Have you ever thought about the value of reading? For me, reading is living. Take the 12 books in 12 months reading challenge with me! Learn how I make time to read and why reading is such a priority.
Reading physical, tangible books helps me learn new information, disconnect from the busyness of the digital world, calm my mind down, develop my brain’s potential, and reflect on the past, present, and future, which leads to new creative ideas. That’s why reading is living.
Reading Challenge Introduction
Reading is hard these days. Why? Because life is digital and it is busy. In today’s always-on environment, mental health is a luxury, and so is aloneness. People are overwhelmed with having to eat on the go, think on the go, and live on the go.
Cell phone, social media, texting, tweeting, traffic, no time to sleep or breathe – that is how life is for many of us today. My life was like that just a few months ago, and I ended up quitting my job at a SaaS tech startup in February of 2019 in order to prioritize my needs.
As an introvert, I need aloneness. need quiet time, no TV, no music, no chatter, no distractions. As a human, I need breathing room in my life.
In the last 10 months, since I quit my job, I spent time doing many important things, such as ministry, breathing, thinking, creating art collection #PaintingsWithTales, designing almost 200 products for my Christian shop, journaling, reflecting, healing, speaking publicly about my life story, and blogging about God’s work in and through me.
And I spent time reading.
Reading in my home office: the room with a cozy grey leather chaise and a soft blanket over it, a cup of hot black tea with Georgia Honey, a candle, and complete silence. That’s what self-care looks like in my life.
After I quit my tech job as a Director of Marketing, I vowed to read 12 books in 12 months, and I did. Let me tell you why I did this reading challenge, why I am going to continue doing it in 2020, and why I think YOU, too, should join this reading challenge.
Why Read 12 Books In 12 Months
The first reason to do the 12 books in 12 months reading challenge is to get quiet. Simply make time for yourself to be alone and quiet. When I say “quite” what I mean is getting quiet in your headspace, even if you are reading in a public place, such as lunchroom at work or airport.
The second reason to do the 12 books in 12 months reading challenge is to gain perspective. When you’re running around with your head cut off, which is pretty much all of us in modern society, you have no chance to think about your thinking. You have no perspective. You’re stuck in an everyday Groundhog Day. You need to step back. You need to look at everything from afar. And you need to hear what others think, which you discover from good books. Let me clarify: I am not inviting you to read novels. I am challenging you to read self-help, spirituality, religion, science, and inspiring autobiographies. By doing so, you expand your thinking horizons, step outside your Groundhog-Day world, and gain a new perspective.
The third reason to do the 12 books in 12 months reading challenge is to learn something new, interesting, unexpected, and creative. Your brain deserves to be challenged, otherwise, you make yourself vulnerable to dementia and other brain deterioration diseases. Work your brain. You need it and you deserve it. The benefits of investing time into caring for your brain re significant and long-lasting.
The fourth reason to do the 12 books in 12 months reading challenge is to improve your creativity. When you get into the minds and hearts of great writers, scientists, psychologists, spiritual leaders, speakers, poets, and experts, you get to spark curiosity in your own mind and heart. You start generating new ideas. You explode with genuine creativity. It’s priceless.
The fifth reason to do the 12 books in 12 months reading challenge is to enhance your vocabulary. People tell me all the time that my speaking skills impress them but my vocabulary shocks them., They ask when and where I was taught English. The truth is this: I taught myself while I was homeless in 2009. Yes, listening to Frank Sinatra and reading good books aloud is my secret to a strong vocabulary. You owe it to yourself to improve your language skills, no matter how many languages you speak. Having oratory skills the kind of competitive advantage that no one can take away from you. Being a communicator with a strong vocabulary to express yourself is going to serve you not only professionally but personally as well.
Let’s summarize: I shared with you the following five reasons to read 12 books in 12 months with me.
Five Reasons To Read
- Get quiet
- Gain perspective
- Learn something new
- Improve your creativity
- Enhance your vocabulary
How To Read 12 Books In 12 Months
Doing this reading challenge and reading 12 books in 12 months can be tough because reading requires time and your attention. So, you need to commit to making the time.
