“Wow, what a ton of helpful and insightful ideas!” I exclaimed as I closed 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Why have I not read this before?”

As I read through the book journal I’ve kept over the last decade, I discovered that I had read Stephen Covey’s now infamous book, about the time I started the journal. “How have I been overlooking all this? Why have I not been using it?”

The answer goes hand-in-hand with why I started the journal. At the time, I had a sense of urgency to quite literally plow through as many professional and business development books as possible. Then, as is still the case now, there were often articles being posted on LinkedIn and elsewhere about how to read 50 – 100 books a year. There was notoriety to this feat, and some potentially false assumptions that reading a professional development book per week would propel you forward.

But I’m not so sure this is the case. I often wonder how these reading gurus make use or even remember what they read. Like them, ten years ago I closed Covey’s book, jotted down a few quick notes, and moved on to the next text. I obviously left little room to really digest the book, let alone practice the ideas, internalize the concepts, or utilize the solutions. I didn’t make a habit of even one of the seven. Nor does re-reading a book seem to count towards that annual total.

So what if instead of some arbitrary annual goal of 52 books, we read only the books we have time to study and apply? What if instead of choosing quantity and the haphazard hope that something we read is good and sticks, we carefully choose only a handful of books to read over the next year? What if we gave each book the same amount of time it took an author to craft?

I’m not advocating an anti-literacy agenda nor decreasing the amount of books we read for pleasure such as contemporary novels, historical fiction, pulp, classics and the like. I can hear the mob of lit buddies from college coming after me already. They are angry and I want them to see that disclosure in bold.

What I’m making the case for is that in the busy flow of work and life, (when we’re not in school and it’s quite literally our job to read), we need to be pretty damn discerning about how we spend our time and then actually make use of those choices. What if you just read one book this year? That one everyone says is life changing, but you actually take the time to use it to change your life?

Some books I am reading, re-reading and applying as actively possible this year? Uprooting Racism, Essentialism, Out of Our Minds, and CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies, and T-Shaped People.