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How I Read 50 Books in a Year

Jerry Zhang
Jerry Zhang

3 min read

When asked “If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?”, Bill Gates responded, “Being able to read superfast.”

While most of us aren’t Bill Gates, we understand that knowledge opens the door to opportunity, and books are one of the best ways to obtain knowledge. However, we are all busy with our lives. In this modern day and age, how does one manage to make time to read at all?


See, I’ve never really been an avid reader as a kid. But as a musician with perfect pitch, I was really good at listening and remembering the things I heard. I loved listening to cassette tapes and CDs, and now I love watching YouTube videos.

Well wait, isn’t that cheating? Skeptics will claim that with audiobooks, one is actually listening to the book rather than reading the book.

I see reading and listening both as ways to consume content. How does a blind person read? By feeling Braille. Future generations might even come up with ways to consume content that we cannot even hope to imagine, perhaps by directly injecting information directly into one’s brain.

But for now, we can use our eyes and ears, or if we’re blind, by feel.

I’m waiting for the day we can smell and taste to consume information. Wait, that already exists? Yeah! It’s called cooking and eating. Or making the perfume and smelling the perfume.

Audiobook Advantages

The difference between reading and listening to a book is that listening is more passive, requiring less effort. This frees me up to do other mindless tasks, such as: driving, exercising, or cleaning. I am killing two birds with one stone.

If you think about it, all that time spent in a year is quite significant. Just as an example, let’s say that I spend 1 hour a day driving and 30 minutes a day exercising. That’s over 500 hours of time in a year!

The average length of an audiobook I listen to is about 20 hours. That means I can listen to 25 books in a year! This does not include using features like adjusting the speed of the audiobook. In this example, listening to audiobook on double speed would allow you to listen to 50 books in a year!

I can listen to audiobooks on my drive to and from work. When my eyes are tired, I don’t have to stop enjoying the goodness of a book.

Choosing Whether to Listen or Read a Book

We are all busy nowadays–I try to strike a balance between choosing whether to read or listen to a book. My strategy is as follows:

  • Books I will sit down and read physically:
  • I want to know every detail about a book
  • I want to take notes on a book (textbooks or other technical books)
  • Books I will listen to:
  • I want a general overview of the book
  • I want to know more than Wikipedia but I do not need to out-Jeopardy my history professor

Books I like to listen to include biographies, history, and philosophy. Listening to these books provides me with a big picture view of the topic. Plus, when the book goes into detail on a specific incident, it’s like listening to a story narrated to you, which is very nice.

Where To Get Audiobooks?

I use Audible and love it so much that I have the highest tier plan, which gives me 24 audiobooks a year. I would say 88% of my non-academic knowledge comes from Audible. For the amount of knowledge I’ve gained, it’s totally worth the cost. Click here for a free trial and a free book you get to keep even if you cancel!

For those looking for free alternatives, you can use Overdrive. Just sign up for a library card at your local public library, and start renting audiobooks. Public libraries will have a limit on the number of audiobooks available, so you may need to wait in line until your turn. You will also only have 14 days to finish it before returning it. Despite the inconveniences, this is completely free.

Just a word of warning though: audiobooks are incredibly addicting. Before you know it, you will be swimming in massive amounts of knowledge you never thought you could fit into your brain!

Happy reading/listening! Comment below on ways that you make time for reading!


Jerry Zhang

Programmer, YouTuber, and amateur musician. I like to write too!