Carry a book in your purse and read while waiting at a dentist’s office, at your annual physical checkup, at your OBGYN, at a car care place where you get your car detailed, at a grocery store in line, and at a restaurant while waiting for your order.
Wake up 30 minutes earlier and go to bed 30 minutes before your normal time. Spend this one hour reading. At lunch, don’t gossip on the phone or in-person with colleagues. Instead, invest lunch into your self-care by dedicating your time to reading.
If you typically get your nails done, don’t drink wine and scroll through social media while getting mani and pedi at a salon. Read instead.
In 2019, I read books while also walking 10,000 steps a day around my neighborhood. You can’t carry a heavy book while walking for a long time, but you get the idea. You can read on a treadmill as well.
Let’s summarize my tips for how to read 12 books in 12 months.
How To Find Time To Read
- Read while in a car wash
- Read while at lunch
- Read while waiting for your doctor
- Read while getting your mani and pedi
- Read while waiting for your food at a restaurant
- Read while in line at the store
- Read while getting your hair done
- Read while walking
- Read early in the morning
- Read before bed
The Benefits of Reading
I am a survivor of severe childhood abuse. I also experienced domestic violence in a foreign country after emigrating to America from Russia as a mail-ordered bride. I endured narcissistic abuse, too, and was on the edge of suicide.
The list of adversity I faced on my life journey goes on and on but one thing for sure: reading saved my life, helped me develop my intellect and oratory skills, allowed me to revive myself after abuse, provided the foundation for teaching myself English while homeless, encouraged me to get an MBA from GA State, and enticed me to conquer my addictions.
Also, reading the Bible, I was able to grow in my relationship with God, understand and embrace my identity in Christ, create #52Devotionals ebook, and help encourage and empower women with my Biblical Affirmations globally. If you haven’t downloaded my free ebook with 52 devotionals, get it now and learn what God says about you.
Reading Books Every Day Saved My Life
As a child, I grew up in a very sad, oppressive, abusive environment. There was no entertainment, only hard physical work since I was little. I farmed, cooked, cleaned, did laundry in a bathtub by hand, and the list goes on.
There was only one thing available to me as a way to escape my misery and pain: books. I would sit on an old bench outside our old Soviet condominium building that was practically falling apart. And I would read. Neither the heat of the dry Summer in Kursk, Russia nor the loneliness of the neighborhood when all other kids were in camps having fun – nothing could stop me. I read and read. Later, I discovered libraries and spent hours there every week. I think Russian libraries are sacred places of peace and valuable discoveries that have the power to change your future forever.
I dreamed of a better future away from my family. I imagined that someday I will be in a safe and quiet home alone, at peace. And that’s how I live today my life in America. My dreams came true, thanks to reading, which fueled my hope and enticed my vivid imagination.
I read poetry, novels, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and autobiographies.
Books inspired me to persevere after I survived suicide twice, at 11 and 12. I discovered self-help and such authors as Louise Hay, Dale Carnegie, Eric Berne, and many others. I started working on myself and never tried to kill myself again. I’m 36 as these words are being typed up on my MacBook Pro with my very own two hands into WordPress.
I’m healthy and joyful. I survived and I am thriving – all because of books. I give God all the glory for my story and I thank Him for good books.
Reading Helped My Car Accident Recovery
In 2018, I was rear-ended in a car accident and suffered some injuries, including concussion and stuttering. While neurologists and other doctors wanted to fill me up with drugs, I chose a plant-based diet and good books to restore my brain’s health. And it worked!
I read Dr. Leaf’s “Switch On Your Brain” to get my car accident recovery going. I followed everything in the book and the workbook.
When I showed up to the Concussion Institute to test my cognitive functioning after a few weeks of recovery, they were in awe and said they had never seen anyone score as high as I did on their tests.
Glory to God and thanks to my habit of reading good books!
Reading Helped Me Revive Myself After Abuse
When my mom would beat the life out of me in my early years, I would soothe myself and try to get grounded and sane in the midst of everyday insanity of alcoholism, abuse, and adultery, which consistently surrounded me in my family home.
