What Kind of Person Reads 14 Books a Month?

What Kind of Person Reads 14 Books a Month? post image

If you want to become an entrepreneur, you’ve got to get hardcore about your personal budget. I don’t have too many soft spots for over-spenders and rationalizers.

Seemingly innocuous decisions like signing a lease, a loan, or getting (and using) that new credit card can profoundly define the trajectory of our lives and limit our entrepreneurial options.

To illustrate this to our October Tropical MBA attendees, I decided to dig out my actual budget spreadsheet from way back in early 2007– a time when I was just starting to see entrepreneurship as a real possibility for my life. The next financial step seemed logical: get out of debt.

The debt I had accumulated was all the lazy and normal middle-class trappings– retail therapy and stuff I thought I “deserved.”

All of these purchases, loans, and commitments were made under the assumption that I was going to have to job for a long time to come– something I was starting to doubt.

*  *  *

The debt reduction strategy that worked for me was one advocated by Dave Ramsey— he calls it the “envelope system.” Here’s how I implemented it:

  1. I cut up my credit cards.
  2. I made a detailed spreadsheet that outlined my desired expenses per pay period, including savings goals.
  3. I set up auto-pay on all my bills and loans.
  4. Each pay period I went to the bank and took out a whole wad of cash for my daily expenses.
  5. I split the cash into different areas of my wallet (or into different “envelopes” depending on what the money was for– food, fun, dining out, etc…).
  6. When the money was gone, it was gone. I couldn’t resort to an ATM or credit card.

For the record, this worked very well. (Cheers Dave!)

As I was taking a look at my old spreadsheets, I came across a figure that delighted me. Despite my aggressive efforts to pay off debt, I budgeted $200 monthly for books. At the time a huge figure– over 10% of my take home pay.

I remember a few friends guffawing. One said, “given you are trying to pay off debt, isn’t that kind of a luxury? What kind of person reads 14 books a month?”

I didn’t say it at the time, but looking back, the answer is: somebody trying to change their life.

Shortly thereafter, one of my first official moves as a business owner (set up in late 2007) was to move the book budget onto the company books. After that was agreed upon, I promptly went to a downtown San Diego bookstore and made a major haul, causing a few eye rolls back at the office. Education was going to be an important part of whatever we were doing! ;)

I’ve listed some of my favorite books from that time period below. I’d love to hear your recommendations for me!





Here’s some of the books I read in the early days of my business that were particularly inspiring.

Purple CowThe Art of SeductionThe Ultimate Sales MachineMaverickGetting RealThe No BS Guide to Direct MarketingDreaming in CodeThe 4 Hour Work WeekGetting Things DoneGood to GreatHow to Get RichThe 80/20 Principle

Here’s some books I’ve read or bought in the past few weeks that I’m excited about:

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Published on 11.13.12
  • Dan

    Would love to hear a sample as well, but I’ll check it out for the title alone! Love it. Defo check it out.

  • Dan

    Thank you Daniel!

  • Dan

    Read it good stuff!!!

  • Dan

    Nice John, I’ll check it out. Thanks for taking the time to suggest it.

  • Dan

    Never felt satisfied by Guy’s books, but loved Steve’s bio. Really solid. Checking out the first two as well.

  • Dan

    NOW WE ARE TALKING! Thank you!

  • Dan

    You gave me the idea to start one of my own today! Thanks JP

  • Dan


  • Dan

    :D…. yeah a lot of Seth’s later books felt like the didn’t really need to be full length.

  • Dan

    Rockin’. We are basically our own little subculture !

  • Dan

    That’s pimp! To be honest I never even looked into it. At the time I was trying to optimize time for work, so I also had a laundry budget for example, so I didn’t need to go to the laundry for 3 hours a week and so on. Sounds like a great option, however.

  • Dan

    Rockin’, very soon. Also check out Mr. Ducker, he’s the guy that really knows the outsourcing – OutsourcetothePhilippines.com and VirtualStaffFinder.com

  • Austin

    no problem my friend, take it easy

  • Austin

    Just read this one yesterday. It’s basically a list of habits that will increase one’s personal effectiveness. The basic premise being to make to do lists monthly, weekly, and daily and always finish your biggest, most important task first thing when you start work. Nothing game changing but a nice collection of habits, techniques, and success philosophy.

  • I love both Duarte’s books.

    The first one Slide-ology is more technical about presentations and slides.
    The second one Resonate is more about communications in general and I think is a lot better.

  • Agota

    I’d like to note that if someone is reading 14 PAPER books a month, this will probably have many positive side-effects, such as better sleep, better mood (because spending a lot of time in front of computer tends to negatively affect both sleep patterns and overall mood and 14 books/month means spending quite some time away from the screen) and longer attention span (paper books force you to focus for extended period of time since there is no open tab to click on or facebook to check while reading them). Consequently, that should increase that someone’s overall well-being and productivity. At least that’s what happens to me when I up my reading.. :)

    I’m surprised that your friends made those comments about you spending 200$/month on books, since when you think about it, books are a very cheap form of entertainment/education. 14 books a month might seem like a lot, but if you calculate it, for those 200$/month you get a lot of hours of enjoyable (well,assuming you enjoy reading) and intellectually engaging activity. I don’t know, I find it a bit ridiculous when people assume that spending a couple hundreds of bucks on books is over the top, especially when you budget for that.. It kind of reminds me this interesting trend I see in my country where many people consider it completely normal to spend 100$+ on cigarettes every month, but consider someone who spends that same 100$+ on healthy food every month to be extravagant.. People have interesting priorities.

