf, Jack London
  8. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
  9. Open: An Autobiography, Andre Agassi
  10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
  12. My First Summer in the Sierra, John Muir
  13. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
  14. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  15. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
  16. Start Something that Matters, Blake Mycoskie
  17. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
  18. Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson
  19. Roughing It, Mark Twain
  20. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, James Thurber
  21. The Martian, Andy Weir
  22. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
  23. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
  24. Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War, John Lukacs
  25. White Fang, Jack London
  26. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  27. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson
  28. John Barleycorn, Jack London
  29. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
  30. Travels With Charley: In Search of America, John Steinbeck
  31. The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World, Stephen Mansfield
  32. The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer
  33. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering American on the Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson
  34. Moneyball, Michael Lewis
  35. A Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin
  36. Wooden On Leadership, John Wooden
  37. The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, Chris Guillebeau
  38. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, Joel Dicker
  39. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lax, Rebecca Skloot
  40. The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin
  41. 61 Hours, Lee Child
  42. 12 Years A Slave, Solomon Northup
  43. Worth Dying For, Lee Child
  44. A Wanted Man, Lee Child
  45. Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
  46. Never Go Back, Lee Child
  47. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  48. River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, Candice Millard
  49. We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance, David Howarth
  50. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  51. The Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King
  52. Lawerence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle Ease, Scott Anderson
  53. Sailing Alone Around the World, Joshua Slocum
  54. One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaska Odyssey, Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke

Giveaway: One of my favorite books last year was Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum. In the 1890s, he became the first person to sail alone around the world and then he wrote a book about it. He’s actually a really good writer, so in addition to being a great adventure tale, it’s a story well told. This week’s giveaway winner is a subscriber from our email updates list (congrats Karl!) so I’m sending him a copy of the book. Tune into future posts for more giveaways.

Note:  Since I have my own books for sale on Amazon, I am a part of their Amazon Affiliate program.  The links above are affiliate links, which simply means that if you buy a book after clicking one of the links, Amazon (at no additional cost to you) will pay me a small commission that I use to help cover the costs of this site.  That’s not why I recommend the books, of course, but I wanted to be sure to make you aware of it.

Thoughts on losing a loved one
Lunch at the Eiffel Tower