When in 2008-2009, after emigrating to America as a mail-ordered bride, I was abused by Prince Charming who brought me here, eventually, the Dunwoody Police Department rescued me and delivered me to a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Stone Mountain, GA, called International Women’s House. There, homeless and helpless, devastated and disoriented, I read and read, and I taught myself English. I prepared for the Academic English test, passed, and was accepted to the Professional MBA (PMBA) at Georgia State University in 2011. I read every day, not only school books but various other books. I graduated with a 3.74 GPA in 2013.
When in 2016-2017, after getting married and enduring narcissistic abuse, being exposed to severe mental cruelty and eventually entering a season of suicidal depression, I turned to books. And I’m still here, writing this blog for you, years later. Glory to God and thanks to good, helpful books.
Reading always helped me revive myself after abuse.
Reading Aloud Helped Me Learn English
I typically read aloud. It helped me learn English in 18 months. I marked, translated to Russian, and memorized in English all the sentences I didn’t understand. With time, there were fewer and fewer sentences, while my ability to read, speak, and comprehend English improved day-by-day, or should I say more accurately book-by-book. I taught myself English by listening to Frank Sinatra and reading aloud, and graduated with an MBA from Georgia State University, as well as wrote and published a goal-setting book called “Turn Your Dreams And Wants Into Achievable SMART Goals!“
Reading aloud prevents me from falling asleep, allows me to better comprehend the reading material, enables me to expand my vocabulary, and encourages me to process what I’m reading in multiple ways.
Reading Aloud Helped Me Get Into a University
I worked at a courthouse in Downtown Atlanta while studying for the Academic English test. I’d wake up at 4 am daily and read aloud, memorize sentences, paragraphs, and ideas, and use all the new material in my conversations at work. On January 24th, 2011, I passed the test. Shortly thereafter, Georgia State University accepted me to its PMB program on a partial scholarship and even waved GMAT for me. Thanks, God, for reading!
Reading Helped Conquer My Food Addiction
Anxiety can often lead many of us to over-eating and binge-eating. This became a struggle for me in recent years. I have a rule: reading instead of eating. If I’m anxious, reading is a much healthier way to soothe myself than eating for no reason. Unless, I’m hungry of course, which isn’t the case with emotional binge-eating. Reading instead of eating! It helped me a lot.
Summary – 12 Books In 12 Months
Reading is good for you. It’s the most peaceful hobby by far. It’s also cheap compared to my hobby of travel in the past or my painting adventures, which cost a lot of money!
Reading offers plenty of benefits to your physical wellbeing through promoting relaxation and sleep, to your mental health through rewiring your brain for higher intelligence and empathy, to your career through new knowledge and skills, and to your quality of life in general through enticing your cognitive functioning, as well as sparking curiosity and creativity.
Frequently Asked Questions About Reading
According to Big Think, reading rewires your brain for more intelligence and empathy. According to Blink List, on average, CEOs read 60 books per year because it helps them generate new business ideas. According to Sleep Advisor, reading allows for better sleep and improves concentration. That being said, according to The Guardian, we all need to take a look at what we read, when we read and what we get from reading. Books are neither medicine nor therapy. They should also not serve as artefacts that pull you into darkness.
Reading is good for your mental wellbeing, physical health, creativity, focus, sleep, intellect, vocabulary, mindfulness, and cognitive function.
There are many studies that force people to obsess with how fast they should read. Focusing on your speed of reading instead of the quality of your comprehension will force you into stressing yourself out and not enjoying your reading challenge but falling into the comparison trap instead. You should read at the speed at which you enjoy reading, can fully comprehend the reading material, and remember what you read. That’s your speed of reading to strive for, you’re welcome.
I challenge you to take this reading challenge and read 12 books in 12 months with me. If that’s too much work, just start somewhere and read something. That being said, you do need a reading goal, so strive for 12 books in a year but don’t beat yourself up if you can only tread 10.5. Remember your why: you want to improve your health, not to stress yourself out to the point of hating reading. Different people read different books at a different speed. Some people read small books, some people say they read books but actually they listen to them and can’t recall anything they heard because they weren’t even paying any attention. So, don’t compare yourself to others. Read 12 books. Try.
Every month in your life is not the same. Some months you have five weeks, so there are ten days of weekends and you can read a lot. Other months you’re traveling for work and you don’t even have time to shower properly. Don’t obsess with numbers. Instead, set an annual goal of reading 12 books in 12 months and just go for it at your own pace, depending on your personal and professional circumstances.