  • Bump to you both.

  • Dan

    Solid distinction and one of the only solid arguments I’ve heard for paper books in the last year or so, although the form of the Kindle doesn’t cause any distractions for me and gets me reading more (because I always have a bunch of books on me…. ALWAYS!!! :)

    Good point RE: hours/vs cost there, never thought of it that way but all of a sudden it goes from massive number to entirely sensible! :D

  • Dan

    This post shaping up to cost me a lot of bucks !

  • Thanks for posting this, Dan. I think I’m at the point now that you were at back in 2007. I’ve read 42 books so far this year and I thought that was awesome but when I see how much you’ve read it makes me feel like an amateur.

    I read The War Of Art because of your recommendation on the podcast, and loved it. Some of the books that resonated with me the most included “Anything You Want” (Derek Sivers), “Delivering Happiness” (Tony Hseih), and a few books by Seth Godin and Daniel Pink. I also read a bunch of spiritual stuff, everything from the “Tao Te Ching” to “Mere Christianity” to “The God Delusion”. Also of course have a pre-order on 4-Hour Chef.

    I will continue reading and “trying to change my life”!!

  • Dan

    Rockin’ Anthony! Loved Siver’s book in particular, I love reading philosophy/religion books as well, tossing your recos on the reading list. Cheers!

  • books are the single best investment I have ever made. Transferable knowledge that stays with you. Invest in your brain.

  • Dan

    I dig that formulation :)

  • Dan! I’m not in debt, but decided to go at the Envelope System. Already I can tell my finances are more in order, I can’t ever just swipe the card and forget about it. I’m conscious about what I buy.

    Only thing is I have my money in a bunch of big ass envelopes at home. What did you do for the dividers in your wallet?

  • Yes, as some ad campaign used to say, reading is fundamental. I’ll read pretty much anything by Seth Godin or Stephen Pressfield. Work The System by Sam Carpenter is quite good – it’s a similar theme to the E-Myth Revisited. Derek Siver’s book was of course excellent, but sometimes he makes it all sound too easy. LOL. I think one of the other commenters mentioned Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Very good, highly recommended.

    More? Oh yeah, I’ve got more. My current path toward big data mastery is very aligned to Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You. And on a more applied note, I found The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver fascinating. Last but not least, How Will You Measure Your LIfe by Clayton Christensen is a must-read.

    That’s just a quick Pareto of what I saw on my Kindle today. I was thinking I should write my own follow on blog post about this, but my current consulting project keeps eating my spare time :(

  • Dan

    Yeah buddy, DOUBLE DOWN :) I actually used the natural dividers in my wallet. My main cash area had one separator (two areas) then I folded cash for stuff I didn’t do as much and put it behind the credit cards.

  • Dan

    Thanks Mike added your suggestions to the list. Haven’t read Cal’s book yet, gotta get on that. Heard about the measure thing.. still think it’s relevant for people further down the path of entrepreneurship?

    Let me know when that blog post goes up! :D

  • Jenn

    One of my favourite books of all time was Boom, Bust and Echo by David Foot. It’s basically the business science of demographics primarily for Canada, but relevant to the United States as well. Not sure if would translate to a useful read for you, but it just fascinated me when I read it. Really had my idea muscle working overtime while reading it.

  • Dan

    Hey Jenn, thanks for the suggestion! I’ll put it on the list. A lot of my favorite books were super specific and I could draw my own broader conclusions. Sometimes biz books are too high level for their own good.

  • Currently reading Fifty Shades of Grey: its bearable, a fairly quick read for its size, and great for developing empathy toward a certain demographic. And our hero is an entrepreneur, so read it to understand how others might perceive you

  • Dan

    I like your motivations there, I thought about that a bit as I was going at it. My biggest takeaway was inspiration. I thought, if something like this can get published, I’ve got a shot! It was kind of cool to see a book so successful that didn’t seem to be edited. Rockin! :) Ship ship ship.

    I only managed to get through the first 20%…

  • Great post, just scooped Robert Greene’s ‘Mastery’ on Kindle, excited to dive in!

  • Dan

    Cheers Daman hope you dig it !

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  • Cameron

    After reading this blog post and all the comments. Some good books mentioned but I’m surprised no one mentioned Who Moved My Cheese.

  • So good they can’t ignore you looks like it would fit well on that list.

  • Right now I’m on a huge science book kick. I basically bought the entire science section at B&N and am now working my way through it.

    While it’s not directly related to my business, it’s 1) incredibly freaking interesting and 2) likely to enable me to write better content with more cool references that make me look smart. So I guess it’s related to business. Secretly I want to be the next Neal Stephenson, so there’s that too.

    Education is an investment, and buying books is a pretty cheap way to do it. People might give you funny looks, but they don’t realize that every couple of days their latte expenses match up to the cost of a new book.

  • Dan


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