You should read those books that challenge you intellectually, mentally, spiritually, culturally, and in every other aspect of you as a complex human. Read books that feature unique scientific discoveries. Read self-help books. Read the Bible. Read the brain research and how YOU work. Read inspirational biographies from which you can learn.
Falling asleep while reading is normal and is one of the benefits of reading, actually. But if relaxation is not time-appropriate, walk while reading. Also, note-taking helps. Write out important breakthroughs you experience while reading. Capture your questions to yourself to think about or to research further. Finally, if you don’t want to fall asleep while reading, don’t get too comfortable.
The best way to remember what you read is to read aloud, take notes of important points, create questions to yourself, and, most importantly, share with someone what you read. If you teach somebody what you’ve learned from reading, you’ll remember that knowledge for a long time as compared to the knowledge you acquire but do not share with anyone.
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Reading Challenge 2019
Let me share what books I read in 2019 and why. I’ll also briefly summarize what I learned. My goal is to encourage you to read these books because they opened up my eyes to important life matters, and I hope the same will happen for you. We must always grow and never be stagnant.
The Richest Man In Babylon was recommended by Jim Rohn in every video of his I ever listened, which are almost all of them. After hearing about this book’s impact on his finances and mindset, I bought it and read it in a day, while walking 10,000 steps outside up and down the hills.
To this day, the neighbors comment about it: apparently, no one had ever seen a walking reader of a physical book around here LOL.
This is a very interesting read.
The book captivated me not only with actual discoveries of “blogging” from thousands of years ago, which of course were words written on stones, but also with the impact of the financial wisdom from back then of the authors of this discovery who implemented the money-tips taught by the richest man in Babylon. They got out of debt and saved. This was really the most impactful part of this common-sense wisdom.
I was also touched by the fact that slaves saved money to buy themselves out of slavery. I see how these days, we are all slaves to debts, only it’s not as obvious as slavery thousands of years ago.
I’ve learned faith, fortitude, and felicity from this book.
The School of Greatness is a good book, only observing its author’s social media presence leads me to believe he doesn’t walk his talk. This book offers his personal stories of how he grew up and what life was like in his family, as well as how he got hit by depression, which is all too familiar.
I took some interesting lessons from this book: a productive routine is an essential part of productive life and also sharing our personal stories can really empower people. I was empowered by the story of Lewis Howes.
He also explains in detail how positive self-care habits significantly impacted his wellbeing and business.
Law of Success is one of three books by Napoleon Hill I read in 2019. I admire his writing, though he himself never followed his own advice, was unhappy in all his marriages, divorced multiple times, ended up penniless, and always struggles in his professional relationships. On the other hand, I believe that God uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect plan.
With that in mind, I’m convinced – by the positive impact Napoleon Hill had on humanity, producing thousands of times more millionaires than any other self-help author, – that Napoleon Hill was used by God to communicate a divine message to the people of God’s kingdom.
This specific book is great! It explains step-by-step how success is achieved and what are all of its components. Regardless of whether or not Napoleon Hill used his own advice, I noticed that reading and applying his advice in my life does produce positive results. I recommend this book.
The Science of Personal Achievement book literally changed my life. It enticed me to write out my Chief Definitely Aim in Life. I delayed doing so because it was hard to think about putting something so significant on paper. I was doubting if what I came up with was actually the right aim.
However, since I did that, I’ve noticed huge positive changes in my life that I can’t explain, other than I got clear, I prayed about my aim, and the Holy Spirit started working in and through me to give me what I have asked.
Like I said in my podcast episode called “Gratitude Journal,” 2019 was the best year of my life, and I believe that writing out my Chief Definite Aim had a lot to do with it. I recommend this book if you plan to do the work.
How To Own Your Own Mind really helped me gain perspective on the issues in our society when it comes to identity for all Christian women. This book helped me clarify my mission in regard to my ministry, Online Discipleship For Women, and allowed me to understand more about mental manipulation. Since I experienced narcissistic abuse in 2016-2016 in my marriage, I have been on a journey of gaining awareness of mental games and how people use them to deceive each other, as well as why.
I’ve learned what I need to do to protect my mind, identity, purpose, mental health, and identity. This has been tremendously useful when I began experiencing attacks on my ministry from some new people I recently met.
If you want to be your own person, this book is a gem.
HBR’S Top 10 on Leadership is an excellent book if you want to develop your own perspective on leadership. This book is a summary of ten best leadership books, each of which has the most valuable point presented frokm that specific author. So, there are ten perspectives on leadership explained in this one book.
Naturally, since this is a collection of ten books by ten different authors, it contains some competing points of view.
At first, I was confused.
Then, I realized that this isn’t a manual for leadership. This rather is a collection of various competing leadership ideas that you can review and ponder so that you can decide what kind of leader you want to be.
This book is food for thought, not a manual to follow. It was an interesting read! I got a lot of value out of this read and I recommend it if critical thinking and introspection are your cup of tea.
Twelve Rules for Life was given to me on a rainy day in March of 2019 by one of my marketing clients (I did marketing consulting after I quit my Director of Marketing job in tech). The book was hardcover and huge. And it was a gift that changed me in many ways, very impactful read!
First of all, Jordan Petterson’s writing style is a combination of sarcasm, research, humor, and some genuine mocking of some everyday people. I was caught off guard at first, but then, I subscribed to his YouTube channel and Instagram, god to see his true passion for helping others, and realized that he’s been gifted with a truth-telling spiritual gift.
His book offers an interesting perspective on life and such matters as personal initiative, responsibility, accountability, as well as mental health and how to protect it. He shares real-life stories from his childhood, how his close friend committed suicide, how it impacted him, and what he has learned about himself as a human in the broken would.
He explains how there’s a monster inside each of us, and it’s our responsibility to choose kindness and productivity instead of choosing to be monsters and wasting our lives or hurting others.
The Maps of Meaning is a very interesting book by Jordan Peterson, however it is too similar to Dr. Eric Berne’s “Games People Play” and “What Do You Say After You Say Hello?” which I discuss below in a moment.
Because I am intimately familiar with Dr. Berne’s transactional analysis theory, Jordan Petterson’s Maps of Meaning didn’t feel to me like his own scientific or practical work at all, though I did a lot out of it just listening to his thoughts on the same matters Eric Berne addresses in his analysis.
If you’re not familiar with Dr. Berne, you will get a lot of value out of Jordan Peterson’s book “The Maps of Meaning.”
When Things Go Sideways is a short collection of devotionals based on the cancer-journey of Carol Frey whom I met at my marketing client’s annual party where this book was given to me as a gift.
Carol writes with a unique sense of humor, and I was touched by how highly she re[peatly spoke of her husband. They invited me to celebrate Thanksgiving 2019 with their family, and it was delightful.
I got to share my feedback on this book with the author and also to bless their family with some of my poetry. This book is very vulnerable.
Brain’s Way of Healing is a remarkable collection of mind-blowing case studies on the brain’s neuroplasticity. It’s an encouraging and empowering read, too, because of the stories of perseverance through severe adversity recalled over and over again, for different people.
This book is a must-read for you if you appreciate the ever-changing and highly-adaptable brain we have. If you want to explore the endless potential of the human brain and spirit, you need to get this book.
I’ve learned so much, not only about the brain but people who endure traumatic life experiences, lose everything, yet bounce back again and again as stronger achievers. This was not the last time I read this book.
This is more of a come-back-to-it-often kind of book, filled with diamonds of hope and knowledge on every page. I’m in love with this book!
“What Do You Say After You Say Hello?” was by far the most difficult and the most impactful book of my life. Dr. Eric Berne’s transactional analysis provided me with valuable breakthroughs about my childhood trauma, my abusive mom, her abusive parents, and the impact of that family on my daily life today, in America, in 2019. I cried and wept while reading this book. There are notes on every single page. This book is a precious gem.
I first heard about this from my B-school professor, Valeriy Petrovich Kovalenko, who mentored me in Kursk, Russia. He recommended Eric Berne’s books to me, only in Russian, these two books are one. I bought it but it was too painful to read due to all the abuse I endured every day.
When I emigrated to America, I endure more abuse in my marriage, so only in 2019, was I mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready to face the theory of transactional analysis. This book brought up many, many painful memories, helped me process them, weep, and be very sad. This journey of awareness and grief offered so much healing and liberation, I can’t tell you.
This book is life-changing if you’re ready to do the work.
Thou Shall Prosper offers Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s ten commandments for making money. I found the book very helpful, especially when it comes to the decisions of my ministry’s profitability. I actually reached out to the author on LinkedIn, we connected and talked. He asked me how I’m monetizing Online Discipleship For Women, and I mentioned that allow people to make a donation as well as shop at my store.
Repeatedly throughout the book, Rotary Club was mentioned. I had never attended one but decided to go. When I showed up at a networking meeting, I was immediately invited to be a speaker in 2020. I love it!
This book for sure opened up my mind to new business opportunities. It also opened new doors for me through Rotary and speaking.
I was a keynote speaker at the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs on January 20th, 2020 with my signature speech “The Wonderpower of Your Baggage.”
Reading Challenge 2020
In 2020, I plan to up my reading game and not just keep all my breakthroughs to myself but actually provide you with my Reading Challenge Journal right here, in this blog post. Here’s my list of books.
Why are there 13 and not 12 books? Because every year, I pick up a different Bible to read. However, the Bible doesn’t count toward my 12 books. Why? The Word of God is not optional but necessary for me to read and dwell on, so it’s a given that I read the Bible this year and every year.
Also, one of the books on my list is my own, the one I wrote.
Why am I reading my own book?
It’s been over six years since I published my SMART Goals Book. I want to experience the story of God’s amazing glory, dive into my thoughts and perspectives from 2013, and feel deeper gratitude for how far God has brought me.
That’s why in 2020, I have “Turn Your Dreams And Wants Into Achievable SMART Goals!” on my reading list. Just in case you don’t know, I publish my books under the pen name Anna Stevens. Here’s my book for you. Also, I’ll be updating this blog post regularly as I make progress on my readings, learn new things, and gain new breakthroughs. Bookmark it and come back often!
The Books I’m Reading In 2020
- Sweet Tea for The Soul devotionals book I got for my 37th Birthday
- Switch on Your Brain daily food for thought given to me as a gift
- TED Talks, a manual to public speaking given to me as a gift
- Social Intelligence by my favorite author Daniel Goleman
- The Body Keeps The Score, which is a highly-rated book on Amazon
- Crazy Love, which I bought while waiting for my coffee one morning
- Crossing The Chasm, which was suggested by a CEO I worked with
- A Leader’s Heart devotionals book and 365-day journal
- The Physics of God, which proves with science that God exists
- Make Big Happen, which was given to me as a gift by a colleague
- Awaken The Giant Within, which was given to me as a gift in 2009
- Turn Your Dreams and Wants Into Achievable SMART Goals!
In this article, I have shared and will continue to share my reading challenge journey of reading 12 books in 12 months. I told you why reading is important, explained the benefits of reading, shared my strategy for how to make time to read, and also gave you a list of my books for the reading challenge. The most valuable benefit of reading, as I shared here, is that I am still alive. I was able to survive abuse and suicidal depression, thanks to good books, among which was the Bible.
The Bible helped me discover my identity in Christ.
I help women see themselves the way God sees them.
In the last few years, I’ve personally been on a quest to figuring out and conquering the negative voices in my head that distort my understanding of who I am. I call those voices the Shitty Committee, and each of us has that special committee in our headspace.
I’ve specifically been focusing on my identity in Christ.
From the Bible, I discovered 52 incredibly-positive things God says about us as His children. Those 52 precious discoveries turned into 52 Biblical affirmations I created to encourage and empower Christian women.
To help share this life-changing information with you, I created an ebook called #52Devotionals. Download it now for free.
My free ebook helps you understand who God says you are. Don’t be vulnerable to identity attacks from the mainstream media, relatives, coworkers, your boss, society, culture, and the voices in your head.
Stand firm and know what God says about you.
Anna Szabo is the founder of Online Discipleship For Women, a Christian ministry committed to alleviating suicide among women globally by sharing hope in Christ. Anna teaches how to create a joyful life by embracing God’s word based on her own journey of faith and fortitude.
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